I’ve always known the discussion of gender is a controversial topic, especially recently. However, I’ve never really taken the time to formulate my own opinion on the topic, probably because I didn’t have the resources to get me thinking. After reading through different theories, ideas and explanations of gender this week, I now have more than enough information to confidently say that gender is so much more than just male or female or boy or girl.
I’ve never liked categorizing people. There is way too much that makes up a person to simply categorize someone into one of two categories. Justin Hubell artistically depicted this idea in a comic tilted “The Ultimate Breakdown of Gender Binary – Why it Hurts us all”, where he showed us why all animals aren’t just categorized as cat or dog (Hubbell 2016). The featured image I selected for this post graphically demonstrates Hubbell’s idea. If we don’t place animals in one of two categories, why would we ever do the same for humans? As we grow up and mature into the person we want to be, it makes less and less sense to place ourselves into one category and believe “this is how I am supposed to be” just because we were placed into an oversimplified category.
Once someone is placed into a category, the mindset of this person changes from “I want to do this” to “I should do this”. Simply put, this mindset is the product of the desire to fit into the category one is in. In the article titled “Doing Gender”, Candace West and Don H. Zimmerman stated, “We argue that gender is not a set of traits, nor a variable, nor a role, but the product of social doings of some sort (West and Zimmerman 1987: 129). I could not agree more that as gender becomes more and more socially defined, one’s gender becomes a product of everything one does in society to fit his or her category. What concerns me is, is this “product” what someone really wants to be, or is it how someone believes he or she should be based on a simplified category?
Speaking of simplification, what about all of the other ever changing facets, traits, beliefs, values, etc. that make up a single person? I hope most of you could agree with me on the idea that a person is so much more than one thing. So, it just doesn’t make sense of me to even try to simplify everything that makes up a person, and place this person into a single category. There is no way that each and every trait of that person will be sufficiently or correctly represented by such category placement. Here is where the theory of intersectionality became so important to me. Kimberlé Crenshaw, the originator of the intersectionality theory, explained intersectionality as how “…we experience life, sometimes discrimination, sometimes benefits, based on a number of different identities that we have…” in an interview titled “Kimberlé Crenshaw Discusses ‘Intersectional Feminism’” (Crenshaw 2015). It is these different identities, not a simple categorization of male or female, that should define how we want to live our lives. I wish I could talk about Crenshaw’s beautiful explanation of intersectionality, and how it plays into feminism, so I attached the link in my references for you all to watch!
Yes, I am a girl. However, I couldn’t name one other girl who could perfectly take my place in this category that I “belong” to. There are other girls who grew up elsewhere, had different friends and appear physically different who belong to this same generalized category as me. Yes, of course I have things in common with other females, but this shouldn’t be a reason to place me into this simplified category. There is far too much that makes up a person to categorize one as one thing or the other.
West, Candace, and Don H. Zimmerman. 1987. “Doing Gender.” Gender & Society 1(2):125-51.
Lafayette College. 2015. “Kimberle Crenshaw Discusses ‘Intersectional Feminism.'” YouTube website (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROwquxC_Gxc).
Hubbell, Justin. 2016. “The Ultimate Break Down of the Gender Binary- Why It Hurst Us All” Everyday Feminism. (http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/02/gender-binary-hurts-us-all/).