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Old 02-15-2012, 11:06 PM
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hyperskeptic hyperskeptic is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sociopath View Post
AT,

I think we're butting heads over the classic case of semantics. What's apparent, only, is that you and I use the word gender differently.

We're speaking through the English language, and most English-speaking people have reached a consensus on what the word means. It gets an eye roll at best, and is obnoxious at worst, when somebody insists that his or her new definition of a word prevails.
The "consensus" definition you have in mind seems to be a mash-up of two distinct properties: biological sex and cultural gender role.

(To the best of my understanding, this is a long-standing distinction in the literature of feminism which, if it isn't mainstream, really ought to be. It clarifies things mightily. I get the impression, from other recent posts on this forum, that even this two-way distinction is too simple!)

It may be that, in the minds of people who don't have occasion to think about such things, the two are fused: all women (biological sex) are (or should be) feminine (cultural gender); all men (sex) are (or should be) masculine (gender), and there isn't (or shouldn't be) anything in between.

(I mean, that would be queer, wouldn't it??)

Even a cursory look around will tell you it's not that simple, along either dimension.

Biological sex is more of a continuum than most people are willing to recognize . . . and, to some degree, it may be hidden, as there is a long history of surgery on "intersex" babies to make them appear "normal" . . . one way or the other.

Cultural gender is also much more of a continuum than most people are comfortable acknowledging. The way the postmodernists put it (based on a gloss on Derrida I picked up in graduate school), gender is a field of play between two poles, the masculine and the feminine . . . and some are quite happy to play on different parts of that continuum in different times in different contexts.

It's not just semantics. These distinctions are easily describable in ordinary language to anyone who takes a moment to think about the complexity of human experience.

Reducing everything to only two categories, indexed to the biology of reproduction, not only does (conceptual) violence to that complexity, but it locks in stereotypes of appropriate relationships and behavior that have been taken as justification for (physical) violence against people who don't fit in one little box or the other.
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Last edited by hyperskeptic; 02-15-2012 at 11:22 PM.
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