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July Online Gender Workshop: An exercise in the utility of definitions

When last we left our intrepid workshoppers, one month ago, we had had a rollicking discussion of definitions of gender, sex, and related terms.

One of the things that came out of that discussion is that when we are each pressed to define exactly what each of us as individuals mean by each person’s specific, personal use of terms like “gender” and “sex” and “transsexual” we not only consistently come up with different definitions, but we also routinely fail to come up with terms that actually cover everything we want to say.

In looking at people overtly performing gender, many of us struggled to find a way to express exactly what we wished to communicate using the terms we had just defined. Worse, in something little discussed as of yet, those people who are assumed to be the best and most skilled of us frequently declined to use gendered pronouns for some performers, but not others.

Why is this the case? If declining to assume an appropriate pronoun for Conchita Wurst is respectful, why not decline to assume an appropriate pronoun for Julie Andrews or Shirley Temple? One of the things we should, in fact, be discussing is the coercive nature of many gendered interactions. Did Shirley Temple choose the clothing or choreography for that scene? Did Temple have more agency in creating a gender (or a gendered image) than Conchita Wurst? At age 3 and 4? Given the legacy nature of Temple’s income and ability to work, what are the implications for Temple’s gender agency at age 40? And if Shirley Temple can’t be assumed to have had a free gender hand, why are we willing to trust an application of a gendered pronoun for Temple more than we trust an application of a gendered pronoun to Wurst?

To help solve some of these problems, it is necessary to have a common language. As revealed in previous exercises, we do not currently have that. We have idiosyncratic usage as created and modified by our successes and failures in conceptualizing and communicating sex and gender concepts. That simply isn’t enough when the times get rough.

I am tempted to say, and in some spaces do, that many definitions or usages of sex and gender and related terms are simply wrong. To the extent that I’m willing to say that about your own definitions of those terms in the previous exercises, I’m only willing to assert that these definitions, which were expressly intended to be multiple where necessary and explain only your own usage, are wrong to the extent that they do not, in fact, explain exactly how you use the words. If you forgot to include an extra definition for another usage, the omission is an error. If you phrased the definition in a way that didn’t comport with your uses in subsequent discussions, that discrepancy is an error.

Of course I encourage each of you to continue to think about how you use gender terms: man, woman, male, female, cis, trans, cis*, trans*, opposite, transsexual, transexual, and more. But in certain spaces it makes sense to create definitions which we can agree to use for simple clarity’s sake. I don’t want to have to look up your nym in previous exercises every time I read you using a gendered term. Also, the definitions here will hopefully cause people to think about how comprehensive and accurate their own previous definitions may be.

Towards that end, I’m putting forward a few definitions, with the expectation that unless otherwise specified your comments will use these words to communicate these meanings and not other meanings when you use them in OGW discussion threads.

None of this is to be tyrannical or definitive, but rather to eliminate confusion so that each of us has a better chance of being understood by others in this space as we tackle questions that simply aren’t answerable without a common language. Consider them operational definitions within the context of an experiment. I may or may not revise them in response to your collective wisdom, but I likely won’t so that we don’t have to check which thread we’re in and juggle multiple definitions in our heads in order to understand each other.

Gender (n): The collection of phenomena referred to below by terms that begin with the word “gender” or, confusingly, by the term “legal sex”. In many specific usages it is intended to refer to only one or some of these, though in the OGW threads it is much preferable to use the more specific terms below so a reader will not have to infer meaning. Gender, being the sum of the below, some of which require culture to exist, can only be properly said to exist among humans, though with more study it may be possible at some future date to find an intelligent non-human animal that can be said to have gender roles and thus gender.

Gender Role: A collection of behaviors and perspectives particularly associated with a group of people with certain common characteristics of anatomical sex, combined with a collection of expectations others have about members’ conformance to those behaviors and perspectives. Note that while association with sexed characteristics is necessary for something to be a gender role (and not, for example, a race) an individual’s membership in a gender role is not necessarily dependent on characteristics of anatomical sex. Gender assignment (see below) exists in part to provide definitive statements of categorization where constellations of sex characteristics are not definitive of themselves. Man (Men) and Woman (Women) are the two primary gender roles of the United States and many other (all?) English-dominant countries. Of all the subcategories here, “gender role” is the most likely to be abbreviated “gender”.

