Est. May 2008

16 May, 2013

Gender And Social Constructs

One of the slightly-more-recent developments regarding gender is the idea that gender – maleness and/or femaleness – is simply a social construct, a ‘social mechanism, phenomenon, orcategory created and developed by society; aperception of an individual,group, or idea that is 'constructed' throughcultural or socialpractice’. 

Eight years ago, a child was born in North Carolina who ‘had "ambiguous genitals" and both male and female reproductive organs’.  At 16 months, while in temporary foster care, doctors and social workers determined for themselves that the child would be a girl, and performed the surgery to accomplish that.

At 20 months, the child was adopted; ‘her’ new parents:
soon noticed M.C. tended toward interests typically associated with males and preferred boys' clothing. As he grew older, he asked for his hair to be cut short like his father's and wanted to join a gymnastics class as a boy, they said.
Nothing is said whether the parents did anything to try to ‘reinforce’ the idea of masculinity on the child, but this tells me they didn’t (emphasis mine):
The child, now 8, has shown strong signs of identifying as male and recently began living as a boy, according to Pam and Mark Crawford, who adopted him after the surgery.
So it sounds to me as though until ‘recently’, the boy’s been living as a girl.

But this is what happens when you adopt the false premise that gender – maleness and/or femaleness – is a social construct; in fact:
"Doctors often assume they have to do surgery to make their bodies fit the stereotypes," said Anne Tamar-Mattis, executive director of Advocates for Informed Choice, a legal advocacy group for children born with variations of reproductive or sexual anatomy. In the case of the Crawfords' child, "the doctors knew from the beginning that there was a strong probability that this child would be a boy." (emphasis mine)
The doctors, ‘knew from the beginning’ that the child was male, yet they went ahead and, for lack of a better term, castrated him and made him, physically, a female.

Why?  Well, because if gender is nothing more than a social construct, it doesn’t matter which gender you really are, since, well, genders are just something society made up.

This news ought to make every thinking person reflect on the modern penchant for allowing ‘gender-reassignment’ surgery to pre-pubescent and pubescent children who ‘just know’ they’re the wrong gender.   And when you read that article, you’ll see that the parents who allowed these surgeries to happen fell into the ‘social construct’ trap – they figured gender is something changeable, malleable, and really determined by society, not by genetics, hormones, and the like.

Which makes one wonder: if gender – maleness and femaleness – is simply a social construct, why do you have to go for surgery to change it?  After all, if gender is only what society tells you it is, you ought to just click your heels together three times and say, ‘I’m not a boy, I’m a girl!’ (or vice versa), start wearing the 'proper’ clothes for your chosen gender, and viola – you’re that gender.

Except, of course, for the hairy chests, the breasts, the voice, and, oh, yeah, those pesky genitals.  You know, all those things which actually designate what gender you are.

For real. 

Because of genetics, not because of society.

1 comment:

Right Truth said...

It is not just the organs on the outside of the body, it is the organs on the inside of the body and the hormones the child is born with. Oddities like this happen at times, not very often though. Parents and doctors making the decision for an infant is scary, but it happens as in the instance you site.

I knew a woman once, she was a nursing student, beautiful woman.

I found out that she was born with both male and female sexual organs on the outside. I don't know about her on the inside, I was not privy to that.

After finishing nursing school she chose to have the surgery to have the male organ removed. She later married a man. And yes, he knew about her history.

There is this strange belief out there on the internet that when a child is born like this they have the full grown, normal, fully functioning body parts of the other sex. Not so.

Surgery should be a last resort, it should be the individual's own choice, and should be done with much medical testing first and counseling. Not by an agenda-driven political system.

I read also about a lesbian couple who adopted a male child, but dressed him as a girl and have him in the process of becoming a girl. Wrong.

Debbie
Right Truth
http://www.righttruth.typepad.com