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Hmm.  Time to give some side eye to queer theory as it seems to go against much of what feminism is about.  Let’s examine a part of an essay by Susan Cox writing on the Feminist Current.

     “Feminists defied patriarchal ideology by declaring that we do not have “wandering uteruses” that make us prone to “hysteria” and inherently inferior to men. Feminists also argued that men are not biologically destined to be a bunch of rapist cavemen, and that we should therefore hold them to higher standards, in terms of their treatment of women. We showed that these ideas were were social constructions artificially imposed on males and females.

     Queer theory flipped that whole framework upside-down.

     In a textbook example of what is known as “patriarchal reversal,” queer theory embraced the idea that womanhood is defined by femininity (described as gender “performance”). In other words, the things feminists worked so hard to show were not essential to women — makeup, skirts, and coquettish mannerisms, for example — are now said to be the things that make a person a woman. This implies that if a woman rejects her oppressive gendered role, it probably means that she was never really a woman at all.

     Queer theory claims to have an interest in the feminist project, which has confused discourse on women’s issues. Recently, an email conversation I had with a male philosopher who has published on feminist theory revealed he didn’t actually understand the difference between sex and gender.

He wrote to me:

“I’m not a macho man. I don’t like violent sports, and I’ve undergone a lot of self-reflection and critique from feminist friends to get to a place where I don’t treat women in the brutish heteronormative way that patriarchy prescribes. So, in many ways, I’ve come to have an identity that reflects my gender and not my sex.”

He seemed to be referring to his “sex” as synonymous with masculinity and using “gender” to mean “personality.”  I replied:

“Your sex (male) doesn’t automatically make you a rapey, macho asshole. That is actually the gender role you’ve been assigned under patriarchy. You rejecting the norms of masculinity is you rejecting gender — not identifying with it.”

     You know we’re in desperate times when a young scholar has to explain basic feminist theory to someone who’s supposedly been studying it for decades.

     Right now, it’s crucial that we remember the feminist critique of biological determinism. We don’t need to pretend as though biological sex doesn’t exist or isn’t important, because sexual difference doesn’t naturally cause male supremacy or female subordination. Acknowledging biological difference is, in fact, very important — we need to know who and what we are talking about, in order to address and remedy the unjust power relationship between males and females.

    Patriarchy claims that male supremacy is encoded in the sexed biology of maleness and femaleness. And perhaps it’s an indication of something significant when queer theory says exactly the same.”

So much confusion surround the ideas of sex and gender, I wonder who that could be benefiting…

 

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