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Genderless: Equality or Neutrality?

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In terms of understanding the development, function and anatomy of the human brain, it would be fair to say that biology and neuroscience have made revolutionary yet contradictory discoveries over the past several decades.

For example, no longer does the scientific community characterize the adult human brain as a static physical entity, incapable of recovery or reorganization after injury. Instead, current scientific research has confirmed the neural plasticity of the human brain, pharmacologically as well as genetically, while Nobel Prize winning biologists work to enhance this neurological plasticity.

Moreover, neuroscience has also postulated, although some scientists disagree, that most expressed gender differences can also be attributed not only to the structure of our brains, but also to the effects and timing of the release (or the absence of release) of sex hormones and certain neurotransmitters. Of course, that is if one accepts biology as the only defining factor in determining gender, along with a clearly definable set of inferences declaring just what gender means to any given group or individual.

With all of this in mind, it is no small surprise that along with proposed genderless bathrooms in the State of Maine, a genderless baby in the city of Toronto, politically correct and genderless books and adult institutions, the Egalia Preschool in Sweden has established a genderless classroom. The preschool cites that genderless environmental and social factors are the key to empowering children to choose what they want without the knowledge of socially imposed gender roles.

Moreover, with the use of gender neutral language, the preschool aims to promote equality and abolish preconceived gender roles all without pointing out or making obvious another person’s gender . Director Lotta Rajalin insists that, in spite of not allowing the children to use the personal pronouns “he” or “she,” the preschool acknowledges gender and promotes choice, “All the girls know they are girls, and all the boys know that they are boys. We are not working with biological gender – we are working with the social thing.”

Along with single parents, the Egalia preschool is inclusive of the Gay, Lesbian, and Transgendered families in an upscale urban area.

In this perceived panacea it is hard not to notice that even in the Nordic countries (which are considered ahead of the rest of the world in fostering gender equality) the prevailing feminist attitude that males are predisposed to having an advantage in the first place, while females are still largely perceived to not have such advantages, is still prominent.

“The school opened last year and is on a mission to break down gender roles – a core mission in the national curriculum for Swedish pre-schools.  According to the UK Daily Mail, “The option to implement the rules is underpinned by a theory that society gives boys an unfair edge.”

However, regardless of any unfair edge, these practices invariably beg the question as to what really is the driving force behind nurturing any genderless environment; gender equality (choice) or gender neutrality (denial).

In this day and age of workplace enforced gender equality, political correctness, and affirmative action, in conjunction with the nascent notion that
men and women’s brains
are different by design but are equal in overall performance, gender equality by definition (acceptance of the male or female) would ideally play a positive role in the choice and offerings of employment. Equality, in this sense, then leaves the door open for each gender to choose how they wish to proceed in relationships, parenthood and the domestic parts of life, regardless of gender roles.

Gender neutrality, on the other hand, tends to lead to resistance and the reestablishment of the reviled gender norm as Newsweek’s Jesse Ellison’s experience with parental imposed androgyny illustrates, “But my parents’ little project in gender neutrality (namely, me) was, from the get-go, a total failure. As soon as I could speak, I demanded they replace my overalls with a long, pink, lacy dress. Far from gender-neutral, I was emphatically, defiantly a ‘girl.'”

Furthermore, one might ask if it is it really necessary or healthy to set people up to feel psychologically dysmorphic (congenitally defective) to our physical appearance in terms of our gender, and to do so in the name of abolishing socially engineered gender roles and dominating political institutions.

After all, as humans, it is completely reasonable to expect that if everything has gone as nature planned, and we are not transgendered and thus have a bona fide need or want to assign our own gender, we have been genetically coded to be dimorphic (male and female) and hence, distinguishable one from the other, regardless of sexual orientation.

Ellison notes, “We all thought that the differences had to do with how you were brought up in a sexist culture, and if you gave children the same chances, it would equalize,” my mom says. “It took a while to think, ‘Maybe (sic) men and women really are different from each other, and they’re both equally valuable.'”

Essentially, while physical gender came first; established gender roles have always been the product of human innovation. Yet human innovation, just like the human brain, yields to plasticity. This plasticity leaves lots of room to bring into play gender oriented balance and harmony.

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About LynnfromBC

  • LynnfromBC

    Indeed, the focus on compensation of past injustices does not appear to promote gender equality because one party must continually concede to being oppressed by the another.

    The question being; At what point does the compensating end? When does true “equal consideration” begin, free and clear of past injustices? What is the deadline for the perceived “payback time” that sets the record straight?

    Perhaps reframing the situation as offering identical choices, regardless of gender, would help to achieve the goal of equal opportunity. Personal pronouns need not be an issue.

  • Bruce Draken

    It seems that people are forever tending to forget, in our zeal to overcome past injustices, that “equal” does NOT equal “identical”

  • LynnfromBC

    Yes, it does seem that there is a fair amount of opppression of identity when gender neutrality is the goal. I think that when we are talking about persons it’s important to recognize that part of their identity may include their gender, and if it is not, they can communicate that as an issue.

    However, using neutral language for the purpose of describing a group of mixed genders, or using “they” rather than he or she in English doesn’t seem to be much of a problem unless gender is important to the context.

    The fact that so many European languages use gender for identifying things as male or female or neutral offers up a challenge of huge proportion! The thought of taking on that task is daunting enought! It would take forever to change them all into a gender neutral form. It would definately change the languages themselves.

    Equality is definately a very different concept and usually doesn’t require denial of ones gender. I agree that capability is really the key here. Men aren’t supposed to give birth anyway! Anyone with a birth canal would be best suited for the job…

  • It makes a lot of sense that males and females, taken as groups, have different but equally valuable contributions to make. The “gender neutral” movement loses sight of a few things, including that the vast majority of us quickly self-identify as one sex or the other no matter how our parents treat us or try to mask it. It also forgets that there are certain things that one sex plainly and simply cannot do: a man, for example, is never going to be able to gestate and give birth, no matter how much he wants to.

    The tricky part is in ensuring that both genders have equal opportunities to make those contributions. That’s not historically been the case in most “modern” societies.

    It’s absolutely fine that most stay-at-home parents are female, for instance, or that most front-line soldiers are male. The difference comes where there are crossover opportunities: it’s often far easier for a man to enter a “female” career than vice versa.

    One notably bizarre paradox is that cooking has traditionally been perceived as a woman’s job – yet the majority of professional chefs have traditionally been male. (She might be good at it, but god forbid she should make a living at it, sort of thing.)

    That’s changing, slowly, and a good thing too: it’s to the benefit of us all that we find the best person for the job. So if Rachel wants to be a chef, or a firefighter, or a construction worker, she can be; likewise, Pete can be a secretary or a child care provider or a cosmetologist if that’s what floats his boat.