The whole ideology of gender is purely sexist bullshit.
Gender is a pure social construct, a fiction that oppresses both men and women but more women than men.
When I hear “gender assigned at birth” I want to slap someone. I wasn’t assigned a gender at birth. The doctor looked between my legs and said, “It’s a boy.” I was assigned male by reason of having a penis there later in life I had an operation that reassigned me to female based on that same genital appearance factor.
When I came out in 1969, I came out as a feminist. Women in the collective gave me clothes. While the guys claimed they respected me but they also started treating me in a way that told me they expected me to adhere to the sex roles both hippie and movement women were expected to adhere to.
When other movement women saw this they introduced me to feminism. When SDS split into Weatherman and other factions I became Weather, largely because of Bernadine Dohrn. You see there weren’t very many strong women’s voices in SDS and the Anti-War Movement.
Bernadine Dohrn gave great rants… Maybe months later on reflection you went WTF but at the time… Oh how I admired her audacity and how she inspired me to act courageously.
I also learned from other radical women. Putting women and the interests of women first yet never forgetting that sexism was only one axis of oppression. Consciousness raising and analysis gave me/us an understanding of what the world expects of women.
Many of us who were dealing with having been born with transsexualism owe far more to feminism and the feminist movement than we ever did to Stonewall and the Gay Liberation Movement. We weren’t gay men even if we had male lovers. Especially if we had male lovers… being transsexual and having a male lover meant we were straight or more accurately heterosexual since straight also had other connotations.
We weren’t some “T” so recently grafted on to what was first a Gay Liberation Movement. We were women in transition to female having to deal with the same sexism as natal female women had to deal with. It didn’t much matter if we were radical feminist Weather Nation women or Cosmo “Sex and the Single Girl” women. We had to deal with sexism and pay discrimination as well as sexist assumptions based on what are now called “gender” stereotypes.
Gender was something used to keep women oppressed. It was the idea that women are weak and stupid; fit only to be sex objects or mothers. Daddy’s little princess until given to a man only to lose her last name and become his property.* Gender became a way of telling feminists that they were not real women since they questioned the marketing of very high profit items based on pandering to a sense of insecurity in one’s own womanhood or attractiveness.
When feminism challenged those who were dealing with transsexualism part of the challenge was due to the tendency of so many of us to embrace all the marketing of gender without insight or even a sense of irony.
But gender as it is so often used today is if anything a far more sneaky and loaded with subtextual readings semiotic. Gender has now replaced sex in so much of the common discourse that we look at the construct as reality and skip over the subtextual readings of the semiotic.
Whereas once upon a time the Cockettes Troupe in San Francisco deconstructed gender and showed it as performative through the usage of exaggerated costumes and the performing of equally over the top stereotypes taken from films of the 1930s and 40s I now have some people ask if these performers were transsexual or transgender. The answer is maybe some were. One was in the Stanford program at the same time I was, others were gay men and some were natal females.
By breaking the rules of gender through Absurdist Theater they created both campy comedy and a critique of sex roles. One of the crucial mistakes in feminist criticism of more traditional drag is the assumption that women are the target when it often seems the aim is more a matter of ridiculing roles portrayed in movies.
But Second Wave Feminism went even further in delivering a devastating critique of sex roles as defining what the proper role of women was. When women dared step beyond the stereotypes and enter male dominated career field they were told that doing so would un-sex both women and men. Fashion magazines and all sorts of corporate interests dished up massive loads of propaganda aimed at undermining the confidence of women seeking equality of opportunity.
One of the critiques of transsexual to female people is that we have not been socialized as women. This is an assumption that is often times contradictorily both true and false. Transsexual to female people grow up as transkids and are influenced by the same sales pitches and indoctrination as natal women yet they are told it is something they must adhere to and we are told it is something to be ashamed of.
This makes it hard for us to have a critical eye regarding this propaganda when we first come out. We may acquire it with experience but it is equally possible for us to join the masses of women who march to the beat of Sex in the City rather than to NOW and more radical feminisms.
At some point sex became gender and roles acted replaced that which was written upon the body. The ironic labeling of sex as a definer of maleness or femaleness as essentialism has resulted in many people with a poor understanding of feminist theory using it as a careless accusation.
Dividing people into classes of male and female based on the appearances of genitalia would mean that heterosexual post-SRS women and men would be able to legally marry partners of the other sex. No more Christie Lee Littletons, no more Nikki Araguzs.
But when the misogynistic reactionary forces of both religious fundamentalism and ultra right wing politics united to defeat feminism as well as LGBT/TQ liberation and the progressive movements of the 60s and 70s they seemed to unite with corporate interests in reasserting misogyny. Trying to sell sex roles and their importance after 15 years of serious feminist critique was more of a struggle than repackaging sex roles as gender.
The Total Woman by Marabel Morgan was supposedly a self help book for women. In reality this 1974 publication was grounded in the rising right wing Christo-Fascist backlash that also spawned the rise of the homophobic bigotry of Anita Bryant and crew.
Along with Phyllis Schlafly these genderists put forth an ideology that could have been penned by the late transvestite activist pioneer, Virginia Prince. The ideology was one that kept women in their places by telling them that they weren’t real women unless they filled this total woman gender role. The same gender role feminists had critiqued under the name of “sex roles.”
Now I view “gender” as a culturally defined social construct that varies a great deal according to culture and time (see Margaret Mead’s work. BTW her “debunker” were right wing McCarthyites).
With western modernism the naturally occurring over lapping of sex traits and abilities lead to a lessening of rigid gender roles that are more often found these days in non-western cultures.
Defining people as real men or real women based on gender is a characteristic of conservative values often based in religiously fanatical cultures which is why I find the embrace of “gender” as definer by Transgender Inc. to be more reactionary than progressive.
I read a story on Bilrico about some creep beating an infant boy to death to make him act like a man. http://www.bilerico.com/2010/08/man_kills_17-month-old_boy_for_acting_like_a_girl.php This is the problem with putting so much emphasis on gender.
In the real world an Emo boy even with nail polish and a magenta streak in his long black hair is still a boy. The rocker girl with facial piercings, tats and black leather motor cycle boots is still a girl.
Of course without the ideology of transgender Thomas Beatie is a masculine woman who dresses and acts like a man when she isn’t having children. But c`est la vie. And no I wouldn’t mis-gender him like that even though I am supremely irritated by the neo-quiver full thingie.
Gender is masculinity or femininity not maleness or femaleness. We got suckered into discussing that core identity of male or female as being gender based on Stoller’s book (Sex and Gender) way back in the 1960s. We didn’t have a whole lot of information to operate on and lacked a vocabulary to describe what we were feeling. We should have used “core sex identity” for that sense of being female trapped in a male body.
Little did we realize that even then introducing “gender” in to the discourse was using poisoned seeds from the fruit of a poisonous tree. The misogynistic world according to Virginia Prince became the bullshit crop of the transgender social construct of gender.
The way Transgender Inc. uses gender is not the least bit liberating. It can’t be as it is based on a construct that defines membership in the sex class of female or the sex class of male not based on what one commonly uses. Male and female are generally based on whether one has a penis or vagina.
Yet the simple reality of hole or pole unites both Transgender Inc and the religious fanatic/right wingers in finding ways to tell women born transsexual that their pussies do not really make them women.