Gendering – A Deep Dive

Ditching an academic perspective in favor of a more personal one birthed this article. Before we start talking about the reasons for gendering, I just want to set the tone. This article is to be read as an exposé of what “the other side” has to offer. Feel free to disagree at any point in time and to bounce off the article for deeper and richer conversations. Comment your opinions down below.

Gender neutrality may have its place in certain spheres of life but gender sensitivity gives much more reparation and due to misrepresented genders. A prime example of where gender neutrality is a negative is in the field of medical research and medicine at large. “If sex and gender differences are not systematically taken into account by health professionals, inequities may arise” says a review of 11 academic studies [link]. Consider this, a medication that is widely used may have been administered to a gender-blind control group. You might counter-argue that it only concerns sex sensitivity and even then, when it has a place in biologically-strong fields but gender sensitivity is as important when providing care: gender differences, impacted by gender identity, social class, culture and ethnicity, all shape a patient’s health needs.

Similarly, our society still operates under concepts of gender, even when those not map directly to sexes. As business students, you might recall Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and in particular, the division of societies as masculine and feminine. Not the stereotypical understanding of them. Hofstede uses gender differences and empirically supports his classification of societies in his book “Masculinity and Femininity: The Taboo Dimension of National Cultures”. An example he discusses is how gender plays a role at work: men tend to identify with ego goals more while women tend to identify with social goals. It is not hard to see how that would translate to the macroscopic view of the economy.

To borrow Atika Chohan’s vocabulary, “mainstream is man-stream”. By erasing gender from our vocabulary, the objects in the world and in our reality at large, we are more likely to fall into a masculine reality and oppress the feminine one. Having read broadly on religions and spirituality, I kept thinking of ways in which these value the gender spectrum and yet, I found it easy to think of patriarchies within religion and extremely hard to connect with religion’s feminine essence. Till I found this. “[Religions] bind followers not so much by the logic of their arguments as by the aura of their proponents, the poetry of their texts, the appeal of their sounds, forms, rituals, even their interiors, colours and odours” (from Kermani’s God is Beautiful). Logic here represents a more masculine perspective while the last descriptions fall into the feminine. Even though our connection to religion is a more feminine one, we still tend to see the structures of religion and visualize it as patriarchal.

When I think of my girl friends, some of them are proudly feminine while some of them will publicly call me “bro”. Then there are my feminine boy friends and the metrosexual ones. Across this range of “beings”, I find powerful femininity and strong masculinity. Sometimes it’s a spectrum within the same individual, sometimes I see a strong lean towards one end. However, the living of one’s personality to the fullest (including gender characteristics) is something I applaud in them. It would pain me to diminish any aspect of that part of themselves. That also applies to my friends who identify as non-binary: denying their identity feels like denying themselves. 

To conclude, making our reality gender neutral has become a trend but allowing space for strong binary gender values should be as important as allowing space for those with non-binary values. While the LGBTQ+ movement has made great strides in creating a more equal world, we should be careful of not just taking blanket statements at face value. If we do that, we might be creating different kinds of problems.

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