- Date published:
9:00 am, November 11th, 2021 - 152 comments
Categories: feminism, gender, gender critical feminism - Tags: biological sex, culture wars, gender stereotypes, Kathleen Stock, sex/gender war, Sian Lacey Taylder, transgender, transsexual
University of Sussex philosophy professor Kathleen Stock talks in this 2020 video with two trans women, Dr Sian Lacey Taylder and Emma. At one point she is asked “what is gender?” and gives a four minute overview of the word ‘gender’ in the context of the sex/gender identity culture war (starts at 53m)
It’s a word that has about four or five different meanings, so, a lot of the time people are just simply at cross purposes in a very banal way, because one of them’s using the word to mean one thing and the other one’s using it to mean something else. That’s half the problem.
Stock gives four definitions:
Sex: gender is used to mean sex, the polite word for sex when people don’t want to use the word that also means sexual relations.
Stereotypes: from 1970s feminism, gender is the set of sex-based social stereotypes of being male or female, masculinity or femininity. The roles varies from culture to culture. Females are supposed to be “passive, kind, maternal, stay at home”. Males stereotypes are “active, dominant, out there in the world… not overly emotional, quite repressed”. People conform or don’t conform to those.
Gender as a social role: as described above, but where the social roles are now attached to the words ‘woman‘ and ‘man‘. This meaning derives from academic feminism in the late 20th Century, the way to get out of biological determinism (the idea that females are destined to stay home, do housework and have babies) was to define women as social roles. The problem of biological determinism wasn’t solved, and it created a new problem,
“Now academics are talking as if being a woman is a social role, or conforming to a social role, or accepting a social role, or having a social role imposed upon one by society”.
Women are no longer biological. Stock considers this move by academic feminism to be mad.
Gender identity: which has nothing directly to do with the above. In her book Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism Stock defines gender identity,
According to this theory, it is not the process of gender reassignment that makes you trans but, as Stonewall puts it: ‘A person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else … which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.’ That is, it’s an inner feeling. It is your gender identity rather than your sex that is considered to be what makes you man, woman or non-binary.
Stock concludes her answer to the question,
When people are arguing about gender, quite often one of them is talking about sex, one of them is talking about social stereotypes, and a third one is talking about gender identity, and they’re all shouting at each other.
It’s worth noting that in the war, both sides have weaponised semantics, and at times use their own definition of the word gender while completely ignoring the definition of the person they are arguing with. Let’s not do that.