When seeing the word “gender” alone (and used as a noun) without further modification or clarification, consider whether its use might be as “gender role” and not an effort to refer to all these gender related concepts generally/abstractly.

Gender (v.): While “breathing” on its own is associated with people who have certain sex characteristics, it is not more or less expected in comparison to groups of people with other constellations of sex characteristics. It is this differential association of a behavior or perspective with the people of one gender role more than another that is the fundamental meaning of the verb “gender”. Extending from this meaning, when, because of differential associations, a person encourages or expects behaviors or perspectives differently based on gender role, that person is also said to be gendering.

Gendering (n.): An occurrence in which a person genders a person, place, or thing.

Gender Structure(s): Things, including intangible things such as stereotypes, whose existence is necessary or helpful to create and maintain gender roles and gender distinctions. Without gender structures such as “gender permanence” (the expectation that gender assignments can not or should not change) or “sexual etiology” (the expectation that sex determines gender, directly or indirectly, unmediated or mediated) or “gender benevolence” (the rationalization that despite gender roles’ inaccuracies and, upon their rare recognition, harms, such roles are defensible as supporting a greater good), gender roles could not exist.

Note that while any one person can belong or not belong to any specific gender role (and even any specific gender role like, “man,” can exist or not within a society) without undermining gender roles per se, the abstracted definition of gender roles and the association of behaviors/perspectives with sex are necessary for gender roles to exist as functional things in a society. When “gender role” is named a “gender structure” it is not meant tautologically, but rather to refer to these abstracted requirements without which gender roles could – by definition – not exist.

Gender Assignment: A socially sanctioned declaration that a person should be officially recognized as belonging to a group of people with a particular gender role. In the US and many other places such official pronouncements are justified based upon determinations of medical sex (see below). The persons entitled to make these declarations are determined socially, though sometimes these determinations are as rigid as to be codified in law and at other times are somewhat less officially described, but in all cases those persons are thought of as having a specialized role that gives official weight to the gender role pronouncement. For the vast majority of persons, gender assignment takes place only once in a lifetime, typically immediately upon or very shortly after birth. A subsequent gender assignment may also be called a gender reassignment. Gender assignment is also a gender structure.

Legal Sex: A legal categorization of persons that is presumed to be according to both gender role and anatomical sex (see below for discussion of sex). In practice this is true for many, but not some. It is possible to have a legal sex different from one’s gender role and different from the gender role within which one identifies (if any). Legal sex in the US, Canada, and most (all?) other English speaking countries uses the language of fe/male rather than wo/man. In some circumstances this can be clarifying, in others, confusing. In rare cases, one’s legal sex can be contextual (the law might consider a person to be male for the purpose of issuing a driver’s license but female for the purposes of incarceration after conviction for a crime or for purposes of eligibility to marry a particular person).

Gender Identity: One’s own perception or description of one’s member-relationships to one’s society’s gender roles. “I am a woman” and “I am not a man” are each equally valid gender identities or, if one prefers, gender identity components. It is not generally used to refer to perceptions or descriptions of one’s member-relationships to foreign or unfamiliar gender roles.

Gender Attribution: One’s own perception or description of another person’s member-relationships to one’s society’s gender roles OR any person’s (including one’s own) member-relationships to foreign or unfamiliar gender roles. Uncertainty and flexibility are primary defining characteristics here. If a person sees a stranger from behind, any categorization of that person within a gender role may be revised upon seeing the same stranger from the front. Cold-weather gear, theatrical costumes, respiratory infections, and simple distance are all factors that can limit access to gendered information that, when those limits are overcome, can admit of new gender attributions without any challenge to gender structures such as society’s expectations of gender’s definitions or accuracies/inaccuracies. Likewise, when estimating a person’s membership in an unfamiliar gender role, limited understanding about the gender role itself means that a revised attribution in no way requires rethinking of gender’s definitions or accuracies/inaccuracies. These are individual judgements that might, at any time, be incorrect without such inaccuracies implicating the fundamental structures of gender itself.

