User:-- April~metawiki/I think I'll be an antigenderist

Debates about gender roles in society seem to be often bogged down in accusations of partisanship. To call oneself a feminist or masculist or both inevitably brings with it a great deal of baggage, some of it good, some bad. There are some people engaged in promoting their particular views through selectively and narrowly defining the terms - and then applying that definition to all who use the term, whether they use the narrow definition or not. To call this unhelpful and unfortunate would be a vast understatement.

On top of that, there are groups of people also involved in the debate over sexual identities who apppear to be largely left out of "feminist" or "masculist" categorizations. Where do gays, lesbians, and bisexuals fit in? What about transgender and intersexual persons? In a sense, the use of terms such as "feminist" and "masculist" in itself reflects the oversimplification of societal male/female categorizations.

As a result, I've mentally tossed around a number of terms to try to describe the general reluctance to put people into narrow pink-and-blue boxes. Some have suggested "equalist" as a possibility, but to me that word only hits on the equal-rights aspects of the whole debate. Thse aspects, while vitally important, are not - I think - the be-all and end-all of the gender question. "Anti-sexist" is good, too, but (a) frivolously, I'd never want to imply I was against sex or sexuality, and (b) again, I find the term too restrictive in its "against sexism" sense. Certainly it's great to be against sexism, but I feel there's still more to it.

Technically, "gender" should (I am informed) only be applied to language. Nouns may have gender, I'm told, but people do not. Still, language is a fluid thing. In an effort to avoid titling anything "sex studies," and thus engendering (ahem) no end of snickers on the part of college students, colleges have largely succeeded in associating the term "gender" with "socially defined roles associated with the sexes." It is, of course, in the latter sense that I want to use the term, with all due apologies to the linguistic purists.

What, then, would an antigenderist be? To my mind, it would be one who regards gender roles as largely social constructions, rather than a case of "biology equalling destiny." These roles may certainly be useful and comfortable for many, and thus need not be discarded wholesale. However, they should not certainly not be mandated, legally or socially. The central contention is that it's fine to stay with traditional gender roles if one wishes to, but that no one should be impelled into trying to fill a role that they may not wish to.

Gender roles do have their uses. I'm fully willing to admit that. They can help to provide direction for young people's socialization - although it can be debated whether that direction is optimal. They help to provide a social framework for sexual relationships and family.

However, gender roles also have their limits, and in practice, are often pushed far beyond those limits. For example, just because male-female-children families are one of the simplest patterns (or were before modern technology) we shouldn't think that others cannot be equally viable. Likewise, just because we traditionally associate certain characteristics with "masculine" or "feminine, we should not assume that these characteristics are inherent, or that they should or must be cultivated by those assigned the role. Women can, demonstrably, be good at math. Men can, demonstrably, be good at child-rearing. Intersexuals need not necessarily choose one gender-identification or the other in order to be full, and fulfilled, human beings.

So much for theory; now on to practice. What are the consequences of this statement of flexibility? To me, it implies that social barriers should not be erected - or allowed to stand - which prevent people from engaging in activities not traditional for their (or any) gender role. Furthermore, it incorporates ideas of equality: that all human beings should have equal rights, opportunities, and responsibilities, regardless of gender. It also incorporates anti-sexism: no person should face discrimination for their gender identification (or lack thereof!)

Thus, an antigenderist must look at the statistics on criminal prosecution in the US, for example, and question why males are overwhelmingly more likely to be accused, tried, and convicted of crimes than females. One must look at college math and science faculties and ask why females are far less likely to receive faculty jobs than males. Both are far more complex questions than they may first appear, but both are deserving of intensive study, and efforts to correct underlying imbalances. Similarly, one should ask why sexual relationships between same-sex partners should be considered any less valid or important than sexual relationships between opposite-sex partners; or even whether it's important to designate the sexes of the partners so rigidly.

Doubtless others fit the same questions under other headings; terminology tends to be at least as contentious as the topic it describes. For me, "antigenderist" seems to be the most direct shorthand for: "I am against the imposition of gender roles in (and by) society on those who may not desire or fit any or all aspects of such roles."

Now I just need a term for "I am given to rambling and preachy tirades on my personal opinions which may not be of interest to anyone, and makes up terms at the drop of a hat."