Every once and awhile something good bubbles up from the seething mass known as tumblr. This is a good summary of what sex and gender are and how they interact in our society.
“It seems like on here at tumblr there’s a lot of misinformation going around. people are using sex and gender interchangeably as if they mean the same thing. There’s a lot of unclear information and everything seems rally vague and distorted so the goal of this post is to help clear some of this up.
What are the differences between sex and gender?
The main difference is that sex describes your body’s biological reproductive role. Humans as a species reproduce sexually, as opposed to species which reproduce asexually, such as by budding. In human reproduction, a sperm cell will fertilize an egg cell and cause a pregnancy.
We call people whose biology designated them to be sperm depositors “male” and we call people who are designed by biology to be pregnancy carriers “female”. That is all these terms mean, they reference what role we would play in reproduction if we decided to produce offspring.
Gender on the other hand, is a big mass of controversy. See, unlike biological sex, gender is not innate. We are not born with a gender. Gender is a social construct–that means it only exists as long as society propagates it.
What is gender?
Gender is an oppressive force that dictates to people how they should behave, dress, act, what their role in life is, how to interact with other people, etc.. While specific gender roles and norms vary from culture to culture, in every culture, gender exists to tell people how to live, and it is always oppressive.
Gender is a hierarchy which places males above females. Gendered interaction dictates that women defer to men, that men are taken more seriously, that men are more credible, that men are treated as superior.
In our society, femininity is the gender role forced on to women, and masculinity is the gender role forced on to men. We also label objects and clothes and behaviors as “feminine” or “masculine” based on how these objects are linked to oppressive gender roles.
Why is femininity oppressive?
From the day we are born, female people are forced against our will in to the gender role of femininity. People will immediately begin to judge this tiny human, telling her she is “cute” and “pretty”. Even as she is first learning language and what words mean, she is also learning that it is rewarding to be “pretty” and that she receives praise for it. She will learn this way, since her birth, that her value as a person is determined by her visual appeal to others.
There is much literature written on the oppressive nature of femininity. In short, femininity is how society tells women to behave. Femininity is policing one’s appearance as if we are a visual object, paying rent in beauty just to exist in the world. Femininity is in our meekness, our smallness, how we are trained to put ourselves second and put men especially first, to be accommodating, to accept disrespect from men, to not have boundaries lest we insult men, to put male feelings above our own safety and bodily autonomy.
Femininity is not innate to women. It is something we are taught, something we are forced in to. Women do not naturally behave meekly, we are not born wanting to put make up on our faces.
The idea that gender is innate oppresses women.
Historically, women have been told that femininity, this forced gender role of being innate and subservient and meek and stupid and focused on vanity/appearance, is actually a biological innate part of who we are and is exactly what makes us women.
This idea, that femininity is natural to women, has been used to keep us out of science, to keep us oppressed housewives, because that is all that gender dictates we are good for (remember, gender is a hierarchy which tells you how to live).
Gender is obviously not innate–the existence of feral children, generally cases of extreme negligence, illustrates to us just how gender is something we are taught and not something we are born with. Women are not born with the idea that they must shave their legs and be meek and accommodating to men. This is not natural to us. Gender oppresses us.
Gender is an oppressive belief system and buying in to it continues the oppression of women.
The solution is gender abolition. If we abolish gender, nobody would be told how to live, what to wear, or how to behave. There would be no hierarchy placing males above females. Biological sex would continue to exist, because it is something made by evolution and required for reproduction of our species. But gender, the idea that your biological sex says anything about your personality, would not exist.
Males and females would each be permitted to have any kind of personality.
We would not needlessly assign femininity or masculinity to hobbies or toys or any other objects in order to limit peoples’ interests. Everyone could be free to be who they truly are, without oppressive gender labels telling people how to live.
Abolishing gender is best for everyone involved, and also liberates women from the oppressive system of gender.”