Is Gender REAL?

Press Start for “Is Gender REAL?” by 8-Bit Philosophy, where classic video games introduce famous thinkers, problems, and concepts with quotes, teachings, and more.

Ep.32: Is Gender REAL?

Written by: Eugene Wolters
Created & Directed by: Jared Bauer
Narrator: Nathan Lowe
Animation Producer: MB X. McClain
Original Music & Sound by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Academic Consultant: Mia Wood
Animation Consultant: Matt Reichle
Producer & Additional Artwork by: Jacob S. Salamon

Is Gender Real?

We’re told from the earliest moments of our lives that boys will be boys and girls will be girls. News stories about Gender are everywhere today. Should people declared Men at birth be allowed into Women-only colleges? Can I use whatever washroom I fancy? Can women becomemen? According to American Philosopher Judith Butler, these conversations miss an important point – gender is a lot messier then we’d like to think.

Gender is a sort of script – Women have long hair, they wear bikinis, they walk and talk, they even sit like women. And Men, are expected to be manly. They walk like Men, they talk like Men, they pump iron, and they certainly don’t get caught up with anything girly. Even a hundred years ago, it was perfectly normal for women to have body hair. And boys to wear pink dresses. Norms have changed with society. Society assumes that girls act like girls because of hormones, or because their brains are just different.

But these gender roles are according to Butler, determined by society. From the moment the doctor declares it’s a girl, we’re expected and compelled to act like our gender. Girls are supposed to play with purple ponies and dolls, while boys get spaceships and G.I. Joes. Gender is the narrative we ascribe to anatomy. And there’s plenty of people who don’t fit into either category.

Our ideal man, and woman, are fictions. And they are constantly breaking down. We know of women who prefer swords and sports, and men who prefer dresses and poetry. For Butler,

Gender is performative. We act it out everyday in our mannerisms, our speech, and our thoughts.

And when we act it out, we’re not just putting on a show, we’re consolidating and actively constructing these gender identities. Gender is not just an identity, it’s a ritual. If Gender is performative, then perhaps our best course of action is to refuse to perform.

Perform differently, or even laugh at it. When we refuse to perform our Gender script, the neat binary between Men and Women starts to fall apart. We see people with male anatomy who want to identify as female. And, vice versa. For some, that means seeking surgery to change their anatomy. This begs the question, what is a real woman? To which Butler responds, there is none. Many others are quite content existing in a grey area, between sexes and genders. It’s this in between area that exposes that Gender is fluid.

Identity serves to restrict our very being, and exclude those who don’t conveniently fit into the binary of men and women, such as homosexuals and transgender people. So the question is not can boys act like girls, but as Butler may ask, should the category of boys and girls even exist?

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