I heard about Hack Gender (inspired by Hacking the Academy) earlier this week — both are awesome projects. But I don’t have time to write anything complicated, so this post is my own hasty contribution.
In my last post, Sexual Openness: 2 ways to encourage it, I wrote up some tips on how we can facilitate our own sexual evolution — to create an environment more likely to turn us on to new sexuality. Do those tips hold true for gender identity? I’d say so — my two big factors were a pressure-free environment and exposure to new conceptions of sexuality, sexual mentors, and sex education, and it sounds to me like those ideas easily port over to gender identity rather than sexuality. In fact, I suspect that I could replace all instances of “sex” or “sexuality” in that piece with “gender” or “gender identity”, and it’d work pretty well ….
But one thing that I wonder about gender-hacking is … well … much as we rail against restrictive and coercive definitions of gender — and while as a feminist I’m not only concerned with the limitations placed on women, but also try to be sensitive to men’s limitations — isn’t it strange that many of us who attack gender so violently also tend to play with its manifestations most passionately?
I mean, don’t get me wrong: I think it would be awesome if gender stereotypes stopped negatively influencing the way we hire people, make friends, treat lovers, and so on. But it’s also kind of awesome when, for example, drag queens dress way more femininely than I do. I love that kind of display; I love almost all subversive, or sexual, or just plain playful deliberate usage of gender ideas. I would be kind of sad if all gendered associations disappeared from the universe. I would be kind of sad if we so thoroughly encouraged gender-bending and gender evolution that gender distinctions blurred out of existence.
I’m not saying that my sadness is an argument against the destruction of gender. I understand and acknowledge that, sometimes, nostalgia is the enemy of necessary progress. I recognize that saying, “Well, drag queens are awesome and so maybe we shouldn’t try to destroy gender distinctions” could be as blind and flawed an argument as, say, the women who argued against women’s right to vote because “I like to convince my husband to vote the way I want him to.” I recognize that I could be making an argument similar to one that I’ve deconstructed about BDSM — an argument I hate that goes, “Let’s not destigmatize BDSM sexuality because I think it’s hot for S&M to be transgressive.” The fact that we can work within — and even enjoy — The System does not mean that The System is not fucked up.
I’d like to believe that we can hold on to what’s beautiful, surprising, and hot about The System. Can we keep the stereotypes and have justice too? Is that possible? Or does the whole thing have to burn and be reborn? This question is probably academic, because it seems unlikely that it’s even possible to Destroy All Gender and make something new. My question is about utopia, and I tend to get pretty bored with these kinds of questions pretty fast — I like to think about actions we can take in our world, now. But I am sort of curious about whether utopia truly would be genderless, or whether it simply wouldn’t judge who wears femme nail polish and/or a man’s button-down collared shirt.
I apologize if anything I’ve written here offends LGBTQ readers or other gender warriors. I don’t often write about this — it’s sex that is my bag, really — and I hope that if I wrote something questionable here, you’ll let me know.