gender03 Oct 2005
Someone who argues that each individual should be judged on their own merits is not necessarily arguing that there are no differences between sexes in distribution patterns with respect to some characteristics. For example, most people would acknowledge that vagina possession is much more common among women. Maybe save the evolutionary/hunter-gatherer/muscle-distribution story until you verify that it’s actually needed in the particular discussion.
This is from this post, which Rev pointed out to me. The post in general is pretty much how i feel about feminism (thought not in a comprehensive sense – I just agree with most of it), This excerpted point in particular is essentially how I would have responded to AC’s contention on this thread, were I not so lazy. A.C. had this to say:
I don’t believe gender is a social construct. I believe there are very real and very beautiful differences between men and women (aside from the obvious) and that this is one of the great redeeming qualities of the human race. I believe it is this way, always has been this way, and will continue to be this way no matter how much we try to deny it.
I think a lot of these types of arguments boil down to a fundamental misunderstanding of semantics. In the lexicon of feminist theory, the word “gender” refers specifically to “socially constructed differences between male and female behaviour”. This is as opposed to the word “sex” which refers to biological differences.
Understanding this nomenclature is critical, because if you don’t get this straight from the getgo, any conversation is going to sputter on into fruitless frustration, because no one is on the same page.
A.C.’s quote is almost an example of that – the sentence “I don’t believe gender is a social construct” makes no sense using this vocabulary. It’s like saying “I don’t believe white is white.” But he further qualifies what he means when he adds “(aside from the obvious”), making it evident that he’s not talking about sex organs. (I guess).
Making the distinction between gender and sex doesn’t mean rejecting differences between the sexes anymore than feminism tries to pretend there aren’t any. Asserting that this is what feminism is all about is silly (and a tactic frequently employed to debase and trivialize feminist theory). The real question is one of identifying the underlying causes of differences between the sexes, not denying that they exist.
Feminism seeks to take evidence from a sociological perspective that gender roles are socially constructed (and hence malleable) and use it to tear down inequalities that were propped up by these “differences” that were previously held to be innate. (Apologies for this crude definition – I should say “Feminism as I accept and embrace it”. There’s probably a term for this particular feminist theory that I adhere to without knowing it, but I’m an ignoramus.)
Naturally you can reject that there are any “socially constructed differences between male and female behaviour” at all, but you won’t get much patience from anyone with a background in sociology (or science, for that matter).