Sex and gender are not equal
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 25, 2012 12:10
Although I understand that the Cynic does not necessarily endorse all signed editorials, I remain shocked that the editors of a paper known for its journalistic integrity would choose to print something as facile, condescending and blatantly offensive as Tony Yasi’s Oct. 11 Letter to the Editor.
To begin, although Mr. Yasi’s main complaint with his fundamentally flawed conception of feminism is its “false male-female dichotomy,” he actively perpetuates this binary according to his own asinine explanation: “dudes got dicks and bitches got tits.”
To use Mr. Yasi’s terms, this is “a gross oversimplification of reality.” This statement is incredibly insulting, as women should NEVER be referred to as “bitches” — this is a significant part of my disappointment in the editors — but also because this represents a false binary which fails to take into account the experiences of intersex and/or trans-folks.
Yasi’s assessment assumes that sex and gender are the same thing; they are not. The assignment of biological sex, which is in itself a deeply complicated and fairly fallacious process, plays little to no role in an individual’s development, unless it is paired with cultural assumptions surrounding gendered behavior.
In order to understand this, I highly suggest that Mr. Yasi read some of Anne Fausto-Sterling’s work on sex and gender, such as “Sex/Gender: Biology in a Social World.”
In short, there are women with male genitals, men with breasts and people for whom sex and gender are concepts that cannot properly convey their experience of the world.
It is fascinating to me that Mr. Yasi can write of individuals who “don’t fit into an ideal ‘male’ or ‘female’ mold” while still promoting such ignorant views on gender and contending that physiological and neurological differences lead to “different paths in life.”
Again, I urge Mr. Yasi to consult the vast collection of both popular and academic literature on the subject of culture’s role in creating sex difference, rather than taking his own shallow observations as ultimate truths; Judith Butler’s “Gender Trouble” and Cordelia Fine’s “Delusions of Gender” would be great places to start.
To add insult to injury, Mr. Yasi goes on to explain that he couldn’t POSSIBLY be espousing sexist views because he doesn’t “care if you’re a man or a woman.”
Ostensibly, all he cares about is “how good you are at what you do.” This demonstrates a cognitive dissonance in Mr. Yasi’s views — if men and women are so different, how could he judge them based on their performance? Wouldn’t he need gender-specific scales of evaluation? — and also indicates his misperception of our society as a meritocracy.
To understand the United States as a place in which all people begin on, to use Mr. Yasi’s term, by his definition, “equal” ground is to ignore the long and ongoing history of privilege and oppression on the bases of sex, gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, ability ... I assure you, the list goes on.
If Mr. Yasi would like to educate himself on these issues before submitting further tired and hateful rhetoric for public consumption, he’s in luck.
As a UVM student, Mr. Yasi has access to dozens of courses on social justice, resources like the Women’s Center, the ALANA house, and the LGBTQA center, active student organizations run by friendly and enthusiastic people, a library featuring literally thousands of books and articles concerning power and privilege — all of the books I’ve cited can be found in the Bailey/Howe catalog.
In fact, I’d argue that the only way a UVM student could be here WITHOUT gaining insight into these critical subjects is by willful, intentional ignorance, and I think I speak for the whole UVM community when I say that I expect better than that.
Class of 2014