Have you heard about Germany‘s new plan to recognize a third gender on birth certificates? Or how the Swedes strive to make a gender-neutral society? “Gender roles are an outdated thing,” says the CEO of a Swedish toy company. Is he right?
A person’s gender identity is shaped by many things: media, religion and culture, hormones, and much more. So I’m not trying to say that gender isn’t real or that it isn’t without a biological basis. But it isn’t as clear-cut as we would like to think. For example, in the animal kingdom, gynandromorphism results in beautiful, unique creatures. These animals are literally half male and half female, split right down the middle. With some animals, like butterflies, this results in a dramatic appearance. Other animals that have expressed gynandromorphism include chickens and other birds, crustaceans, and more.
A gynandromorphous butterfly
By Burkhard Hinnersmann (Burkhard Hinnersmann (per OTRS)) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Whiptail lizards lack males. Seahorse fathers give birth. Sex and gender are not clearly defined in the animal kingdom. Yet we as humans have very rigid ideas of what roles people should take based on their genitalia, and we claim this is natural. These ideas are inhibiting to us as a species. Imagine how much scientific progress could have been achieved by now if certain people had not been held down based on something they had no choice on — their gender. [The same applies with race, ethnicity, and more, but in this post I will concentrate on gender roles.]
Gender is not absolute. Traits we assign to one were in the past or in other cultures assigned to the other. In some cultures, men wear makeup and in others a woman can have multiple husbands. Some societies have multiple genders — not just man or woman.
Don’t misunderstand me: there’s no problem with identifying with either of the binary genders [man or woman]. It only becomes a problem when people are locked into the roles associated with man or woman, and when people who identify as something else – androgyne, neutrois, pangender, etcetera – are denigrated for simply existing as their authentic selves.
If we loosen our strict gender roles, everyone — not just the gender-variant — will benefit. Everyone benefits from a freer society.
- I’m sick of gender roles. (brittkotiw.wordpress.com)
- Gender Variance (Wikipedia)
- Violence Against Women Starts With School Stereotypes (tutoringtoexcellence.blogspot.com)
- When Teachers Highlight Gender, Kids Pick Up Stereotypes (Live Science)