This page is about gender. I devote a page to sex here.
That gender is socially constructed is a widely but not universally held view.
I’m grateful to popular transsexual youtuber, Blaire White, for making some very interesting videos, which have helped me to clarify my own thoughts. Blaire doesn’t claim “trans women are women”. On that we are in agreement. One of the many things I disagree with Blaire on, however, is the argument made in this video Gender is NOT A Social Construct!
Personally I see myself as irrefutable, living, breathing proof that gender is not a social construct.
This makes no sense to me. I certainly don’t think that people who so hate the sex of their bodies that they are prepared to take hormones for the whole of their lives and undergo major surgery do so for “shits and giggles”.
Blaire argues that being socialised from birth as a male “didn’t work” and seems to see this as evidence of having a brain that is more like a woman’s. This in turn is seen as evidence that gender is biologically determined rather than socially constructed. In another video Blaire says,
However, as my luck would only have it, Mother Nature kind of fucked me and gave me the inclinations of a female.
This kind of biological essentialist thinking has been used to keep women down since time immemorial. It is given the lie by the vast overlap between what men and women do and have done across cultures and throughout history, as well as how, in modern liberal democracies, so many men and women choose to take on roles traditionally associated with the other sex as they become freer to do so.
This isn’t to deny that there are differences between men and women, by the way. The weight of evidence suggests that we are different on average on several variables, including what we are interested in (assuming that’s what Blaire means by “inclinations”). But Blaire’s implied argument that all men are like ‘this’ and all women are like ‘that’ is untenable.
I wasn’t surprised to read, in the Iowa State University News website, about a study entitled, Evaluating gender similarities and differences using metasynthesis, published in 2015.
Their report, published in American Psychologist, found an almost 80 percent overlap for more than 75 percent of the psychological characteristics, such as risk taking, occupational stress and morality. Simply put, our differences are not so profound.
I will eventually get rounding to posting links to all the articles I’ve collected that relate in any way to the “lady brain” hypotheses, which seem to be very popular with trans activists. Here I’ll confine myself to saying that I’m sceptical about arguments that refer to neuroscience and I don’t think they give the lie to the notion that gender is socially constructed. Rather I think that people like Blaire are “living, breathing proof” that gender is restrictive and we should do away with it altogether. The fact that most of us don’t suffer from gender dysphoria doesn’t mean we are comfortable or happy conforming to the externally imposed stereotypical gendered behaviours we are socialised into. In the ideal world we should be striving for we would let people be whoever they want to be and people shouldn’t feel the need to claim to be what they are not.
There is nothing wrong with being a feminine man or a masculine woman. But it is, in my opinion, ethically wrong to claim to be a woman when you are biologically male and vice versa. Apart from being dishonest, it perpetuates the harmful notion of gender. From what I see of male-born trans people, a great many are doing their utmost to reinforce regressive gender stereotypes and that isn’t something that can be reconciled with feminism at any level.
I don’t know the source of this explanation from a man about why he decided not to transition. It was tweeted by an account I follow and I’m reproducing it in full here because it affirms what I believe as a gender abolitionist.
Blaire’s other video, from which I quoted above, is entitled, There Are Only 2 Genders, Get The F**k Over It and, apart from the repetition of the argument that gender is “almost entirely biological”, I agree with everything in it. Notably, Blaire rejects the notion that people who describe themselves as ‘gender queer’, ‘agender’, ‘genderless’ or ‘non-binary’ are trans and that they are entitled to create new words and rules about how we should interact with trans people. (Check out Being non-binary: I’m not a girl called Jack any more but I’m not a boy either by Jack Monroe) Blaire accuses such people of wanting to claim minority status to “earn oppression points” because being a run-of-the-mill person in the current climate isn’t that interesting.
Here’s a video I recommend from Magdalen Berns, called Non-Binary Bullsh*t. Mags also did a brief response to Blaire’s gender argument here. And here’s a video from another of my favourite youtubers, Sly V, called the trouble with nonbinary.
As far as I’m concerned, people who describe themselves as non-binary, etc. are just more living proof that gender is restrictive, oppressive and unnecessary. When I was reading this Guardian article, The gender-fluid generation: young people on being male, female or non-binary, the phrase “first world problems” was the first one to spring to mind. Why are these young people reinforcing these regressive ideas about gender? Forget that claptrap and just be the multi-dimensional individual men and women that you are!
Finally, a hat-tip to the tweeter who went by the name of Godfrey Elfwick but whose account has been suspended – probably reported by someone with no sense of humour – for introducing the delightful Simonica.