Big Question: What is the gendered body?

To put a gender onto a set of organs is inaccurate at best and incredibly harmful at worst.  In Dean Spade’s reading “About Purportedly Gendered Body Parts,” he talks about how reinforcement of certain organs being attributed to certain genders is inaccurate and enables the perpetuation of stereotyping and enforcing certain gender norms. It additionally presents unfortunate consequences to the people that don’t align with the gender that people typically associate with that set of genitals.  This can also pose problems, as brought up in Spade’s other reading “Resisting Medicine Re/Modeling Gender”  with regards to there being such a heavy influence on organs and gender that people who identify as non-cisgender who would like top/bottom/”facial feminization”surgeries (I recognize the also heavily gendered connotation of the phrase “facial feminization” however that is the only current term for what that surgery does) need a special diagnosis of GID to even get it because of how heavily gendered the body parts are. Another way that gendering body parts is dangerous is very explicitly outlined in “The Sexual Politics of Sickness” where it is discussed that not too long ago, all ailments of cis women were blamed entirely on the uterus and ovaries.  There was an assumption that cis women (which was really the category of “all women that anyone cared about”) and the gendering of that specific body part led to thousands of women being forced to lead a life that caused them nothing but depression because of some “mysterious” illness that was the “female condition” relating heavily to the uterus and ovaries.

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2 thoughts on “Big Question: What is the gendered body?

  1. ianalex2013

    I also agree with what was said here. I think another problem I can think of is the idea that men only think with their penises which can be alienating for a ton of reasons. For example, men who don’t even have penises or men who don’t even fit into this ideology with seems deeply rooted in gender roles set by society for men. I think that the more people bring these problems to light, the more we as a society may work harder to change the language we use to describe things that we don’t necessarily take time to think about. People won’t realize that they’re using problematic language if they aren’t told, so it’s important to be aware of incidents like these to use as an opportunity for education. However, it may be argued that people would brush off criticisms with “you know what I mean” and “it’s not like you’re offended” but I think the more people get called out on using inappropriate language, the more they’ll really think about how their language is affecting others. I think that if we live in a society where we can call people out for words related to race, sexuality, religion, etc… we can also work to call people out for words related to gendering/misgendering people.

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  2. alimthongviratn

    I agree that there are issues with gendering body parts because not only does such language often serve to misgender people, it also disregards people who identity as female but do not have internal reproductive organs and people who identify as male but do not have external reproductive organs. However, one issue I have with Spade’s proposition that we do away with such gendered language is that the provided reasons do not acknowledge people who identity outside of the gender binary. I realize that Spade’s suggested language, to say what we mean “more directly,” would also benefit people outside the binary, but Spade’s sole mention of trans people seems to imply that an idea that “trans” is a catch-all term for gender non-conforming people. But one does not have to be transgender or transsexual* – in which that person physically transitions to another sex – to be gender non-conforming.

    Remaining on this subject of non-binary gender, the “The Sexual Politics of Sickness” article too disregards the identities of gender non-conforming people. Just as cis-women were oppressed due to the misconception of their uteruses and ovaries making them inferior, gender non-conforming people were ignored. People who identified as bigender** – for the sake of this discussion, I am considering such identity to be male and female though bigender may include any two genders, not just those within the binary – but were designated as female would have been oppressed even though they did not identity as only female. Similarly, bigender-identified people designated as male would have avoided such oppression even though they may have partially identified as female – though in this case, it would be advantageous to not be dehumanized.

    Therefore, I wholly agree that the language of gendering body parts should be adjusted, but in doing so, I believe people who identify outside the gender binary should not be forgotten because they too would especially benefit from this.

    *I apologize if I am using this term incorrectly. This is how I have observed the differences between transgender and transsexual.

    **Perhaps “bigender” was not used specifically to describe the case I am talking about, but I think it is perfectly reasonable to assume some people identified this way even if they did not have a term for it.

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