Abolition of gender
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“”Postgenderists do not call for the end of all gender traits, or universal androgyny, but rather that those traits become a matter of choice. Bodies and personalities in our postgender future will no longer be constrained and circumscribed by gendered traits, but enriched by their use in the palette of diverse self-expression.
|—George Dvorsky and James Hughes|
The abolition of gender is based on the idea that all aspects of gender, not merely stereotypical gender roles, should be eliminated from society. The idea is a central tenet of postgenderism, and is a product of philosophical movements advocating both for social change (e.g. radical feminism and the LGBT movement) and technological advancement (e.g. transhumanism). Unfortunately, the concept has also been co-opted by TERFs and other transphobes as a dog whistle.
A genderless society?
Advocates of gender abolition see gender as a prison that not only keeps the social class of "woman" subservient, but also limits the potential of all individuals to be and express who they are. The goals of postgenderists range from the de-emphasization to the outright obliteration of gender roles. Presumably, once the latter occurs, nobody will be referred to as a man or a woman, and the anatomical differences associated with biological sex will become as inconsequential in social life as any other anatomical feature.[note 1]
Emerging and proposed technologies may be of assistance to postgenderism, because they provide the means by which half of the population can be freed from the burdens of reproduction and pregnancy. It is suggested that, as these are the prime basis for the control of women in a class-based society, the presence of alternatives such as artificial wombs, cloning, etc. would make great strides in tearing down the patriarchy.
Issues and potential pitfalls
For serious advocates of gender abolition, one important consideration is the fact that "gender" is not a monolithic entity, but varies according to the culture in which it manifests, and is deeply intertwined with other factors such as ethnicity and religion. Western conceptions of manliness and womanliness are alien to many other cultures, some of which have more than two "genders", with examples including the South Asian hijras and Native American two-spirits, and some have gender roles that are based on an individual's behaviour and inclinations instead of their biological sex. The gender-abolitionist must therefore choose between advocating for gender roles across all cultures to be abolished — which could be seen as colonization — or limiting their advocacy to Western culture only.
The idea that gender can realistically be abolished is questionable, considering that it evolved from the concept of biological sex and sexual dimorphism, which would remain even if gender as we know it were eliminated. Its cultural impact is one that evolves over time, even within a single culture[note 2] — and it may well be an ongoing challenge to prevent it from resurfacing as people seek ways to describe anatomical differences. The "abolition" of gender may thus run the risk of degenerating into a form of denialism analogous to racial colorblindness, wherein only the acknowledgement of gender is eliminated from society, while the underlying issues of gender remain in everything but name.
Gendered language and "gender-critical feminists"
“”Look, maybe abolishing gender is a good idea: wouldn't it be better if your genitals at birth didn't determine what kind of life you could live? But that is a utopian project requiring massive systemic change, kind of like "abolish borders"... And denying trans people their gender identity because "abolish gender" is kind of like denying citizenship to immigrants because "abolish borders".
Within Western culture itself, gender is a term that can refer to numerous different phenomena, ranging from individual gender identity and expression to societal gender roles to grammatical gender and gendered language. The consistent application of gender abolition would seem to require abolishing the latter, and yet very few self-identified "gender-critical feminists" (read: TERFs) who talk of wanting to abolish gender seem willing to dispense with gendered pronouns and words such as "woman" and "man". On the contrary, they seem more keen on re-enforcing these terms as a means of classifying people by biological sex rather than gender.[note 3] This disingenuous cherry-picking of which aspects of gender they wish to abolish, along with their insistence on maintaining a strict gender binary based on biological sex[note 4] suggests, sadly, that their "gender critical" label is motivated less by a desire to create a genderless society than by their drive to label transgender women as men and exclude them from their feminism.
- Postgenderism on Wikipedia
- By extension, this means that the most common sexual orientations would disappear, leaving only pansexuality/omnisexuality, asexuality/greysexuality, etc.
- These photographic examples of olden-day male affection before the "gay taboo" set in are an example.
- In an effort to assume good faith, one would hope that they intend to strip these words of all connotations and only use them to define people's anatomy in contexts where this mattered (e.g. for medical purposes), but considering the kind of rhetoric used on Feminist Current, this seems highly improbable.
- This also flies in the face of the growing evidence that sex is not the simplistic dichotomy we have often assumed.
- Dvorsky, George and James Hughes. [Postgenderism: Beyond the Gender Binary]. Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, 2008.
- The Dialectic of Sex by Shulamith Firestone (1979) The Women's Press, 1979.
- Mayer, Alex. Trans People and the Dialectics of Sex and Gender: Against Radical and Liberal Feminism.
- Dvorsky, George. Postgenderism: Beyond the Gender Binary. SentientDevelopments.com, 2008.
- Chemaly, Soraya. What Do Artificial Wombs Mean for Women?. RH Reality Check, 23 February 2012.
- Phoenix, Lola. Gender Abolition as Colonization. Medium, December 27, 2015.
- ContraPoints. Gender Critical. YouTube, 11:27.
- Dorsay, Toni. What Is: The Problems with Gender Abolition. Tumblr, September 7, 2014.