Some of you will have read about a ‘gender reveal’ party in the USA last week which went horribly wrong. A whatty what, I hear you say? This is apparently a pre-birth get together with friends, last chance to celebrate before the birth, where the parents flash around the latest scans and reveal the biological sex of their nascent child.
The one that went wrong included the use of a certain amount of explosives which caused certain disruption, as you would imagine.
A gender reveal, as any young person will tell you today, is a load of rubbish, as what is actually revealed is the appearance of biological sex organs, not gender.
Confused? Well sex characteristics are the physical bits that we all – or most of us – have that remain ours for life (without surgical intervention).
But gender now… gender is a much more powerful thing. You don’t have to look far back in history to see that the majority of power across nearly all societies was held by men.
The gender ‘binaries’ are powerful: pink for girl and blue for boy; Mr/Mrs/Ms; cars / dolls; tradie or secretary; high or low earner; carer of children; the list goes on and on.
In short, a gender reveal party heralds not only the sex organs but the living of a particular kind of life. While in recent generations there has been a significant loosening of who can do what, gendering is still a powerful process.
In some recent research I have been doing, I have been interested to see that there appears to be a significant generational breakdown in views around gender among younger people.
In particular, views about sexuality, gender allocation and the application of pronouns (which used to occur all together, but are now unbundled) have changed and expanded out. It is almost irrelevant whether you identify with the
Sexuality, emerging from that heralded ‘sex’ at pre-birth parties, might now be conceived as straight, gay, bi, pan, queer or any other name that one chooses.
Gender identity is often seen as a fluid state, where a person may choose to be female or male (independent of biological bits), nonbinary, gender queer and so on. Such identity may change over time.
Pronouns are chosen, not made and may include she/her, he/him; they/them or any or none of these.
The implications of this will be profound. They already are. The debate about gender in sport is alive and well. What about schooling? On what basis would someone go to a girls’ or boys’ school, and could they switch between them depending on their gender identity at the time? Why would you have sex-defined schools if gender is disengaged from biology?
Many of the organising principles of society are currently based on sex and gender. If both become fluid, will we have to reorganise our society in different ways? Is this already happening? Will such movements come down like a thunderclap on institutions such as the Church, which are heavily invested in both sex allocation and gender roles?
I must say I find it all quite liberating. It is like finding feminism all those years ago, to realise that our whole future did not have to be limited simply because we were women.
There are a few questions that need answering. The people I have been speaking to on these matters were originally categorised as ‘female’ on the basis of their sex organs. (Their gender reveal party was Pink! Pink! Pink!). Are those originally categorised as males engaging in such debates as well? Or is this one part of the spectrum again shooting ahead of the other in evolutionary terms (if it is a leap forward?). Having gained (most of) gender equality, are once-women now looking ahead to a different kind of future?
The thing that separates humans from all the other animals is that between birth, reproduction and death there is a life to be lived that includes contemplation of past and future and transformational opportunities. This is both a blessing and a curse. Windows can be opened in human thought that are available to no other animal.
So before you have a go at me, and the young people I have been speaking to, and before you call us names (God knows I have had enough of stupid ‘Woke’ talk), have a think of the upsides and difficulties that the Gender Liberationist Front might bring to our existence. It is interesting, I think.
Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society. She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.