A genderless society, a world in which gender has no presence, may be idealistic. However, is it attainable?
by Sindu Vipparthy
On October 4 of 2019, Scientific American published “It’s Time for a World Without Gender”. In this article, the author, Daphna Joel, detailed the irrelevance of gender profiling and how our ideal society would be one without this social construct.
It was a world in which humans would be able to have a higher degree of free will and would be treated according to who they are instead of what form of genitals they have.
However, our society is gender-based. It has set certain roles for those of each gender and has preserved these roles for as long as we can remember. Children grow up, essentially corralled into these boxes, and are taught to not step outside these boundaries due to the risk of being classified as “weird”. Therefore, in a world where gender constructs run so deep, a society without them is essentially intangible.
But if it somehow was tangible, is it reasonable? Would it be something a majority of people in our society would support? Would it eliminate these limitations that we have to face on a day-to-day basis due to the form of genitals we have? Would permanently coming out of this box be a beautiful phenomenon like we’d expect?
And that’s where the trilemma is presented. Is a world without gender viable? Or is it something that those in our contemporary society would rather not have? Or is there perhaps a neutral stance?
Side note: I will be using Reddit users’ insights from a post on the r/transgender subreddit to get both sides of this argument.
As the author describes in the article, this complex system surrounding gender constructs is inessential to our existence. Rather, without this system, we could judge people based on who they are as a person and offer them opportunities that we see fit for their range of potential.
Furthermore, Joel references the fact that women and men do not belong to two distinct classes as the characteristics in which those of each gender differ would need to line up. The only key factor that does line up is from a physical perspective in which female and male individuals have different forms of genitals. Therefore, the rest of the differences, mainly factors based on an individual’s brain and behavior, do not add up. Instead, individuals of both genders have a mix of male and female traits. As stated, very few individuals possess only female-typical or only male-typical traits, which implies that the majority of people in our society have traits from a wide spectrum. Enforcing a system in which people are divided into two distinct classes (male and female) when the majority doesn’t fit into it is pointless, solely forcing people from the majority to struggle with obsolete gender constructs.
Additionally, this utopia would be idealistic for some who are gender non-conforming. According to a Reddit user on the r/transgender subreddit, the expression of binary gender is mainly influenced by our society. Therefore, with no pressure to conform to these standards, we’d find that the majority of people fall “around the gradient” while the minority who does possess only female-typical or only male-typical traits would be the “outliers”. When humans who have characteristics from all sides of the spectrum, no matter the gender they identify as, are forced into this box of limitations, it has a profound impact on how our society is structured, often being more harmful than beneficial.
For example, many issues based on gender constructs, such as higher rates of sexual assault and lower rates of education and representation in positions of power for women would be ideally eliminated. The plethora of gender-based problems, those that have an impact on our society, would no longer have an impact due to the absence of gender.
However, some might argue that gender constructs are a result of the two sexes that people are categorized into when they are born. Joel, in response to this, explains that since sex is a factor that cannot be avoided, it creates more of a reason to loosen the grip gender constructs have on people in our society. We can’t do anything about it anyway, so why enforce a strict system that monitors the actions and expressions of each individual, who will, most likely, not possess typical traits of one gender?
As a result, in a genderless society, acceptance would be a common virtue among the majority of the public, making it a safer and more desirable world than our contemporary one.
A society in which gender has no impact would be extremely hard and take a very long time to attain. Even as gender constructs weaken in our contemporary society, achieving a world in which gender has no impact is practically intangible. One Reddit user stated that, despite Joel’s idea of having a genderless society being ideal, she offers no insight into how to achieve this idealistic world.
Sex refers to what biological sex an individual was assigned at birth, regarding their reproductive system and physiological characteristics. Gender, on the other hand, is more fluid and refers to the personal identification of an individual’s identity internally.
Sex has been a predominant factor regarding the concept of gender for an extremely long time; a majority of people have only recently realized that sex is different from gender (sex ≠ gender), it would be extremely difficult to detach both from one another. Even if both terms are fundamentally different, they affect each other in a “cyclical fashion”, so the same dynamics present in our society would apply in the genderless one. Gender non-conforming individuals would still be ostracized and forced to follow the “framework of sex” that is defined by the same gender constructs that would supposedly be eliminated. Therefore, in order to attain the genderless society Joel speaks about, we would need to eliminate sex, as both terms go hand-in-hand. And as we cannot eliminate sex, it would be impossible to live in a long-term genderless society.
As one user states, “sex and gender construct each other”, which the author does not take into perspective. As these terms do go hand-in-hand, a society that attempts to solely eliminate gender and leave sex (since it is impossible to eliminate it) would shortly go back to reconstituting gender constructs from the “remains of the framework of sex”. Gender would reassemble quickly since the presence of sex in this hypothetical genderless world would practically force it back.
As a result, Joel’s idea of this hypothetical genderless world is a good idea on paper, however, when being unable to eliminate factors such as sex in reality, it is practically unattainable. There is inadequate context to conceptualize this genderless world, which, therefore, will “leave the door open for dyadism to flourish”.
On the other hand, gender is also a factor that many people do not mind or would rather have than not have in our society. This is because of the innate desire to classify oneself in a certain category and feel a sense of belonging. You can hypothesize that this is why labels exist. Since gender is only a social construct, there is no need to label oneself as “nonbinary” or “transgender”. However, many people do like gender (not to be confused with gender constructs) and being able to classify themselves in one of these categories. A majority of people in our society are comfortable with gender, therefore, eliminating it would eliminate their comfort in placing themselves in one of these categories.
The Neutral Perspective.
Although a society in which gender has no impact would be idealistic, we shouldn’t push for one due to the plethora of flaws in this hypothetical world and the fact that some individuals actually like the presence of gender. Many individuals do identify strongly with their gender (whether it be binary or non-conforming) and make them feel adequate and accepted, “so why take it away?”
Additionally, we shouldn’t push for a society that strictly enforces gender constructs on all individuals, forcing them into a box that’s essentially unneeded and inaccurate to the majority of people in our society. As one Reddit user states, we don’t need to push gender on people that don’t want it.
Instead, we should aim for acceptance among all individuals and of all individuals. We should aim to eliminate gender constructs, the standards that define a typical man and woman, but not gender itself. We should let each individual deal with their gender identity in their own way since their identity is something no one else has the right to dictate.