Gender Performance/ Gender Expression: Engaging in behaviors (including communication) intended or likely to affect others’ attributions of one’s own gender. Gender expression is often (though not always) used to mean the subset of gender performance considered authentic to one’s gender identity.

Gender Mores/ Gender Punishments/ Gender Consequences: For many people this overlaps with gender role itself. For quite a few they are even assumed to be exactly the same – isomorphic sets, if you will. But in this workshop, gender mores will be defined cultural rules about gender, not merely rules describing gender roles. Also, this enables drawing a distinction between expectations that may be violated with relative impunity and ones that may not. This is frequently useful because no one comprehensively exhibits all the behaviors and perspectives associated with a gender role. Deviation from norms is necessary to tolerate in order to maintain a system where finite (and low!) numbers of gender roles exist. Nonetheless, some behaviors are simply considered a breaking of rules rather than imperfect conformance to a norm. This fuzzy distinction can be used to help tease gender mores from mere gendered expectations.

Gender mores are enforced through consequences positive and negative. Negative consequences are often a particular focus of gender liberation analysis, and thus “gender punishment(s)” is a useful term even if encompassed within “gender consequences”.

Note that in defining gender mores as rules about gender and not merely gender roles we also capture some behaviors that simply cannot be captured within gender roles. In US and Canadian society, as I’m sure in many others, it is equally forbidden to women and men to say to relative strangers, “As I haven’t seen you in some time, may I ask you if your gender has changed since we last met?” This violates the expectation of gender permanency, and thus may tend to weaken that gender structure. Upholding gender permanency is a gender more, but not a masculine more or feminine more.

Sex (n): The collection of phenomena referred to below by terms that conclude with the word “sex”. In many specific usages it is intended to refer to only one or some of these, though in the OGW threads it is much preferable to use the more specific terms below so a reader will not have to infer meaning.

Biological sex: [More formal] a category, typically male, female, hermaphrodite, or asexual, defined by production of gametes (sperm/atozoa, ova, both, neither). [Less formal] a category, typically male, female, hermaphrodite, or asexual, defined by the presence of tissues and/or organs normally used in the production of gametes (sperm/atozoa, ova, both, neither) whether or not such production actually takes place (as in sexually immature individuals).

Anatomical sex: A category, typically female, male, hermaphrodite, or asexual, defined by having the body shape and structure necessary for any behaviors or mechanical acts incident to reproduction. This category can only exist in species with (di-/poly-)morphism according to biological sex or when comparing/contrasting to other taxa. Categorization is performed according to whether or not the body shape and structure of an individual is consistent with that necessary to take part in succcessful reproduction for producers of ova, sperm, both, or neither, respectively.

Chromosomal sex: A category, typically male, female, intersex(ed/ual), hermaphrodite, or asexual, defined by the presence of a particular chromosomal pattern normally found almost exclusively among produces of sperm, ova, both or neither, respectively.

Genetic sex: A category, typically male, female, intersex(ed/ual), hermaphrodite, or asexual, based on all genetic information, including but not limited to chromosomal sex. For instance, a human with XY, or male, chromosomal sex may have an allele leading to androgen insensitivity syndrome. Such a person might be described (where the specific distinctions are necessary) as chromosomally male but genetically intersex.

Medical sex: A category unique to humans, though related to the less formal use of biological sex. The categories are typically female and male, though in a growing number of contexts intersex is considered an acceptable and legitimate categorization of medical sex. Despite this last fact, the existence of medical sex as a phenomenon largely arises out of an effort to force female and male to function as a comprehensive pair of categories that are nonetheless mutually exclusive. Medical sex is an ad hoc categorization based on whatever aspects of biological, anatomical, and chromosomal sex seem most salient to an expert medical arbiter. The process of assigning medical sex can be relatively quick and thoughtless, as when external anatomical sex seems obviously male or female to a medical expert attending a birth. The lack of a clear and easy assignment of medical sex has been described by doctors as a “psychosocial emergency” only resolved when a child is given a place within either the male or female medical sex that is expected to be permanent. A temporary placement within a medical sex is oxymoronic in practice.

