Reducing sexism: non-binary sex and sex-neutral language

That sex is binary makes sexism so easy. What if sex existed on a spectrum? 

But, you may reply, it doesn’t.  Contrary to so many transactivists, sex is a matter of biology, and you are either male or female; barring the exceptional, one has either XY chromosomes or XX chromosomes.

True, but saying that sex is physiological rather than emotional, an objective reality rather than a subjective feeling, need not imply that it’s binary. [1]  Imagine a spectrum: people with XX chromosomes and functioning female reproductive anatomy at one end (implying a certain level of estrogen); people with XY chromosomes and functioning male reproductive anatomy at the other end (implying a certain level of testosterone); in between, pre-puberty people (neither completely female nor completely male yet, post-menopausal people (no longer completely female), people with hormone variations from the norm (due to natural levels or injections), people with surgical variations (for medical reasons or cosmetic reasons—we may want to distinguish between the two), and so on.  There could be multiple (physical) determinants of sex, and people would be more or less male or female depending on their particular constellation of chromosomes, hormones, and anatomical bits.

In many ways, such a world would surely be more complicated.  For instance, competitive sports would have to be completely reorganized not according to sex, but according to height, weight, muscle mass, etc.  But surely, it would be, eventually, manageable.

Another way to reduce sexism would be to adopt sex-neutral language, because if you didn’t know whether the person was male or female, you couldn’t discriminate on that basis.[2]  This would involve the adoption of sex-neutral names and sex-neutral pronouns [3] and the elimination of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ (as in ‘police officer’ instead of ‘policeman’).  We would retain ‘male’ and ‘female’, of course, but mentioning sex would be relevant only in biological/medical contexts (and personal contexts regarding sexual interaction); to use ‘male’ and ‘female’ in everyday discourse would seem, as it does now, rude.

[1] Nor need it imply essentialism in the sense that physiological sex is essential to one’s identity (for example, although I am female, but I have never referred to myself as a woman because as far as I’m concerned, my sex doesn’t define me except in medical contexts; it does imply essentialism in the sense that physiology is essential to one’s sex.

[2] In many cases, given the spectrum mentioned above and the hoped-for elimination of gender, it might not even be possible to know whether the person was male or female if you actually saw them.

[3]  Though, please, not ‘they’ because of the consequent singular/plural confusion; there’s no reason we can’t introduce three new words, such as ze, zim, and zer.

“My Love” by Chris Wind

commentary on love, from Chris Wind’s Album “The Art of Juxtaposition”

December, Like It’s 1989

December, Like It’s 1989

Tell it.
  Geneviève Bergeron, civil engineering
  Hélène Colgan, mechanical engineering
  Nathalie Croteau, mechanical engineering
  Barbara Daigneault, mechanical engineering
  Anne-Marie Edward, chemical engineering
  Maud Haviernick, materials engineering
  Maryse Laganière, finance department
  Maryse Leclair, materials engineering
  Anne-Marie Lemay, mechanical engineering
  Sonia Pelletier, mechanical engineering
  Michèle Richard, materials engineering
  Annie St-Arneault, mechanical engineering
  Annie Turcotte, materials engineering
  Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, nursing.

“Hey, come on.
  Not all men are like that, okay.”
  Not really a question.
  Reductio ad absurdum.
  That’s an order, okay?

Men are proud, they have all the good qualities.
  A penis.
  Inalienable rights.
  Access to female bodies.
  (Everyone knows the females don’t have real minds, okay?)
  Not really a question.

Look, don’t men suffer?
  Aren’t they brave?
  Aren’t they manly?
  Aren’t they courageous?
  Aren’t they rational?
  Not really questions.
  They deserve what they get.
  That’s an order, okay?

Cold day, ordinary winter day, right?
  Not really a question.
  “He told us to leave, and we did.”

Just walked out.
  Not one of them tried to tackle him.
  Not one of them tried to grab the semi-automatic.
  Just walked out.
  They were very rational.
  Didn’t want to get hurt.
  Weren’t they brave?
  Weren’t they manly?
  Weren’t they courageous?
  Not really a question.
  Reductio ad absurdum.
  Not all men are like that, okay?

Don’t ask the question.
  That’s an order.
  Pat Parker said it, paraphrasing here…
  “Brother, that system
    you hit me with
      is called
        a fist.”

