Thursday, June 29, 2006

Opinion: Gender Construction

Some conception of gender has existed in the various cultures around the world. Contrary to western belief systems not all of which have preached female subservience. Many others have had an acceptance of even more then two genders. However, due to the colonization of indigenous societies the ideals of a strict gender binary without deviation and the subservience of the female sex has proliferated.

The views of male dominance largely came from Ancient Hellenic (Greek) society. In Ancient womyn were expected to stay within the private sphere of the house and to leave it was blasphemy. Husbands had the power over wives as chattel to the point where a husband abusing his wife or even killing her was simply considered family business and his right as a husband. Roman society which laid the groundwork for the major European powers was heavily influenced by Hellenic society in their views on womyn, but were tempered by Etruscan influence. Later in the Empire womyn had many rights to own property, and most could make decisions for themselves. The views on gender were still strict however, and womyn were considered subservient. The Roman empire spread Christianity which later would become, the major instrument of persecution of anyone who did not conform to a view of society as heterosexual, monogamous and, patriarchal. The use of Christianity was also used to persecute the major Pagan religions which preached equality and female or androgynous divinity. This set the basis for the major colonizing powers the British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Germans and, Italians.

Other regional non-European powers also developed strict gender binary and patriarchal views including Arab powers, Russia, China and, Japan. Some colonized powers were also patriarchal and those views were simply reinforced. Many other societies that were matriarchal, egalitarian, or included more then two genders were deconstructed by the colonizing powers mainly in the Americas, Africa and South-East Asia. Instead a rigid view of gender roles and sexuality were enforced upon these societies and, concerted efforts were made to take away their cultures.

Modern Western society still works upon gender roles based upon not even simply sex, but genetalia. Those who are born with a penis are labeled as male and those without are labeled as female despite their genetic or mental make up. This results in a M or an F on identification which is supposed to dictate how you act. In Canada the most significant diversions occur in two-spirited people, intersexuals, transsexuals, androgyns and everyone else who does not wish to conform to set gender roles.

The concept of a two-spirited person is quite old as it comes from many of the indigenous people of the Americas. It is a third gender classification for Native Americans who are seen as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit. It has been long used to describe LGBTQI people within Native societies. They were seen as having a gift instead of being considered disordered. As gifted members of the community they have often been the shamans or healers.

Intersexuals are people who are biologically born as a combination of male and female biology. The chromosomes and at times genetalia of intersexuals differ from the standard conceptions. There are many chromosomal variations including XXY, XXXY, or even may have a regular chromosomal pairing such as XX, but have the opposite genetalia. Those intersexuals with ambiguous genetalia are often surgically altered at birth by doctors sometimes even without parental consent or knowledge. Some intersexuals live out their lives without ever knowing however, others have medical problems, and others go through gender confusion due to a rigid system which they do not fit within.

Transsexuals are another section of the population whose physical body does not represent how they feel about their gender. Many transsexuals go to ends to change their physical body into the sex they would feel most comfortable about. Some of which will use hormones and surgery, while others may only use one route or decide on neither. Some research which has been done shows that transsexuality stems from the size of the BSTc section of the brain. Yet, transsexuals are still labeled as having a disorder which is unfortunately one of the only ways of being able to receive effective health care. Within the transsexual community there are varying views on gender, some see it in terms of the gender binary where you go simply from one sex to another, many others however, view gender in more fluid terms accepting that there are many genders.

Androgyns are people who identify as male and female or possibly non-gendered. The society clamps down upon androgyns for going out of the defined roles based on their sex and, additionally for not choosing to identify within the binary. The clamp down on deviance of from traditional roles negatively effects everyone in the society by enforcing guidelines on a gender binary code based upon historical arbitration on whether something is considered masculine or feminine. This even impacts the non-oppressed section of society by forcing them to deny any instinct in themselves that deviates from that set norm as well as turning them into monsters to enforce gender roles upon the rest of society.

The enforcement of a strict gender binary has been a use of patriarchy for thousands of years as a means to dominate society. This is one of the oldest forms of oppression in our society which, only now is being slowly reunderstood. This system cuts across our society and is used to reinforce other forms of oppression including the cultural oppression of non-patriarchal or non-gender binary societies as spread by the rise of Western colonial imperialism. Today small gains are being made towards a more gender fluid and egalitarian society such, as the introduction of a bill in Canada to include gender identity and expression in the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, our society is still fundamentally governed by a gender binary which although, not as strict still enforces the 'M' or the 'F' and ridicules and abuses those who deviate from that.

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Blogger qismah said...

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