In the wake of recent events and discussions centering around the liberal approach towards opposing the traditional heteronormative framework thrust upon us, and accepting the plural nature of gender, this is a question that perhaps many of us have pondered upon. Instead of acknowledging the existence of a plurality of genders over the conventional binary, should we just do away with the system of gender altogether?
At first it seems like undoubtedly the best way to render equal treatment irrespective of one’s gender, and overcoming gender biases. If there is no gender, the biases meted out on its basis will be eliminated as well. It offers a simple solution of cutting off the nodal point of where the issue lies. However, it perhaps provides too simple a solution that has major pitfalls. Firstly, achieving a situation with the complete absence of gender would be a miracle unto itself. However, for the sake of argument, let us assume this is done. Will it necessarily be a better alternative?
In order to dissect why gender is such an important element in a person’s character, it must be understood that gender was one of the most basic segregations ever made in the society. This differentiation led to formation of identities associated with the gender, and framing of roles on the basis of gender. While gender roles were prescribed by the society, gender identity was an individual decision- it was based on autonomy where one decided which gender he/she identified with. While the society could try to force your gender identity, intrinsically you knew what you were- that is, while a gay person could be made to believe he was a male, he would through course of experiences identify himself as a gay man despite the societal thrusts. The misfortune would be he would not be able to openly admit it for the society would be intolerable. However, he would have the knowledge of his identity, the basic framework of this idea being the contest between the personal and the social. Personal knowledge could exist independent of social interference. This would be completely compromised if a world has no gender. Along with the undesirable social stereotypes associated with gender roles, it would also wipe out one’s personal identity which is incidental to human well-being.
If, to overcome the ills of traditional socialization into gender stereotypes, one completely does away with gender, it will lead to far serious consequences and yield more harms than benefits. The harms it will yield could be examined at the micro as well as the macro level. At the micro level, the individual will feel psychological discomfort at the inability of being able to figure out an essential element of his identity, while of course the bigger picture would involve utter chaos and confusion amongst society because of disorientation of every individual involved in it.
Social stereotypes such as boys should not cry, or that girls should be shy have transmitted through socialization can be overcome through the society itself. Socialization is guided by members of the society. While socialization is a highly influential phenomenon, internalization of this socialization is ultimately at the hands of the individuals who make up the society. Individuals by means of social processes such as protests, revolts and sensitization can guide to reform the society when needed. Therefore, movements for equal rights, feminist movements, movements for recognition of the LGBTQ, etc. spearheaded by individuals who identify themselves to be members of particular genders can become agents to bring about change in traditional socialization of ridiculous stereotypes and societal constrictions. There was a point of time when blacks and whites were treated unequally. However, the true progress of the society came when it was forced to admit that blacks being blacks are equal to whites because of social movements. It did not come by neglecting the fact that there was any difference between them, it came by realizing this difference was nominal and not a sanction to carry out inequality.
It can be admitted that the end goal of achieving no gender would be to eliminate social stereotypes associated with gender. However, taking an extreme measure such as that could rid even the individual from the basic need of knowing himself/herself and what he/she really is, which as discussed above becomes so important when trying to overcome a particular stereotype. Our identity often becomes the sole defense we have against an antagonistic society that dislikes or negates the existence of our identity. It is important to realize how important it is that gay men have the identity of being gay so that they can fight against the idea of only being male. It is important to realize that women are women and can be so and yet be equal to men.
The aim for a genderless society, besides being unrealistic, would also be extremely chaotic if ever pulled off. What would make sense would be to let social change happen through its processes, and lead to reformation, and ultimately normalization of all genders- whether there are two, four or six.
-Contributed by Tinka Dubey
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