The Blog

A Critique of Modern Gender Studies

Gender, rather lifelessly, has been defined by the FAO as "the relations between men and women, both perceptual and material. Gender is not determined biologically...but constructed socially". The beginning of all studies into gender, then, must also be a study of social relations.

Gender, rather lifelessly, has been defined by the FAO as "the relations between men and women, both perceptual and material. Gender is not determined biologically...but constructed socially". The beginning of all studies into gender, then, must also be a study of social relations.

All social relations existing in a hierarchal (therefore Capitalist) society are based around class.

Therefore, all existing genders come as a result of social perception, economic privilege or poverty, and even family history. In the same way that perception of the sexes (as de Beauvoir outlines in "Le deuxième sexe") alters in different classes, as do the perceptions of different genders. Where the proletariat is more sexually and socially liberated, they are economically unfree; where the bourgeoisie is frigid and socially bound to conservative "order", they are economically irrational. As a general rule, masculine-leaning genders have taken the power, feminine genders subordinated, and heterosexuality forced into the norm.

Where Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister, she did not get to that position because she was a woman, but because she was masculine. Could you, though, imagine a feminine woman or a camp man becoming Prime Minister? We are defined nowadays not by our sex, but by our gender (or how society perceives our gender).

What this has lead to, then, is a heteronormative and patriarchal society where the great focus of most gender studies is centred around feminism. Even if they are the most oppressed of the two sexes, they are certainly also the most studied. Hardly a social science student can call themselves thus if their eyes haven't graced over a copy of Le Deuxième Sexe or The Female Eunuch; indeed, even if the oppression of women hasn't ended, the intrigue to define them is still a hot topic. But we must see a change in the academic sphere. In the same way that no gender should dominate because it makes society degenerate (look at our current world), the opposite gender should not dominate gender studies purely because it is oppressed. To perpetuate the gender binary is just as oppressive.

The question that gender academics should be asking is not "What is man" or "What is woman", but "What is it to be human, and how does our genitalia affect our perception to society?" For at base level, all genders are first defined by stereotypes of sex. Although in society males are dominant, in the academic world we still have no even theorised definition for what "man" is unless we define him by his genitalia - and if that is so then women must also be defined by their genitalia, and if genitalia really is the only distinguishing force, then gender studies has no use.

Society, at base level, still perpetuates the gender binary. Transgendered people are not seen as people with a different gender to their sex, but as social outcasts with mental disorders comparable to those thrust upon homosexuals and bisexuals not one century ago. The average life expectancy of a transgendered person is 28. It is estimated one transgendered woman is killed ever 35 hours. Feminism is no longer a sufficient term to define those wanting gender equality, the oppression and stigmatization of genderqueers and transsexuals is even greater.

We need to see a change in the world of gender studies; very little transgender literature is particularly well known, we have no Germaine Greer or Simone de Beauvoir - indeed the greatest proponent of androgyny recently has been Eddie Izzard, and that is purely because of transvestitism and not because of any outright gender definition. Indeed, this displays the gap between women being a known oppressed gender, and androgynes and third sex-people being ignored because they are not known. We should not be vocal as to allow over-discrimination, but to be as well known as to be defined by our gender instead of by our sex... whatever that is.