There will invariably be people, both in the US and abroad, who see this move as a further threat to certain values, as 2021 was a record year for anti-trans legislation in the US. But a growing body of research shows that in nature there are more than two when it comes to sex and gender.
It is perhaps more useful than seeing gender identity as a story, a story that becomes reality by building power structures and administrative systems around it.
Language is almost never neutral. Its meaning is shaped by the context and is used to exert power and control. This is evident in the construction of racial identity, which, unlike gender, has no biological basis. Yet the forces of power and control—who are allowed to enjoy certain social benefits and who are excluded from them—can be seen in the ways in which both gender and race are often so vigorously controlled.
For example, “White woman” or “Black man” are not just descriptors, but are packed with meanings that change depending on where you are. As has been written on numerous occasions, the former (specifically, as sociology professor Alison Phipps points out, “bourgeois white women”) in the US context represent the epitome of virtue and the latter the embodiment of cruelty.
If these two tropes are true — and of course repeating them often enough to make them real, if not true — then the extraordinary violence inflicted on black men is justified, as white men have tried throughout U.S. history to protect white women from black men. The black woman in that context is either furious, serving, whoring or quietly resilient.
In fact, black women, Native American and Asian-American women will know that legally the “female” category did not always apply to them, as they were barred from voting when suffrage became law in 1920.
And it’s not just “woman” who reveals a power imbalance. A new study that analyzed 630 billion words found that even the concept of a “person” or “people” is not gender neutral when it comes to how we use these terms. In fact, we tend to prioritize men when referring to people in general.”
The New York University researchers concluded that “bias at such a fundamental level — our word choices — has potential consequences.”
Language is not neutral, but the simple fact remains that what is not counted does not count. Existence on paper, in language and in stories is no longer being completely invisible. It is a starting point from which further change can be pursued.
However, it would be naive to assume that simple recognition in language is the same as complete emancipation. It remains dangerous to live outside the gender binary, and as American philosopher Judith Butler noted, there is growing opposition to gender-inclusive measures worldwide.
This is not just about conservatism, writes Butler, but rather these anti-gender movements are part of fascism: “The anti-gender movement is not a conservative position with a clear set of principles. No, as a fascist trend, it mobilizes a series of rhetorical strategies across the political spectrum to maximize the fear of infiltration and destruction emanating from a diverse array of economic and social forces.”
Butler, who is non-binary and uses she/she pronouns, continues: “As a fascist trend, the anti-gender movement supports increasingly strong forms of authoritarianism. Its tactics encourage state powers to intervene in university programs, censor art and television programs. , to ban transgender people from their legal rights, to ban LGBTQI people from public spaces, to undermine reproductive freedom and the fight against violence against women, children and LGBTQI people.
Therefore, it makes no sense for “gender-critical” feminists to join reactionary forces in tackling trans, non-binary and genderqueer people. Now let’s all get really critical, because this is not a time for one of the goals of this movement to turn against each other. The time for anti-fascist solidarity is now.”
Even if you disagree with Butler’s conclusions, there’s no denying that there have always been those among us who don’t fit the binary. The Hijra in India, Muxes in Mexico, Sekrata in Madagascar, Bakla in the Philippines, two-minded people in many Native American tribes and many more.
Including people who identify as non-binary isn’t the end of “boys” and “girls.” Nothing is lost. Instead, there is much to be gained if people can represent themselves not only in language but also legally. But there is still much work to be done.
Story of the week
Indonesia’s parliament on Tuesday passed a long-awaited bill to tackle sexual assault, which aims to provide victims with a legal framework to receive justice in a country where sexual abuse is often considered a private matter.
Indonesia passes groundbreaking sexual assault law and overcomes conservative opposition India News, The Indian Express
Women Behaving Badly: Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1959 – present)
In 1992, when the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced it was awarding the Peace Prize to a K’iche’ Guatemalan activist Rigoberta Menchú Tum, the organization wrote that she stood out as “a vivid symbol of peace and reconciliation over ethnic, cultural and social divisions”. lines, in her own country, on the American continent and in the world.”
Born to a poor rural family in Chimel, a small Mayan community in the Quiche region of Guatemala, young Rigoberta, according to the Nobel Women’s Initiative, would travel with her father, the community organizer, “to teach rural campesinos their rights.” and encourage them to get organized”.
Growing up during the Guatemalan Civil War that began in 1960 and lasted more than 30 years, her family’s activism cost a lot of money. In January 1980, her father was murdered during a protest in the Spanish embassy that was violently crushed by the Guatemalan police. Later that year, according to Menchú’s 1983 autobiography, “I, Rigoberta Menchu: an Indian woman in Guatemala‘, her mother and brother were also killed by security forces. She then fled into exile in Mexico.
The book became a source of controversy for Menchú, when American anthropologist David Stoll accused the activist of writing events that never happened to her. But Menchú defended her work, saying, “I’m proud of the book,” describing it as “part of Guatemala’s historical memory and heritage.”
In 2006, Menchú and five others started the Nobel Women’s Initiative to promote justice and equality; in 2007 and 2011, she ran for president of Guatemala under the banner of the first indigenous-led political party she founded. Today, she is still active in public life and international affairs, calling — in her most recent tweet — for dialogue
days after Russia invaded Ukraine.
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