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an analogy - pie for breakfast
September 26th, 2013
01:48 pm


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an analogy

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[User Picture]
Date:September 26th, 2013 09:08 pm (UTC)
Actually, thinking about this a little more... Well, first, a meta thing: I don't particularly want to argue with you about this, so if this sounds argumentative, feel free to ignore me, tell me to shut up, etc.

Anyway, another way to think about this: What if you think of gender as a way of measuring things? It would seem weird, for example, if you said that you didn't have a height. Maybe your height is complicated: Maybe your height is variable; or maybe you're two-dimensional, and your height is zero; or maybe you exist in ten dimensions, and it's confusing to call one of your dimensions "height" and think that this means the same thing to you that it means to a three-dimensional person; or whatever.

Regardless, height is a way for measuring a characteristic. It might make sense to say that it's difficult or impossible to measure that characteristic in you, or that you don't have that characteristic at all, or something. But that's different than saying that you don't exist in a world where that characteristic can even be defined, much less measured; whereas it makes perfect sense to say that I don't exist in a world where a skill called Argue On The Internet can be defined or measured.

Now, you weren't saying that gender is like an attribute or skill in a game; you were saying that it's like a game itself. That seems odd to me; it makes more sense to me to think of gender as a characteristic that can be measured (even if it's sometimes difficult or impossible to measure).

Does that make any sense, and/or help any?

(As a side note, my anti-gender feeling is more like a belief that gender should be like hair color: Maybe for a lot of people it's simple and permanent, but it should be fine for it to be complicated and flexible if people want it to be, and it certainly shouldn't have to be a critical defining feature that determines many (any?) other things about you. So I'm certainly not arguing that rigid binary gender is a good thing; but I do think it's weird to say that it doesn't exist or is an illusion or whatever.)
[User Picture]
Date:September 26th, 2013 09:23 pm (UTC)
so gender is unlike height in a few ways.

one is that it's founded much more on self-identification. there's no category of measurable (or even non-gender-referencing introspective) qualities that are judged to determine gender identity. (in game terms, maybe it used to be that only really short people could play as druids, but there's been a big push to relax that rule, and that's all for the good.) this is really the big thing - that gender, as understood in most of these conversations, is determined by an expressed desire to be identified with a particular gender, perhaps in combination with the observance of a more-or-less arbitrary constellation of rituals that have been decreed to associate with a particular gender. (if you're playing a druid you have to wear green.)

another is that the gender categories are much more gerrymandered than simple height. like, suppose we focused on the division of people between ‘over 164cm’ and ‘under 164cm’. yes, those are pretty much objective categories, but there's an arbitrary (‘game’) aspect in focusing on that decision. only gender categories are often much weirder than that - they're often more like ‘having a height that, when rounded down to the nearest inch, is either a prime number of inches or a multiple of 8 inches’. so again, the underlying facts of height might be real, but the prioritization of certain really weird discontinuous height categories is largely made up.

Edited at 2013-09-26 09:26 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:September 26th, 2013 09:35 pm (UTC)
What does it measure, then?
[User Picture]
Date:September 26th, 2013 09:59 pm (UTC)
there are a lot of more straightforward (although not entirely uncomplicated) categories:

people with only one X chromosome.

people with at least one Y chromosome.

people without a working SRY gene anywhere in their genome.

people with ovaries.

people who have at some point in their life had ovaries.

people who would think of wearing a skirt as cross-dressing.

people with traditionally male names.

...and so on.

some or all of these categories may be useful categories for some particular purposes (although, if you're interested in any particular one of them, people are entitled to press you on why you think it matters), but the game of gender is, depending on who you ask, either independent of any of these categories, and only associated with any of them stereotypically, or, alternatively, associated with some complicated formula based on some cluster of these categories that is fabulously complex and is the result of a lot of nontrivial decisions about how to put it all together. this is different (at least in degree) from the situations with height and hair color.

Edited at 2013-09-26 10:00 pm (UTC)
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