Gender neutrality: what it is and what it offers

All of our lives we’ve been brought up saying you’re either a boy or you’re a girl. Some were more open and told us that there are boys who don’t feel like boys, but girls, and who have the right to make it happen, or vice versa.

However, what few of us have heard is that there are people who are neither one thing nor another and it is not fair to assume that it must be yes or yes a man or woman.

Gender neutrality argues that perpetuation of gender should be avoided and, in some cases, the idea itself must be directly overcome. We will then discuss this idea in depth, its social and critical implications.

    What is gender neutrality?

    Young people, especially Generation Z (born between 1996-2010), are increasingly respectful and understanding with the idea that not everyone fits into the classic ideas of being a man and being a man. wife.

    Non-sexist education is gaining momentumIn large part, due to the growing social awareness of the damage associated with traditional gender roles, roles that limit people’s opportunities and free decisions. Gender is nothing more than a social category, not a natural truth.

    This is really striking considering that just 20 years ago the normal thing, “common sense”, was to treat girls like princesses, sweet and affectionate, while boys were treated like little champions, fighters and fighters. It was as if they were prepared, or rather conditioned, for what they were going to grow up with: girls have to take care of the house when they are adults, boys have to defend it.

    This dichotomous view of what men should do and what women should do is weakening. It is clear that in some sectors of the population, recalcitrant ideas are still in force and, more subconsciously, it is still difficult for us to completely detach ourselves from the classic idea that girls should be given sweet things and boys should be given sweet things. aggressive things. Since we believe it is in their nature to be respectively.

    However, today the idea of ​​gender neutrality has become much stronger: why should children wear blue? Why do girls have to dress in pink? What’s wrong with my son who wants to be a princess? Why wouldn’t it be good for my daughter to want to be a soldier? Why should your genitals condition your chances? Every good father should want his children to be who they want to be as long as it makes them happy, regardless of whether or not they correspond to the traditional idea of ​​gender roles.

    Gender neutrality is a set of ideas and opinions that advocate that policies, language, and other social institutions avoid distinguishing between roles based on a person’s sex or biological sex, or directly trump l idea of ​​gender, because it is a social construct. The point of all this is to avoid discrimination resulting from the perception that there are social roles for which one sex or another is more appropriate.

    Moved by this idea, more and more parents prefer to distance themselves from the traditional conception of gender, considering it as harmful especially for boys or girls “girls” who do not fit at all in what is traditionally “expected”. Parents who educate their children about gender neutrality claim that they are doing it because they don’t want them to grow up under one sex and the traditional roles associated with it, gender roles that may limit their choices and possibilities as adults.

    Sex, gender and gender identity

    To understand and better understand gender neutrality, we need to understand what gender is and how it is possible for it to change. First of all, it should be noted that sex and gender are not synonymous, although they are closely related. Sex is a biological aspect based on the genitals and in our species there are only two (except chromosomal alterations): the male sex, defined by the XY chromosomes, and the female, defined by XX. Whatever our gender identity and whatever interventions we undergo, we will not be able to change it: it is a biological problem.

    But what defines our identity the most is not sex, but gender. Gender is the socio-cultural conception of the relationship between owning genitals and playing certain roles in society. Traditionally, in the Western world, anyone born with a penis is male, and anyone born with a vagina is female. Men are expected to be cool, rational, combative and active, while women are expected to be warm, emotional, obedient and passive.

    Thus, in our culture, a person of the “masculine” gender is to be expected to perform duties as a mechanic, soldier, driver and policeman, while in the “female” gender, it is expected that ‘a person of the “man” type, that is to say caregivers, daycare educators. , housewives or cooks. It is no longer so exaggerated today, but it must be said that it is more likely to find men and women in these professions.

    Fortunately gender roles change over time and we overcame the idea that women should take care of the house while men should protect the house. It has changed so much that we have accepted that gender, which is still a socio-cultural construction, can change and that it is not necessary to have a clear idea of ​​what it is to be a man and what it is. that’s being a woman, and that’s where we come in with the idea of ​​transgender and non-binary people.

      transgender people

      It is better to use the term “transgender” because, in reality, the ideas of “sex reassignment” and being “transsexual” are inaccurate because, as we have said, sex is not changeable, but the genre is. For example, a person who was born with a penis and raised as a child may not feel identified with this genre and, as they grow older, may be aware that they feel like a woman, wanting to change him or her. You may want to change your gender and do so by undergoing surgery, hormone therapy, and psychotherapy in order to begin the transition to the sex you identify with.

