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Biology is NOT destiny; it’s just a co-incidental meeting of chromosomes.

We live in a world full of oppositions. Every day we unwittingly participate in the process were everything is divided very neatly into compartmentalized boxes for our reference. Every pair that we come across is considered each other’s anti-thesis. Day-night, good- bad, black – white.  The polar opposite lens that we view the surroundings with has made us incapable of taking into account the spectrum that connects the two ends. There is a dawn and dusk in between night and day, shades of grey clouds our mind when deciding between black and white and being average mocks the fact that someone or something can be just good or bad.

Gender too, like multitude of other things, is seen as an oppositional force.  The paradigm of discrimination has shifted in the 21st century.  Political correctness and adherence to the prevailing sentiments has created an atmosphere where gender based discrimination may be frowned upon, even by people who may not identify with the cause of women’s quest for equality. However, the so called traits that comprise femininity and masculinity are still perceived as polarity of each other, hence discrimination on the basis of what comprises them is still rampant and acceptable.

 Femininity is considered weak, soft, vulnerable and vain whereas masculinity is strong, tough and comfortable in its skin.  An attempt to transition from the female attributes to the male ones is considered a step forward whereas visa-versa is extremely ridiculed at. It is an evidence towards perpetuation of the myth that femininity ranks lower in the ladder of social acceptance than masculinity.

  Align with the above school of thinking is the Cisgender or cissexual approach that  believes that individuals’ experience of their own gender agree with the sex they were assigned at birth. Cis-normative behaviour seeks to have a match between the gender assigned at birth, their bodies , their adherence to  the set attributes ascribed to maleness and femaleness and their personal identities. This approach enforces rather than shatters the gender binary hierarchy that we have internalized as a way of our socialization.  This approach was recently highlighted when writer Germaine Greer criticized  Sir Elton John , an openly gay man, for  listing his lawfully wedded  partner as the “mother” of his children in the school certificate.  Her angst is clearly visible in her statement where she goes on to say “An egg is not a sperm, we do not produce 400 million of them in one go. One miserable little egg pops every month “.

 By this statement of hers, Geer,  in one stroke, has not only  misinterpreted the concept of motherhood but also applied a very reductionist  approach to being a female and experiencing femininity. Motherhood is a feeling that transcends biology. It’s the feeling of maternity and not the possession of female reproductive organs that make a mother. Being able to nurture, to care for selflessly for someone and be the prime caregiver are qualities that are beyond the confines of gender specific roles that are socially sanctioned.  If biology and genetics were the sole criteria of determining motherhood, adoption would not be legal neither would people use IVF and surrogacy.

By constantly measuring femininity against masculinity and stigmatizing any male with feminine predilections, we are implying yet again that the former is subservient to the latter.  Such a  view  point  implies that to aspire to be a female in experience and body is not correct. Femininity or any aspirations to be one is seen as pathological.  This pathology has been adopted and instutionalized by the most revered of socio- legal establishments like religion and legislation to name a few. Viewing the expressions of femininity as pathological has consequently resulted in anyone who identifies as gender variant ( especially if it’s a male expressing his feminine side)  to be victims of violence,  not only in terms of physical violence by law enforcement machinery but  in  denial of basic rights of education and health as well.

Such “deviations “from the expected gender norms are treated as subject of researches. Every aspect, every nuance of such “deviant” behaviour is dissected an debated by people who believe that their understanding of feminism in all its varied forms is more relevant and far superior than of the person who is experiencing it and living that truth. The major fallacy of this argument lies in the fact that it considers feminism (or masculinity) as a neatly organized box of chocolates where you would find only one type of chocolate.  No variations are tolerated. The reality, however, differs greatly. Both femininity and masculinity have a spectrum an every individual falls within that spectrum. To assume that everyone would align with either end would be a very dangerous thought

Since maleness and femaleness is pitched as strength versus vulnerability where being vulnerable is a sign of weakness, under patriarchy a man would be made to feel insecure about his choices of embracing his femininity.  The current feminist approaches have also fallen prey to this notion of preserving the phallus-oriented gender rules. While women are told they can do anything a man can, the same is not held true for the men. A female expression by male bodied persons is not taken kindly.  In a society where everything is gendered right from how we dress to whom we marry, the outward gender expressions become the yard stick to measure one’s adherence to the gender binary rules . The present environment is one where even modern definition of gender equality promotes sexism in its traditional form and such gender fluid aspirations challenge the water tight compartmentalized of socially sanctioned gender attributes

 The gender –binary hierarchy that exists and is validated by the existing social structure puts stupendous pressure on each of us to conform to the socially accepted definition of maleness and femaleness of the gender assigned to us at birth. Any kind of transgression to move down the ladder is punished whereas an attempt to  move up the ladder is encouraged by so called “liberal” minded people or in societies exhibiting parochial mind-set,  labelled as  being too big for one’s boots. Male cross-dressers and transsexuals woman often fall under the former category and are ostracised for “trying” to be female while really being male. Cissexual women who break the socially defined mould of feminism either by way of dressing or aspiring to enter the hereto male dominated arena either are lauded for their achievements or in orthodox societies  ostracised and subjected to derisive comments. Hetro-sexism and gender privileges based on gender assigned at birth are considered as the only natural state of being, everything else is considered as trespassing on someone else’s property.

  This transgression is seen as a challenge to the rigid hierarchy of exclusivity of gender characteristics. It threatens the very myth of male and female as opposite forces which are perpetuated to feed the patriarchal attitude of holding the male centeredness as supreme. Personality traits and feelings are not contingent upon biology. To make biology the premise of determining the worth of an individual is to demean and de-value a person’s lived experience and emotions    As long as we would treat femininity and masculinity as a dichotomy and refuse to encompass and celebrate the variety of gender diversity that exists along the male female spectrum, we can say good bye to gender equality.

 The only way we can achieve true equality is to shatter the gender binary notion that  is so deeply entrenched in our society. Till we believe in the socially ascribed definition of gender roles , we would inadvertently be carrying forward the legacy where the identity of a person is  directly linked to his/ her genitals and not to his/ her life experiences.


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