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The definitions above are my own, but draw on many sources. Though my thinking has progressed since first reading it 24 years ago, Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach by Kessler and McKenna was the most important in my own thinking about how gender might be usefully subdivided to make more productive possible.

We’ll discuss other discuss other definitions soon, but here lets simply try to get a handle on sex and gender as they are intended to be used within this space.

As always, please do all the exercises, including the report, before reading others’ comments. ====================

Exercise 15: Reread all the terms defined above (though not the definitions) just to remind yourself of how many different concepts have been discussed here in an effort to meet the minimal requirements of mutually intelligible conversations about the nature and function of gender itself. Think about which of these distinctions are entirely new to you. Think about which distinctions you have made yourself, even if not using these specific terms or definitions. Make a quick list for yourself of the most foreign/unfamiliar uses or terms. This will serve as a handy guide later. If stuck for a good way to phrase an observation or thought, look at these least familiar terms to see if any of them provide a way to express something you’ve had previous (or are having current) trouble expressing. Finally, think about where you are having trouble using or understanding my definitions and what you would need to make any problematic definition useful to you. Would it need to be changed because the problem is inherent to the definition? Or would the definition benefit from more clarity, perhaps from some examples, but not need to have its nature changed?

Exercise 16: Take note of a few things that aren’t included in the definitions above. For instance, in other contexts a useful definition of gender might be one I originally created as a definition of race* (mutatis mutandis, for you latin freaks):

An attempt, often consisting as much of artifice as of ignorance, to justify intragroup power and valuation differences, the public/private dichotomy, and economic disparity based on apparent, but insignificant to the discussion, biological differences to which symbolic meaning is attached. The biological differences chosen are selected for their visibility as well as for how easily the desired meaning can be attached.

Think about why we might not wish to define gender that way here. What kinds of spaces would benefit from the introduction of (and/or adherence to) such a definition of gender (or race).

Exercise 17: 5th Report. The definitions here are intended to be written for clarity. That does not mean that they read clearly to you. In the last part of exercise 15 you thought about flaws in these definitions. Tell others what you noticed, how you might change the definition if it were up to you, and where you feel your understanding falls short (regardless of whether the fault lies in my writing or somewhere else). Are there things lacking from the definitions intended to be used here that you would include? Exercise 16 can be useful here as a beginning point for discussing how and why we define terms as we do and the ways in which the definitions above the exercises are both useful and limited.

 

Previous Workshop Thread.

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*My definition of race from which this definition of gender is derived was this: An attempt, often consisting as much of artifice as of ignorance, to justify in group/out group divisions, power relationships, and economic disparity based on apparent, but insignificant to the discussion, biological differences to which symbolic meaning is attached. The biological differences chosen are selected for their visibility as well as for how easily the desired meaning can be attached.

Comments

  1. says

    This exercise is quite timely, as I was about to begin writing on my tumblr blog about my thoughts on these topics. I was even going to frame it as the re-optimization of language surrounding these topics. And indeed I had made some of the distinctions above, though with different labels, or without any settled label yet.

    Exercise 15: Think about which of these distinctions are entirely new to you. Think about which distinctions you have made yourself, even if not using these specific terms or definitions. Make a quick list for yourself of the most foreign/unfamiliar uses or terms.

    Well, I don’t think I really thought specifically about “gender” as a verb VS a noun etc. “Gender structure” is a new term, but sorta familiar, I would have just called it societal concepts (if I’m understanding it right) but perhaps that would be too broad and ambiguous.

    I didn’t specifically use anything to refer to the mores/punishments.

