Imagining a Post-Gender World: Free Choice, Imagination, and Language

Christine Delphy implores us to imagine a post-gender world. I’ve been thinking about this, trying to imagine such a world, and I’m ashamed to say, I haven’t gotten very far. It’s telling, though, illustrative of how fundamental sex and gender are to how we’ve been taught to perceive the world—and how limiting.

We’ve reached a point, socially and medically, where individuals can choose to alter their gender and/or sex. Not with ease, by any means, but it is possible to violate the norm, to be socially and legally recognized as the other sex. In many ways, however, the trouble with transitioning from one sex/gender to the other is that this only reinforces the binary: one to the other, just two. Meaning trans issues aren’t the key to a post-gender world.

There are choices beyond the binary. Other cultures have supernumerary genders, such as the Native American Two-Spirits. We have a concept for genderqueer, but it hasn’t gained widespread cultural traction. Gender-neutral pronouns exist, but they’re cumbersome.

The truth is, we don’t have a cogent way to talk about a post-gender world. Our choices are limited by our imagination, our imagination limited by language. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis posits that language shapes the way we view reality. Our language is gendered, our choices and imaginations constrained.

 

Delphy, Christine. “Rethinking Sex and Gender.” Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. McCann and Kim, Eds. New York: Routledge, 2003.

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