This is being used on social media to promote incorrect statements about sex and gender in Taipei, Taiwan
I have seen this poster floating around groups in Taipei. I do not doubt that the people presenting it are well-meaning, well-intentioned people who want to build a more equal and just world. I have to ask myself, have they taken the time to critically examine the assumptions underpinning these beliefs they propagate in service of a particular ideology? The poster contradicts what I teach my students, and what I will be teaching my students in the future as a professor. They are teaching and encouraging the use of terms that seem to be purposely manipulative, illogical and irrational by design. What is the end goal? Are they well-meaning but caught up in the current popularity of Social Justice? Some are virtue signaling, still others fear being ostracized and left out and repeat mantras they’ve been told make them “good people”. I broke down the most problematic aspects of the poster in sections below.
– It’s difficult to find value in plurality, to accept multiple perspectives at one time when they are mutually contradictory. This incoherence, not attempting to make rational sense of anything, almost seems by design. (I’m looking at you, Judith Butler!) What do I mean? Well, they claim that gender is a social construct but simultaneously avow that a person can be ‘trapped’ in the wrong gender. They define a spectrum inclusive of both binary and non-binary people, despite the term non-binary defying any binary categorization. Despite arguing that there are no true differences between men and women, they then use regressive sex role stereotypes to argue in favor of a ‘gender identity’. Most hypocritically, they claim to promote self-expression, individualistic conceptions of truth and self-identity but impose upon us a rigid acceptance of their own ideology, which is a feelings-based fabricated construct, irrespective of its conflicts with others’ identities and beliefs. (For instance, they try to tell me I am “cisgender” or even HAVE a gender…) Queer Theory produces and maintains rigid categories and scripts people into them…it’s (nearly entirely) unreasonably and radically socially constructivist. It’s like a religion, not stating what IS, but rather what OUGHT to be thought and believed. Feminists have been critiquing the hierarchy of gender for years, and with good reason. The logic of gender identity is fundamentally flawed, resting on the premise that gender is innately held. As feminists have argued, gender is socially constructed. This Applied Postmodernist approach is the antithesis of Feminist Theory.
-There seems to be an abundant confusion, or at the very least conflation, regarding sex (biological) and gender (metaphysical). Gender meaning the deceptively simple, quasi-mystical idea that everyone is born with a “gender identity” — an innate sense of being a man or woman that usually, but not always, aligns with biological sex. This feels to me like manipulation of language attempting to stray away from the scientific grounding that biological sex has. ‘Gender identity’; a term that encompasses a spectrum of atypical and non-conforming gender types but seemingly has no strict requirements other than how one feels or identifies. In fact, such a belief is paradoxical — the existence of gender itself is, by definition, inherently oppressive to, primarily, women. The aspects of a gendered identity which one person deems to be positive will equally act to oppress another, who would be unrepresented by such a definition (for example, if someone thinks to be feminine is to make babies…). Not only is this concept of gender regressive and harmful, but the noxious idea that we can associate a positive set of behavioral characteristics with a physical sex is intrinsically flawed and anti-feminist. Love it or hate it, like all mammals, humans come in two sexes. Sex is observed at birth, NOT assigned. (The existence of intersex conditions in no way changes this fact. It is a highly misleading umbrella term for rare developmental disorders of the genitals and gonads, some of which are so minor their “sufferers” do not even know about them, and hardly any of which raise any doubt as to whether an individual is male or female or where they place on any sort of putative “sex spectrum.”)
-Being cis means “identify[ing] with the gender you were assigned at birth.” Here again they are conflating gender and sex, incorrectly stating one is assigned a sex at birth when sex is observed, and gender is a set of trivial characteristics associated with the performance of masculine or feminine behaviors…certainly not something an infant is capable of. Having the limitations imposed by gender used to define the trajectory of their development is the earliest manifestation of sexism in a child’s life, which is particularly damaging for girls. The essentialism behind assuming women identify with the means of our oppression rests on a belief that women are inherently suited to that oppression, that men are inherently suited to wield power over us. In other words, categorizing women as ‘cis’ is misogyny. To frame inhabiting a female body as a privilege requires a total disregard for the sociopolitical context of society. The label “cis” is imposed on us, without our consent — a word that forces us back into the 19th century, when women were said to be inherently “feminine” and therefore unfit for public life.
We are talking about ideology, here: the notion that one can change sex, or that one can be born in the wrong body is a belief, rooted in nothing but faith. And here we are, in modern, progressive Taiwan, teaching people that science is not real, that reality can be imagined away through feelings or words, and that to question this faith is “bullying.” In fact, those whom this ideology claims to serve are in the long run disenfranchised by this ideology. Allowing for the reification of gender is not by any means a liberating or inclusive ideology. Those who feel feminine or masculine, who desire to perform gender, are best served by a society that understands that gender is a social construction and that sex is a biological construction, and that those levels are categorically distinct. Rather than calling anyone who is critical of gender ‘TERFs’, they should work together with them to construct a world that accommodates both the objective world (sex) and the subjective world (gender), and allows for the most free and inclusive expression of humanity.