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(en) wsm.ie: Workers Solidarity Movement position paper on Sex, Gender, and Sexuality
Tue, 1 Aug 2017 20:56:00 +0300
Collectively agreed by the July 2017 National Conference ---- 1. Introduction ---- 1. This
paper outlines the WSM's view on sex, gender, and sexuality, as they relate to their
common link of patriarchy. ---- 2. Sex and Gender ---- 1. Depending on a child's assigned
sex, they are expected to fit into a certain role in society, i.e. to be a certain way and
be treated a certain way. ---- 2. To better understand this phenomenon a separate concept
is needed, ‘gender', which is related but different to sex. ---- 3. At a first
approximation, sex refers to a person's anatomy while gender refers to all the other
traits that are expected to go along with that. So sex refers to things like genitals,
hormone proportions, chromosomes, gonads, while gender refers to personality and
behaviour, less about reproductive anatomy and more about mind and expression.
4. Traditionally sex and gender are treated as the same thing, e.g. the female sex, the
female gender. However, it is instructive to treat them as separate ideas.
3. Sex and Gender are Socially Constructed
1. These gender roles are considered to be a natural fact of life. It goes that boys and
girls are a certain way because they're biologically different, most notably having
2. At the same time it's considered a ‘normative' fact of life, men and women should be a
certain way because that's right.
3. However, these expected roles aren't natural at all. Neither are they ethical
requirements. These gender roles are human inventions. Gender is a ‘social construct'.
4. What society expects from people of a certain gender varies according to time and
place. Within the Chambri tribe in Papua New Guinea for example women are considered the
dominant gender and function as the primary suppliers of food for their families, a
reversal of what we see in western societies.
5. We note that sex is also socially constructed. It is ultimately inseparable from
gender. The entire sex classification process is political, and the categorisation of sex
into male/female categories which are unavoidably connected to gender roles means it is
not at all like using some neutral way of categorising and understanding human
reproductive anatomy. A person whose gender is different to their assigned sex is
perfectly correct and has the greatest right to assert that their sex and gender are
actually the same. This does not change the physical facts of their anatomy, it is a
political act counter to patriarchal society.
6. We see this starkly in the case of intersexism, the oppression of intersex people, when
intersex people's bodies are deemed to be ‘wrong' because their reproductive anatomy
doesn't fit into a rigid two-category idealisation. The ‘solution' is often that doctors
perform surgery to make their bodies better fit that idealised sexual pair of male = XY
chromosomes, penis, testes, high androgen, etc, and female = XX chromosomes, vagina,
ovaries, high estrogen, etc.
7. Generally, parents accept the sex classification of their children at birth and rear
them according to society's expected gender roles.
8. The way our parents, other relatives, friends, teachers, the media, partners, passersby
on the street, and everyone we encounter everyday in society, shape us from birth, through
childhood, adolescence, into adulthood, and beyond, is called ‘socialisation'.
9. As intensely social organisms, humans are heavily influenced by the people around us.
10. When we appear to fit into our expected roles it is not because they are natural or
biologically inevitable but because we have either been socialised to be that way (for
instance ‘males wear blue and don't express their feelings'), or we actually don't fit the
role but are perceived to because of patriarchal ideology (for instance ‘females are less
4. Gender Roles are Complex and Coercive
1. Gender roles are astonishingly complicated and rigid. Based on the label male or
female, a person is expected to look and talk a certain way, have certain character traits
and inclinations, and have certain mental and physical abilities.
2. That complexity can't be over-emphasised. Our personalities, behaviour, and bodies, are
mapped out by society according to our assigned sex down to the finest details. As just
relatively few examples, certain tiny facial expressions are considered ‘feminine' or
‘masculine', as well as tones and volume of voice, colours, gestures, hobbies, opinions,
body shape, and name.
3. Neither can that rigidity be over-emphasised. Although, despite the fact that the
traits which make up these two roles are expected to be rigidly obeyed they are often
shifting and contradictory.
4. If the person does not fit that role, there will be retribution. Someone who attempts
to deviate from this will be considered a freak, even ethically bankrupt, and/or can face
ostracisation, bullying, legal and economic discrimination, assault, murder, and jail
depending on circumstances.
5. Gender Inequality - Sexism and Transphobia
1. Male and female gender roles are gravely unequal. Those assigned female at birth are
put in a subservient position, while those assigned male are put in a relatively dominant
one. This process is called sexism.
2. According to patriarchal ideology, females are innately inferior to males. Females are
among other things thought to be less intelligent, creative, strong (mentally and
physically), and funny.
3. Females are expected to be submissive to males, including fulfilling their sexual
desires, doing their housework, and raising their children.
4. However, as mentioned there is an additional factor, as those who transgress gender
roles face punishment.
5. Many people fundamentally don't relate to the sex and gender they were assigned at
birth. This categorisation feels particularly wrong, out of place, and oppressive.
Instead, some other gender is appropriate.
6. ‘Trans' people are those who were assigned one gender at birth but are actually another
gender. Some, for example, are assigned male but are girls / women. Some are a gender
other than one of the standard pair - the ‘binary' of woman (girl) or man (boy) - being a
third gender, no gender, multiple genders, or frequently shifting between genders. They
are called ‘non-binary' or ‘genderqueer'.
7. This is relatively complicated because human personalities, and hence genders, aren't
so absurdly simplistic and uniform as to fit neatly into two categories.
8. Others, who feel relatively comfortable with the sex and gender they were assigned at
birth, are called ‘cis'.
9. A person does not necessarily enjoy the dominant social position of cis males because
they were assigned male at birth. Trans people are oppressed for not being ‘proper males
or ‘proper females'. Thus it is not clarifying or helpful to say that trans women (or
genderqueer people assigned male) experience male privilege.
10. Trans men do not have the same experience of the world as cis men because of
transphobia. Though some can avoid sexism the fact that they have to live in a transphobic
society must be taken into account when assessing their relative advantages as males.
11. The oppression and marginalisation of trans people is called transphobia.
12. Patriarchy dictates that trans people can't truly exist, since there are only two
genders, and they are fixed biological facts. Therefore, being trans is considered a
mental illness, a form of delusion or sexual perversion, or at best an attempt to seek
13. Patriarchy is in a sense oppressive for cis men in that the expected male gender role
can be damaging to them, especially psychologically. This is sometimes called ‘toxic
masculinity'. However, this is not at all to say that cis men suffer equally under
patriarchy, cis men overall are privileged in it.
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