    As for the variety of “sex” terms…I only called one thing the “Sex” adn that is the gamete production. I call chomosomes chromosomes, the so called secondary and primary characteristics either by their particular names (vagina, beard) of by the terms primary and secondary characteristics (for lack of better words). To me, “medical sex” are simply using the word incorrectly, and rest on the failed hypotheses about divided characteristics between the sexes. “Anatomical sex” seems to mean penis and vagina type stuff? That is a necessary category that I had described as “primary sex characteristics”.

    I also just referred to “presentation” stuff as style, personality, behavior etc.

    Exercise 17: 5th Report. The definitions here are intended to be written for clarity. That does not mean that they read clearly to you. In the last part of exercise 15 you thought about flaws in these definitions. Tell others what you noticed, how you might change the definition if it were up to you, and where you feel your understanding falls short (regardless of whether the fault lies in my writing or somewhere else). Are there things lacking from the definitions intended to be used here that you would include? Exercise 16 can be useful here as a beginning point for discussing how and why we define terms as we do and the ways in which the definitions above the exercises are both useful and limited.

    Hnmmm. The past few days I had so many thoughts about these topics, but right now I’m drawing a bit blank. Perhaps that is because the language you have presented here is far superior to the common words (man, woman, she, he). Also, because the “gender abolitionist manifesto” that I was nearly finished writing (more of a “language re-optimization manifesto”, it is unclear what happens to “gender” when my ideas are used, and nothing is really supposed to be “abolished” except false hypotheses, confusion, and lack of optimization) looks very much like what you have presented.

    I seem to basically understand all the terminology here.

  2. says

    A couple of the definitions are a little unclear to me, but I imagine keeping up on the discussion will clear things. I know I’d be helped by an example a gender more. For example, if someone who is seen as a man (gender attribution) wears clothes they associate only with women and is beaten up for it, is that a gender more?

    There were distinctions I already made and others I didn’t.

    I wanted to apologize for my post on the last thread. It was badly written and otherwise sucked. Sorry.

    I’ll still read the discussions and learn from them, but I don’t think I’ll be a good participant and don’t think I’ll make any more comments. Thank you for your time. (Don’t want a participant disappearing without explanation.)

  3. says

    OK, I’m having some trouble with the lengthy definitions. Would it be at least generally fair to say that this is a somewhat accurate (if snarky) summary of the definitions you provided?

    Gender (n)— All of the bullshit that our culture declares to be “associated” with a biological sex despite there being no rational basis for this association. (eg, skirts are “associated” with female.)

    Gender Role/Structure/Assignment— Various aspects of the bullshit that our culture arbitrarily declares to be “associated” with a biological sex and the irrational reasoning behind such declarations.

    Gender (v)— The act of declaring bullshit to be “associated” with a biological sex.

    Gender Attribution— The tendency to guess someone’s biological sex based on gendered cultural cues. (ie, “this person is wearing a dress, which our culture arbitrarily associates with the female sex, so I’ll guess this person is female.”)

    Gender Identity— The self-definition or self-identification of someone who has internalized the bullshit our culture arbitrarily associates with biological sex and describes themselves in its terms.

    Gender Performance/Expression— A conscious decision to embrace and display traits that our culture arbitrarily associates with a biological sex for the purpose of influencing how people perceive you with respect to “gender.”

    Gender Mores/Punishments/Consequences— the social consequences one faces for failing to uphold the bullshit arbitrarily associated with one’s biological sex or otherwise not conforming to “gender” expectations.

    Sex (n)— An actual form of dimorphism which is a function of biology rather than culture, defined by differing roles in the reproductive process.

    Biological sex— Sex (n) as determined by which reproductive organs are physically present in the body.

    Genetic sex— Sex (n) as determined by which genes are present in organisms whose biological sex is controlled by specific genes, genetic structures, or alleles.

    Chromosomal sex— Another term for genetic sex which is limited to organisms with specific sex-determination chromosomes, such as mammals.

    Anatomical sex— Sex (n) as determined by the ability to perform the physical act associated with one reproductive role or another? A little unclear on this one.

    Medical sex— Sex (n) as determined by a medical professional; the accuracy of the determination may vary.

