Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gender Roundup of the Week

1) Over at the Women In Theology blog, Katie writes an excellent critique of the Catholic notion of sexual complementarity. A snippet:

"...[T]he theory of sexual complementarity is situated as inherently irrefutable and any experientially based challenges to this theory are dismissed as lamentable distortions of the real truth about masculinity and femininity. Thus, when church teaching asserts that men are X and woman are Y and it is pointed out that men are not always X or that X does not have the meaning assigned to it, then magisterial authorities are able to evade critique by claiming, 'well, men should be X.'...

The central problem with the magisterial theory of sexual complementarity is not that it asserts that bodies matter, (they do), or its claim that motherhood and fatherhood embody parenthood differently, (they do). Instead, the problem is that the theory of sexual complementarity imposes a certain construal of sexual difference upon persons without sufficient consideration of lived experience."

The piece is a relatively long read for Internets, but I appreciate that it's a bit more thought out than the usual run-of-the-mill complementarist big idea. Sample, Charles Colson's Brilliant Notion:

"In the church and in marriage however, they are complementary roles, just as nature assigns complementary roles. Only women, for example, can bear children. Only males can provide the necessary sperm for procreation.

So in the church, the male assumes a teaching responsibility..."

Errr. Yeah. Because of course the ability to create sperm also causes teaching competence.

2) The ACLU has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Public Health for its policy of refusing to change someone's gender on their birth certificate unless they have undergone genital reformation surgery.

A psychologist was quoted in the article, and I like the statement because it really ties into the complementarism piece, above:

'Living in a particular gender is what really determines it, regardless of surgeries,' said Randi Ettner, an Evanston-based clinical and forensic psychologist specializing in gender conditions. 'Genitals don’t make a person who they are. We don’t check a person’s genitals before we make a decision of whether we’re talking to a man or a woman.'”

As Katie wrote in the Women in Theology piece, the primary problem with the ideology of complementarism is that it isn't an accurate description of reality. Genitals, contrary to "self evident truths" and "common sense," do not make a person who they are and it's innaccurate to make a broad set of assumptions about a person based solely on what their genitals look like.

3) But alas, from the moment we are born (actually, before, but anyway), entire industries exist to tell us that our genitals actually do make us who we are. See, eg, Sociological Images' display of "Gendered Products For Kids."

Boys and girls even need different colored asthma inhalers! Because of penises and vaginas. Who knew?

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