      However, while it is entirely acceptable for a person to want to change their gender and to get into the classic idea of ​​what it is like to be a woman or a man depending on their preferences, within of the LGBTI community and more particularly himself, it is accepted that in order to be a woman or a man, it is not necessary to be very feminine or masculine and undergoing genital reassignment (removing the penis or implanting an artificial penis) is a voluntary process and not an obligation to pretend to be of that kind. You don’t have to have a penis to pretend to be a man or a vagina to pretend to be a woman.

      The reason is directly linked to gender identity. Being male, female, or being in a non-binary category doesn’t depend on how we dress or if we’ve had surgery, But how we identify. Gender identity is a person’s inner sense of feeling one sex or another, regardless of the sex they have been socially assigned to, their gender, anatomy, or how they approach a person’s expected behavior. of his sex.

      Non-binary people

      Non-binary people are those sexual identity, gender or gender expression is outside the concepts of male and female or male and female or fluctuates between them. These people may or may not employ a grammatically neutral gender, whether or not they are undergoing medical procedures and whether or not they have an androgynous appearance. Some examples of celebrities considered non-binary are Miley Cyrus, Sam Smith, Steve Tyler, Jaden Smith or Richard O’Brien.

      Gender identity and gender itself are independent of sex, i.e. having a penis or having a vagina naturally. However, in our society and in any other, albeit differently, sex and gender are very closely related and you would expect to find a man with a penis and a woman with a vagina. However, people are learning that there can be women with penises and men with vaginas, and this is not the end of the world, but rather a representation of the vast human diversity.

      Gender neutrality in the language

      At one point in this article, we said the word “girls”. No, this is not a mistake, we were not given an “i” crossover instead of “o”. More and more people think that the Spanish language should integrate the neutral gender, represented by the suffixes -ii -es. The idea is that this termination avoids excluding people who do not feel like men or women or, when they refer to a large more democratic by referring to each of the members of this group.

      The language evolves in the same way as the society and the culture which speak it. It is clear that we have long since ceased to speak the Latin of the Romans, the medieval Castilian of Mi Cid or the golden Spanish of the time of Miguel de Cervantes. The Spanish language, like other languages ​​in this vast world, is constantly evolving, accepting expressions, introducing new words and giving new definitions to all kinds of terms.

      Language reflects and shapes our way of understanding the world, and naturally in that understanding is our idea of ​​gender. Depending on the limits of a language, people may or may not express themselves freely in terms of gender identity. as well, our way of seeing one genre or another depends on how they are treated in the language. In the most vulgar Spanish, the female sex and the one associated with it are generally the worst off: there is a clear difference between “being a fox” and “being a fox” or “this is a collonut” and “This is a pig”. “The masculine is good, the feminine is bad.

      To achieve gender equality, our main tool for describing the world, for language, must change so as to leave behind sexist stereotypes and prejudices, by introducing egalitarian and respectful forms with all gender identities, allowing us to ‘establish the idea that gender is not something that makes us good or bad. A language in which the feminine is associated with the negative is a language which, perhaps in a very subtle and indirect way, gives rise to the oppression of women.

      The use of gender neutral language is gaining strength in society and has even been an issue addressed by the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE). More and more people are proposing the acceptance of a new pronoun for the Spanish language: “she”. “She” and the words ending in -i / es would refer to that third gender or non-binarism that more and more people are aware of and sensitive to its existence, as well as someone who does not know s ‘he is a man the woman.

      However, the RAD has spoken out against it, By defending that the use of the final letter -i as a mark of an inclusive sort is another to the morphological system of Spanish, moreover useless since the masculine grammar also functions as an inclusive term with reference to mixed context groups, generic and not specific. In short, instead of using “everything and everything” or “everything”, the SAR prefers the use of “everything”, although 99% of the target audience is made up of women or non-binary people.

      It is true that the RAE is the highest academic authority on the Spanish language. There is no doubt that it is the task of this institution to standardize the language, but it must be remembered that a language is not an institution or a group of philologists who are experts in its morphology, grammar and history. . The Spanish language is all Spanish speaking, Which with their use shape it, bring it to life and make it evolve.

      If the RAE has no problem accepting vulgar terms like “meatball”, “napkin”, “donkey” or “amigovio” in their dictionary (DRAE) because they are widely used, why not accept- they not “she”? It may contradict the classical Spanish morphological system but, as its use is more and more widespread, it will sooner or later have to be indicated in the dictionary. In addition, beyond philological questions, neutral forms must be supported, both to make the non-binary community visible and to put an end to what the masculine represents for all and the feminine for women only.