    Legal sex— Sex (n) as determined by the government. Accuracy of this determination may be heavily compromised by the bullshit found under “gender,” as well as the tendency of legislators to fail to consider all of the circumstances before passing laws.

    Is that at least on the same continent as accurate?

    OK, onto the exercises.

    Assuming I got them right above, your definitions are coherent and reasonably meaningful, but they’re different from the definitions I’m familiar with which is why talking about them often threw me for a loop. To me, “gender” is another word for “sex (n)” which is convenient due to the latter’s risk of getting mistaken for “sex (v)” in certain contexts. What you call “gender,” I would call “gender roles” while simply classifying “gender structures” and “gender assignments” as just different aspects of what I’d call gender roles and what you’d call gender.

    For the sake of clarity, though, I’d hope you might be willing to add an example or two for each term.

    Of course, this is probably why I was having so much trouble understanding what “trans” meant— anytime someone said “gender identity,” I’d take that to mean one’s determination of what biological sex one is.

    It also means I’d have to clarify a statement I made in, probably, the first workshop. I mentioned that I’d identify myself as “male,” but in light of these definitions, I’d have to clarify that. My sex is “male.” I don’t have any gender identity because, while I can’t be completely free of the concept of gender, I refuse to define myself on its terms.

    So does this mean “transsexual” and “transgender” are different things, with the former being people who feel they should have had a different biological sex than the one they have and the latter being people who think society should have assigned them into a different gender than it did? Exactly how does it work?

    Exercise 16:

    Frankly, the definition you provided with race fits to gender surprisingly well, though not perfectly.

    I have yet to come across any reason to think that gender (as I understood your definition) is anything more than a silly cultural convention that I would be happy to see the end of. It’s extensive, and it reaches deeply into our lives and how most of us think about ourselves, but it’s neither necessary nor desirable, and it manifests out of bigotry even if it does manage to take on a life of its own to some extent.

    Essentially, “gender” is the pus that forms on top of an infection of sexism, if you can forgive an extremely disgusting example.

    Exercise 17:

    I’m afraid your definitions weren’t quite clear to me. I’ve summarized how I understood them above, so if that’s at least somewhat accurate then I guess I can roll with it. If not, then maybe you can at least tell where I fell off the road.

  4. opposablethumbs says

    I’m not sure at the moment if I’m going to be able to keep up. But I had to come by to at least say one thing – CD your comment about why so many of us do think of being courteous by not assuming re Conchita Wurst but never think the same thing about Shirley Temple – considering how much agency she realistically had at that age in determining her relationship to those personae, the little-girl persona and the little-boy persona – well that gave me pause. That was a great way to help give us (those of us who are cis-het maybe especially so) the chance to take gender assumptions and make-them-strange. To see that people apparently neatly fitting the spaces is just as strange/not-inevitable as people not neatly fitting them. It’s difficult to see the water you are swimming in.

    I’m going to go on reading for sure, whether I can keep up or not.

  5. Dutchgirl says

    Exercise 17 Report: your definitions are clear and as concise as they can be. My main obstacle to internalizing them is how many there are. I completely agree that they are all needed so that accurate discussion can take place, but it will take my sleep-deprived brain a while to get comfortable with each nuance and distinction. The only term that was new to me is the concept of gender mores as separate and distinct from gender expectation, and I thank you for showing me the difference. As I begin to stash these in my thinkbox, I’ll probably arrange them in a loose hierarchy, depending on how inclusivAm e a particular term is in regard to another. I may have to draw a picture.

    Side note: I’m still missing something about the Shirley Temple clip. To me the performance reads as ‘little girl’ but I see mention of ‘boy’ for that character. Am I being blind to the ‘boy’ signifiers? If it is not respectful to use a female pronoun because Temple lacked agency, should we abandon gendered pronouns for babies and toddlers?

