#GenderWeek: Survey – What is gender?

By Editorial Team

Click here to read all #GenderWeek articles.

What is gender? What does it mean to be a man or a woman? Male or female? Trans or non-binary? It’s a subject that divides feminists, and we want to know where you stand. Are the liberal and radical definitions of gender diametrically opposed? What do they have in common, where do they differ, and is it possible to believe bits of both?

Below is a simple outline of both definitions, which are discussed in more detail (from a radical feminist perspective) in this article by Trouble and Strife.

We’re also keen to know where Feminist Times members and readers stand. Please click here to fill in our #GenderWeek survey. We’ll publish the results at the end of this week.


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4 thoughts on “#GenderWeek: Survey – What is gender?

  1. Brunhilda

    I think the concept of gender is patriarchal in nature (or was originally).

    The patriarchy concept of both sex and gender is simple; if you have female genitalia, you are the (gender) of loser/slave, suborbinate, are stupider, have less rights (and deserve less rights), and the only way to get anything in the way of rights is to please men/a man (aka,, using sex, and constantly trying to be pretty). If you have male genitalia, then you (gender) get to be on top, you get to do all of the fun stuff (math, science, writing), you get rights, you get slaves (actual humans and women), and your opinion on anything is valid. The concept of gender in patriarchy isn’t entirely separate from sex, as the reason for such gender behaviors (sex stereotypes) were seen as a byproduct of sex (eg. women are emotional and hysterical, because their uteruses wander their bodies, making them crazy).
    Anyone who is phenotypically intersex gets surgery, and generally is ‘female.’

    As per feminism, you have your biological sex, and then that’s it. The concept that women are weaker/like pink/etc. is not there, and that men are stronger/like cars is also not there. Effectively, your sex has nothing to do with your ‘gender’ (sex stereotypes); in fact, gender doesn’t exist at all, it simply becomes your individual personality, and both females and males (and anyone who is intersexed) gets to behave however they want. So, feminism takes the patriarchy’s half that is about biology and sex, and that is scientifically provable, and throws the sex stereotypes (gender) out of the window.

    As per transgenderism, it gets more complicated. From what I have read, the sex stereotypes assigned by the patriarchy are kept (if you behave like a barbie, you are a woman), and in some cases this means that the concept of sex is also kept, thus requiring genitalia surgery.
    There are also cases that I have heard which are that ‘if you say you are a woman, you are a woman, regardless of biology and behavior’ (which contradicts their first defition, which is defined by sexist stereotypes), and goes in the direction of religion; that is to say, similar to how a court may not legally question a christian who says that her/its/his god requires her/it/him to take all Sundays off, anyone who questions this definition gets branded as an evil TERF and handed some rape threats (whereas christians like to murder people who question the existence of their yahweh god).

    Effectively, feminism throws out the sex stereotypes of the patriarchy in regard to sex, trans keeps them and throws out the biology.

    In my opinion, the concept of gender is stupid and harmful, and should be gotten rid of. Biological sex matters, and needs to be kept for basic medicine (eg. women hae uteruses, women menestrate, women get pregnant).

  2. aoifeschatology

    I know you’ve had to simplify the definitions for both the ‘radical’ and the ‘liberal’ positions; but I do hasten to note that many liberal feminists might offer modifications to how you present our definitions.

    Many liberal feminists *do* believe that biological sex is political, since we question the access of pre-discursive routes to ‘knowing’ our sex. (We administer to our bodies, and therefore ourselves, through all kinds of disciplinary procedures foisted upon us.)

    As for an “innate identity”, I realise too often this gets reduced to ‘feeling’ or ‘awareness’; but this to many of us is *not* a Cartesian mind-body that is tidy. We agree that gender is lived, embodied, culturally formed, and historically constituted. We also allow for the innate characteristics of formative agency in how a subject comes to negotiate his or her gendered positioning. That bodies can know themselves as having material causes innately that can be distinguishable from societal influences suggests this agency. Unlike the RadFem position, however, I do not accept that there is a literal, straightforward causal relationship between sex and gender.

  3. Tristan

    I feel there’s elements of truth in both these summaries.
    The forced binary nature of current views of gender is oppressive to all, but there is also oppression arising from patriarchy (resulting typically greater oppression of trans-females than cis-females, but not reducing the importance of oppression of all women).

    The binary system is used to shore up patriarchy, by forcing everyone into one of two gender roles (usually as a result of a cursory determination of sex at birth), male power is entrenched. To acknowledge and accept a continuum of gender would degrade much of that power – there is no longer a single male gender to oppress a single female gender.
    Likewise, ending patriarchy would act against binary gender roles by decreasing the need to create a male class to oppress a female class.

    The battle against patriarchy and the battle against binary gender roles are complementary battles (as are the battles against homophobia, racism, and classism). Our society is riddled with a complex interaction of different power relationships – many of which shore others up. Fighting one can assist in fighting others.
    Sadly, there is nothing preventing someone fighting against patriarchy taking a binary view of gender and promoting it, just as some who fight against racism are sexist or homophobic, and some feminists have taken an essentialist view of gender which serves to oppress some groups (even whilst they do excellent work in fighting patriarchy).

    Of course, biological sex isn’t even binary – there are many variations, but again, these are ignored as part of the systematic oppression of the women.

  4. Mindy

    “…masculine and feminine….”

    You should start putting these gender words in alphabetical order, rather than using the male word first convention. It should be “…feminine and masculine…”


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