      RAE’s fear of this decision is also not understood, as other languages ​​have. We have an example of this in the Swedish language which, already in the 1960s, introduced the pronoun “hen” as neutral, adding “han” (he) “hon” (she) and “det / give” (this) . in fact, the Swedish Academy incorporated the neutral pronoun into its language in 2015. This is a recent antecedent, but its use was already widespread and widely debated in LGBT + linguistics, making it only a matter of time to formalize it. .

      Although the debate in academic circles is still open in English, speakers of this language introduce a large repertoire of neutral pronouns. to make non-binary people feel more comfortable. In addition to “he” (he), “she” (she) and “that” (this) we have “they” the usage in the singular is equivalent to our “she”. The other versions are “(s) he”, “sie”, “zie”, “ei”, “voice”, “Tey”, “e”, “per” and “xe”.

      Twitter has become a powerful tool for disseminating these pronouns. Many profiles incorporate gender pronouns with which they feel identified into their biographies, the most common being the binary classics “he / him” and “she / she” and, between neutrals, “they / them”. This is a good clue on how to treat these people and make them as comfortable as possible using the pronoun they prefer to be treated with.

      Gender and social neutrality

      In a world where special emphasis has been placed on gender and the roles associated with them, it is not uncommon for many things to have their “male” version and their “female” version.. But despite this, more and more people are alarmed when a product or service aimed specifically at men or women is presented, which implies that if used by those of the opposite sex, they are “downgraded”. or “deviated”.

      We have an example of a controversy associated with a product with a gender version in the case of the Bic brand. In 2012, they launched a new product, “Bic for her”, pens designed “adapted to female hands”, in fine, delicate, pastel colors and in a retractable format. Criticism and boycott campaigns were quick to come: Have women been abusing pens all their lives? Aren’t classic colored inks right for them? Were conventional pens difficult for women to use?

      But despite this controversy, the truth is that if we go to a supermarket, toy store or any other everyday establishment we will find an infinity of products and services designed for “them” and others for “them”. Let’s look at some examples.

      Hygiene and beauty

      Many male and female hygiene and beauty items are exactly the same, a clear example of this being razors: dark blue for men, pink for women. In fact, the same product can vary in price for one gender or another, being generally more expensive for women, being very common the excuse that “they are designed for the soft and delicate skin of women” and that is why they are a little more expensive. Revelation: It’s a lie.

      In recent years, especially as metrosexuality has gained followers, more hygiene and beauty products such as creams, ointments, masks … products practically unthinkable 20 years ago have been launched on the market. . that men could buy them. If there is a point in favor of equality that men take care of their beauty and not be an exclusive issue of women, the truth is that these products would not have buyers if it weren’t for the fact that they are promoted using classic male stereotypes.

      For example, if depilatory creams did not have their male format, coming in a box where a muscular torso without even a single hair is presented, the product would not sell. And if it was to encourage men to shave using the same cream as women, they wouldn’t, because they would always see this particular product, probably presented in a pink box with flowers, like some something exclusive to women.

      children’s toys

      The marketing of toys explicitly to boys or girls is still very common. While some toys have been designed for any kid who just wants to have fun, the truth is that gender stereotypes are still very much in force in this industry and, in fact, it is these items that help teach and perpetuate the gender roles.

      Just grab a catalog of toys to see which ones are there and how they’re headed for some for boys and some for girls. The children’s section is very obvious: pastel and pink pages, with flowers and butterflies. What do they advertise? Dolls, princess dresses, toy ovens, kitchenettes … And the boys’ section? It’s not that specific, but it’s not very hard to spot: action dolls, male heroes from different sagas, weapons, cars, brightly colored war elements or a camouflage pattern. .

      Even though it’s the middle of 2020, the toys are still out there telling kids what social tastes and functions they should have. Boys should prefer action, exercising jobs considered more “active”: being a police officer, soldier, mechanic … Instead, girls should prefer to be careful, especially in the family, and to get a job, they must be more “passive” jobs: sewing, looking after children in kindergarten, being a nurse … Despite the progress of feminism and equality, toys continue to exercise their power, perpetuating gender roles.

      However, not everything is conditioned in the genre, because there are non-sexist toys widely popularized in our society. An example of this is the ‘teddy’ type teddy bear, of course, provided it is brown and without very ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ features. Other stuffed animals are generally considered to be girls’ toys, although it must be said that this has also changed in recent years.

      Nintendo consoles are another child-friendly, gender-neutral item. The first console launched by this Japanese company was the Game Boy in 1989, the name comes to mean “Game (for) children”, a name that would be shared by the next two generations of consoles: Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance. The name Game Boy didn’t cause much fanfare, although it did suggest video games were a cinch., An idea widely shared until the end of the 20th century.