  6. says

    The only things I found that I generally do different when using these terms is that I avoid terms like “biological sex” or “genetic sex” in favour of “assigned sex”, since the connotations usually are that your biology/genetics are more real than your identity (i.e. a lot of people see trans people as delusional, since it’s “all in [our] heads” and contradicts the accepted infallibility of biology), and that I generally use “gender” to mean “gender identity” (i.e. gender describing who you are, while gender roles and mores describe the expectations and pressures to act a certain way depending on who people think you are). I can perfectly well use gender identity for clarity, but I’ll probably forget at least once. ^_^’

    There is one thing that I think is a bit unclear about the definition of gender identity, though. I fully agree that people can vary in their identity depending on the culture they exist in (since individual identity is generally described and acted within the categories available in that culture), but the definition seems a bit close to what Jake Harban described it as. Internalising cultural gender roles, rather than just having an identity that by necessity has to be described in the cultural context (e.g. I can identify as a trans woman in 2014 Europe, but I probably would have had to define myself differently in 1614 North America)

    Or, in other words: I identify as I do because it fits me best within this society and allows me to be myself contrary to nonsensical expectations (Seriously, it’s not expected that I transition and my identity is sure as the sun not what I’m culturally supposed to do), not because I’ve internalised the proverbial bovine excrement. ^_~

  7. opposablethumbs says

    (Dutchgirl, fwiw I was referring to her performance of several boy-associated actions – at one point she strikes a “boy-appropriate” pose, thumbs tucked into her (non-existent) braces, and she sings about being a pilot which I believe was even more coded as a suitable ambition for a boy rather than a girl then than it is now. It’s as if she’s performing the role of a very “girly” girl who is in turn oh-so-cutely (i.e. transparently) “play-acting” at being a boy. Aaaand …. I’m still automatically referring to the actor as “she” …)

  8. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Jake Harban:

    Is that at least on the same continent as accurate?

    yep. A lot of what you’re saying seems a reasonable paraphrase to me. Your definition of “gender structures” however was so vague as to not really be certain how much your understanding of my words matches my communicative intent. A couple of other places there were things that clearly did not match my communicative intent. But these were exceptions. You’re more right than not.

    If I may?

    Gender Identity— The self-definition or self-identification of someone who has internalized the bullshit our culture arbitrarily associates with biological sex and describes themselves in its terms.

    One doesn’t have to internalize the bullshit in order to describe oneself in relation to it. “I am decidedly outside of the category ‘man’,” is a statement that could be made by a cis woman who has internalized all the bullshit, but could also be a very carefully worded rebuke by someone who has not internalized the bullshit.

    Gender Performance/Expression— A conscious decision to embrace and display traits that our culture arbitrarily associates with a biological sex for the purpose of influencing how people perceive you with respect to “gender.”

    Here I want to make it clear that these terms cover conscious rejections and unconscious acts embracing or rejecting “traits that our culture arbitrarily associates with a biological sex”.

    Gender expression can be entirely unconscious and “gender fuck” is, in fact, a form of gender expression.

    The self-definition or self-identification of someone who has internalized the bullshit our culture arbitrarily associates with biological sex and describes themselves in its terms.

    the problem here is the same as that with gender expression/performance. One could declare oneself to be “third gender” specifically because you haven’t internalized (most of) one’s culture’s gender bullshit.

    Biological sex— Sex (n) as determined by which reproductive organs are physically present in the body.

    In the less formal version, yes. In the more formal version whether or not the organs are performing as necessary to successfully reproduce is also considered.

    =============

    Where I haven’t provided feedback, it seems likely to me that you do understand my intent.

  9. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    From Jake Harban, for all:

    Essentially, “gender” is the pus that forms on top of an infection of sexism, if you can forgive an extremely disgusting example.

    And…yet another definition of gender, formed to serve yet another purpose and/or context. How awesomely useful this seems to me is a good indicator of how many definitions we can have without running into new definitions that have a negligibly different meaning. It also implicitly gives yet another example of how many uses we have for the word gender.

