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On the fairer sex

April 25, 2016

Greta Christina has an excellent post on how common themes in abstinence-only and purity education dehumanize women.

Lionel Shriver, a novelist who never let her tomboy self die, writes a well-crafted essay arguing that any notion of gender identity depends on cultural notions of gender:

Yet consider: in order to construct this [gender] spectrum, it is necessary first firmly to establish what it means to be “man” and “woman.” Even if you are “genderqueer” — convinced that your gender identity does not conform to the social norms associated with your sex — alienation from social norms depends on the perpetuation of social norms. Thus if you are a gruff, muscular, assertive woman who has adopted the genderqueer label, girlishness must continue to be associated with garrulousness, weakness, and passivity for your identity to scan.

That said, cultural norms are quite real. In her own life, Shriver may have managed to make some of them ride lightly. Other people struggle with them in different fashion.

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