“Biological sex” myths


Julia Serano is back with another fantastic takedown of arguments predicated on notions of immutable, discrete sex binaries.

Clarifying the “sex is a social construct” argument

Sometimes people who are trying to debunk “biological sex” myths will point out that sex (like gender) is a social construct. The reason for doing this is to show that the “biological versus social” distinction is far more muddied (as I have detailed in the last two sections) than the “trans women are biological males” camp is willing to admit.

Unfortunately, people who are unaware of, or misinformed about, social constructivism will often mistake the word “constructed” to mean “fake” or “not real,” and thus assume that such claims represent a denial of the existence of sexually dimorphic traits. However, this is not what the word “constructed” means.

Saying that sex is “socially constructed” does not mean that biological sex differences do not exist or do not matter. It simply conveys that our definition of sex, and the way that we categorize people into sexes, is determined by society and our assumptions about how the world works.

In our society, people are assigned a legal sex at birth based on the presence or absence of a penis — that is a social process. When people argue that it must be chromosomes, or a particular reproductive organ, that defines or determines a person’s sex, that is a social decision — one that ignores the multiplicity and variability of sexually dimorphic traits. Indeed, the very fact that, given the same evidence, people will disagree about the nature of sex (strictly binary versus multifaceted and variable; immutable versus somewhat malleable) demonstrates that sex is socially constructed!

So in other words, we can say that biological sex differences exist, and also that our understanding of sex is socially constructed — these are not contradictory statements at all.

Read more here!

-Shiv

Comments

  1. says

    we can say that biological sex differences exist, and also that our understanding of sex is socially constructed — these are not contradictory statements at all.

    Beautiful.

  2. Siobhan says

    @Marcus

    I agree. It’s a succinct way to summarize what a lot of trans activists (*lightning bolt* *thunder clap*) have been saying about TERFs for a while: They haven’t the foggiest fucking clue how social constructionism works.

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