  10. Dhorvath, OM says

    CD,
    Thanks, some of these fit easily into my thoughts and efforts to articulate them from the previous workshops, while the rest will serve to keep me clear in the future when talking about these things. I had already seen that I lacked sufficient detail in my working definitions so it’s nice to have a clear set of terms to work with. Still, there is a lot here and I will need a chance to think and reread before I could even think of providing any constructive feedback about how you have organized and defined above.

    Also, can I request a link back to the previous workshop? I don’t always retain things clearly and would like to think that others will also want to read back a bit with each new workshop.

  11. Dhorvath, OM says

    And I see I can do so easily by clicking through your nym at the start of the post. Nevermind.

  12. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Dhorvath:

    Meh. It’s a good point, regardless of how WordPress links authors with previous posts. I had been going it previously and forgot this time. Thanks for bringing it up.

    Link added.

  13. says

    While I think I understood the definitions as provided, I had difficulty “mapping” them in my thoughts (where does *this* fit with *this*?). So I drew out a rough circle of where I “see” the provided definitions connecting together (which is just where I saw them, and may not match how others saw them). Using that “map,” I answered the exercises as follows:

    15 – “Mores” is the term with which I have the greatest difficulty (not because I don’t understand the definition, but because I’m not sure how it’s applied).

    16 – The “gray areas” on the map — which is pretty much everywhere outside of the supposed “normatives” (for lack of a better explanation, based on this and previous exercises).

    17 – I’m not sure, actually. What I was curious about was where “gender-neutral” pronouns would fit in all of this (the noun? the verb? assignment?) — if anywhere — and uncertain if it’s even a relevant question.

  14. says

    Thanks for this series of posts, CD. I hope you go on posting.
    The definition I’m having trouble with is:

    Gender Identity: One’s own perception or description of one’s member-relationships to one’s society’s gender roles.

    with

    Gender Role: A collection of behaviors and perspectives particularly associated with a group of people with certain common characteristics of anatomical sex, combined with a collection of expectations others have about members’ conformance to those behaviors and perspectives.

    I am fine with my assigned sex and the way I am read; I see myself as a member of that group. But I do not identify with behaviours & perspectives associated with or expectations towards people of that sex. This is a shirt that not only doesn’t fit: it’s scratchy. A different shirt may not fit much better – perhaps all shirts are too tight – but at least the material is soft.
    Perhaps: One’s own perception or description of one’s member-relationships to one’s society’s gender groups, where these are believed to be related to biological sex.
    .
    What has puzzled me since I noticed it, is that while none of the various definitions of sex is binary, and no two of them coincide, it is nevertheless an article of faith that sex is binary. It’s like the thing with the llamas.

  15. says

    I’m belatedly commenting here to observe that I missed this posting at the time and I wonder if would help if you used your WordPress profile’s link to connect to your author page, to make it a little bit easier to check where the workshop is up to?

    In response to Exercise 17, most of the definitions for me were unproblematic, aside from one — the definition of gender as a verb rather a noun — which I found particularly opaque and non-descriptive, similar to the problems I have with the definitions of race or gender in Exercise 16: which is that they don’t actually describe anything of the heart of the concept — they are telling ‘how’ gender or race are (arbitrarily) constructed, rather than showing the ‘what’ that is fixed upon to create them, and which is tidily confined to the two deliberately non-descriptive words, ‘biological differences’. What biological differences? (They are obvious, but have not been spelled out.)

    I don’t consider myself to be bad at extracting meaning from dense or complicated prose, but I had to read that particular definition at least three times to make sure I was understanding what it actually says, as opposed to what I might believe it says — which to me indicates it would be better re-written for clarity; my scribbled notes for Exercise 15 eventually summarised gender (v) as “process of mapping individuals to membership of category groups by association of apparent characteristics” which like the Exercise 16 gender/race definitions, is describing the “how” of the idea but doesn’t elaborate the “what” is going on. The “mapping” I noted involves recognising an individual’s relationship to multiple elements of gender structures: are aspects of their clothing, or their manner, or their actions, or their body, indicative of being consonant with one or more e.g. gender mores, gender roles, and sexes (as gender attribution often is aimed at pigeonholing anatomical sex).

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