024. Gender

A discussion on who we are, who society sees, and who we want to be

Questions to ponder on gender.

  1. Do there exist inequalities/disparities between genders in current American healthcare? Are such inequalities/disparities unjust?
  2. Should “biological” mothers have a greater say in any given situation due to the unique biological toll/exchange/interactions with their children (e.g., through pregnancy, breastfeeding, etc.) that all other parental units lack? If so, when so? If not, why not?
  3. Did you ever “choose” your gender? What do you think it would be like if you, personally, were suddenly transformed into another gender? You can put this in your mind at least one of two ways: (1) one day you awaken to the all-encompassing feeling that you are not the gender that is currently stamped on your driver’s license or (2) imagine if Who You Are Up In Your Head was transferred into The Body That Is The Person of someone of a different gender than the one to which you currently identify. What’s that like?
  4. West and Zimmerman posit that:

    “When we view gender as an accomplishment, an achieved property of situated conduct, our attention shifts from matters internal to the individual and focuses on interactional and, ultimately, institutional arenas. In one sense, of course, it is the individuals who “who” gender. But it is a situated doing, carried out in the virtual or real presence of others who are presumed to be oriented to its production. Rather than as a property of individuals, we conceive of gender as an emergent feature of social situations.”

    Do you agree? In “doing” your gender, how much of what you “do” arises from you exclusively as an individual human being and how much arises from your social environment. That is, when we put “gender” as a biomedical idea on the nature v. nurture scales, how do they tip?

  5. Butler contends:

    “The authors of gender become entranced by their own fictions whereby the construction compels one’s belief in its necessity and naturalness. The historical possibilities materialized through various corporeal styles are nothing other than those punitively regulated cultural fictions that alternately embodied and disguised under duress.”

    Do you agree? Is gender closer to a “necessary and natural” part of life or is it more akin to a “punitively regulated cultural fiction”?

  6. Do you believe generally polite, public language should be gender-neutral? If so, what strategies do you employ to do so? If not, why not? What should the gender-neutral plural in American English be?
  7. What should a parent do if their child has gender dysphoria and wishes to have their puberty suppressed?
  8. Is there something worse about preferential abortion of children on the category of sex/gender than there is for such an abortion for another reason? Do the societal (and thus medical) consequences seen in countries in which such population dynamics have been at work for a significant period of time (e.g., China) sway your opinion on the matter?
  9. Is it morally acceptable to preferentially select an embryo for in vitro fertilization for reasons stemming solely from the category of sex/gender?
  10. I believe that eventually the greatest of civilizations will all have people pissing and shitting in approximately the same places. That is, I think gender-neutral bathrooms – those in which persons of any gender can come and do their business – are essentially a hallmark of progress. Is there a biomedical/ethical reason why bathrooms ought to be categorized by gender? Is it merely practical?
  11. It was the indelible Mr. Hitchens who once quipped, “The cure for poverty has a name, in fact: it’s called the empowerment of women. If you give women some control […] and then if you’ll throw in a handful of seeds perhaps and some credit, the floor of everything in that village, not just poverty, but education, health, and optimism will increase. It doesn’t matter; try it in Bangladesh, try it in Bolivia, it works—works all the time.” I can’t help but see the equal empowerment of all people everywhere as a generally good thing towards which we should be striving. As such, news such as which is conveyed by this recent headline, “Women in Iran are pulling off their headscarves – and hoping for a ‘turning point'” as a thing I’m compelled to support. How do you feel?
  12. Spade begins “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender” by noting:

    “Everywhere that trans people appear in the law, a heavy reliance on medical evidence to establish gender identity is noticeable. Try to get your birth certificate amended to change your sex designation, and you will be asked to show evidence of the surgical procedures you have undergone to change your sex. Try to change your name to a name typically associated with the “other gender,” and in many places you will be told to resubmit your petition with evidence of the medical procedures you have completed. Try to get your drivers’ license sex designation changed, and again you will be required to present medical evidence.”

    Should the existence of and due process/equal protections under the law to transgendered individuals be necessarily bound up in the medical examination of, ultimately, the genitals of strangers.

  13. Are the genders in America equal? If not, when will they be?


Essays of possible interest

  1. Doing gender
  2. Performative acts and gender constitution
  3. Resisting medicine, re/modeling gender
  4. The restroom revolution: unisex toilets and campus politics
  5. For whom the burden tolls: gender and the unequal management of fetal risks and parental expectations