Tell it.
  Geneviève Bergeron, civil engineering, 21;
  Hélène Colgan, mechanical engineering, 23;
  Nathalie Croteau, mechanical engineering, 23;
  Barbara Daigneault, mechanical engineering, 22;
  Anne-Marie Edward, chemical engineering, 21;
  Maud Haviernick, materials engineering, 29;
  Maryse Laganière, finance department, 31;
  Maryse Leclair, materials engineering, 25;
  Anne-Marie Lemay, mechanical engineering, 23;
  Sonia Pelletier, mechanical engineering, 22;
  Michèle Richard, materials engineering, 28;
  Annie St-Arneault, mechanical engineering, 21;
  Annie Turcotte, materials engineering, 23;
  Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, nursing, 21.

six decembre mille neuf cent quatre-vingt neuf

C. Osborne

A Jury of One’s Peers?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-1.png

JKR re women-only spaces

reposted from

A woman in Milgram’s experiment

So I’m reading Humanity: a hopeful history by Rutger Bregman, and he says the guy hired by Milgram to pressure the participants to shock the ‘learner’ actually “came to blows with one forty-six-year-old woman who turned the shock machine off” (p.165).


(Funny how this is never mentioned in Psych 101 textbooks that report the Milgram experiment.)

So much time advocating heterosexual marriage

There’s a reason we devote so much time to getting little girls invested in the idea of heterosexual marriage.

Imagine if we told them that there is a single life choice that will:

-shorten their life expectancy

-lower their earning power

-immediately increase their household labor

-erode their mental health and make them less happy

-cause their libido to decline, and mean that they have fewer orgasms

-weaken relationships with family and friends

-increase their risk of abuse and violence

-increase their risk of depression, anxiety, and trauma

That choice is marriage.

Marriage is a great deal for heterosexual men. They earn more, have more leisure time, live longer, become healthier. Heterosexual women sacrifice their quality of life, their well-being, and their very lives at the altar of men’s happiness.

That’s not an opinion. There is an avalanche of scientific data showing that marriage is bad for women and great for men.

That’s why we have to indoctrinate little girls from a young age. Because the objective material circumstances of marriage are not something most women would willingly choose.

Not all marriages are like this, of course. It is possible to have an egalitarian, joyful marriage. And we must emphasize this fact. We must emphasize that men do not inevitably force women to carry an unfair load of work. This is not inevitable. It is a choice. Men make the choice to buy their leisure, their time, their happiness and well-being on the backs of women they claim to love. We tell women to accept this, that it’s normal, that he’s a good guy as long as he doesn’t beat her.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Household inequity is a form of abuse with real and long-lasting consequences for women’s well-being.

Not all men are this way. Not all marriages are this way. None of them have to be.

Demand better. And stop telling girls to look forward to marriage. They probably shouldn’t.

Give them tools and books and crafts, not princesses and fairytales.


reposted from

Archive of feminist activism 70s-90s

For those of you who weren’t born yet …

Rise Up: a digital archive of feminist activism

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

The hardest part about being a woman…

Reposted from ovarit (if you’re not aware of, you should be!)

from Rebecca Solnit’s Recollections

From Rebecca Solnit’s Recollections of my Non Existence

“To be a young woman is to face your annihilation in innumerable ways ….” (p4)

“I was often unaware of what and why I was resisting ….” (p4) 

Yes.  Let’s not understate the value of having words for what we experience.  The words ‘sexism’ and ‘misogyny’ didn’t always exist, so it was hard to identify, let alone talk about, what it was …

“The fight wasn’t just to survive bodily … but to survive as a person possessed of rights, including the right to participation and dignity and a voice.” (p4)

“… back when I was trying not to be that despised thing, a girl, and ….” (p6)

“sometimes at the birth and death of a day, the opal sky is no color we have words for, the gold shading into blue without the intervening green that is halfway between those colors, the fiery warm colors that are not apricot or crimson or god, the light morphing second by second so that the sky is more shades of blue than you can count as it fades from where the sun is to the far side where others color are happening.” (p7)

Best description of a sunset (in San Francisco) I’ve ever read!

“What is rape but an insistence that the spatial rights of a man, and by implication men, extend to the interior of a woman’s body …,” (p77-8)

So well-put.

“Most urban women, you know, live as though in a war zone….” (p98)

Yes.  I’ve often said living as a woman in our society is like living in an occupied country.  And men have no idea.  Most men.

“There are three key things tha tmatter in having a voice: audibility, credibility, and consequence. … Gender violence is made possible by this lack of audibility, credibility, and consequence.”  p229, 231

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