      However, with the entry into the new century, Nintendo saw that the trend was changing and if it did not move forward it could lose a very profitable market. Although their product was originally aimed at male children, completely rejecting women was a very stupid business decision and, even if they thought about it, not to change the name of the Game Boy and make it more neutral. could sooner or later lead to controversy. .

      For this reason, after creating a specific version of the Game Boy Advance for girls, they decided to change the name, creating the Nintendo DS series, a much more neutral name that invited boys and girls to play. Also, this business decision was very fair as they made it right at a time when many adults were also playing video games, avoiding the hint that their consoles could only be played by children.

      Fashion

      Another aspect in which the genre is strongly reflected is fashion, although they are increasingly designers trying to avoid labeling their pieces as “masculine” or “feminine”, Opt for the unisex market. In today’s society, gender neutrality in clothing is increasingly accepted and eliminates the barrier that there are certain clothes that only women or men can wear.

      A classic example is the pants. What we now consider to be something perfectly unisex, suitable for everyone, 100 years ago was unthinkable to see a woman. They had to wear skirts if or if, even in winter, and if wearing pants in more than one country, they ran the risk of being fined. Fortunately, that perspective has changed, but there are still a lot of clothes that, if they don’t stop us from wearing them, society is going to look us in the eye.

      In this, they lose men, even if paradoxically it is a sample of the structural masculinity of our society and the fragile masculinity. While women have great freedom to choose clothes, being able to choose properly masculine clothes, the opposite direction is not given. Women can wear pants, a shirt and tie, a gala dress, baseball caps … It is true that some retrogrades will see them as “men”, but they are very few people.

      On the other hand, if we saw a man in a skirt, a suit, a neckline, a pamela … what would happen? Many would think they are effeminate, weak, or want to attract attention.. Stereotypes in society are directly to blame, which makes us understand that it is more appropriate to dress in a “masculine” way, since it is associated with the idea of ​​strength and self-sufficiency, while being dressing “feminine” “is associated with the idea of ​​weakness. Dressing up as a woman is bad, dressing up as a man is good, and that is why most neutral clothes look like typical male clothes.

      Respect gender neutrality as a value

      If we have chosen to raise children by reference to their biological sex, which is quite respectable, classic and in line with the way our society tells us to raise the youngest, it has also been to defend and respect gender neutrality as a value. . Whether we have a daughter or a son, he must understand that his gender should not prevent him from being happy or limit his possibilities.

      Princess toys can be given to girls and action toys can be given to boys, but we have to teach them that if they see other boys and girls playing with different toys, they are not to judge them. Toys are for fun and should not be used to perpetuate gender differences. Also, we should never use expressions like “boys don’t cry”, “girls who play football are little men”, “boys don’t do that”, “girls are nice and kind”. Please, we are in the 21st century.

      Boys and girls learn from their parents because they are their benchmark adults. If we teach them from an early age that the world is very diverse, we can build an inclusive, tolerant and peaceful society. A very “masculine” child is no better than a “female” child, they are just different and are just as they are, in their free way. They must also be taught that not everyone has to feel masculine or feminine, these are not dichotomous and closed categories. There are people who can feel both things, or neither.

      Comments

      The idea of ​​educating on gender neutrality is not without controversy. There are those who think that it is utterly impractical to maintain gender-neutral education, because whether we like it or not, we live in a society in which the expectation of one sex or another is always very present. It may not be as marked as it was 100 years ago, but of course there are some behaviors that are not well viewed in men and others in women and which, if they are. facts, can lead to social exclusion.

      There are psychologists who argue that there are traditional, not necessarily harmful, gender roles that are genetically facilitated. With that in mind, what to do is educate about equality in terms of roles, opportunities and choices, But respecting the “natural” differences in terms of sex.

      It is argued that all human beings have a part “masculine” and a “feminine” part, differences that have been exploited for the benefit of the interests of one sex (the male almost always) and development has not been taken into account. of people. We must not start from gender neutrality to eradicate the problem, but put an end to the privileges of one sex and the disadvantages of the other.

      Another crucial idea of ​​gender neutrality education is that boys and girls grow up imitating role models, reference figures who in turn play roles. These models have a generally binary gender: male or female. Not recognizing the gender of the child themselves could create confusion by not knowing who to identify with. The statistically normal thing is that boys feel identified with their father and girls with their mother. If they don’t know what gender they are, which parent should they take as a reference?

      The problem would not be to raise children according to their sex, otherwise negative stereotypes that are undoubtedly associated with one or the other. This would be the point that should be fought according to many psychologists, by focusing on harmful content, detaching from the genre and instilling in parents the freedom of choice, the transmission of inclusive values ​​and respect. Gender does not promote inequality, but the conception of it.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Auster, Carol J .; Mansbach, Claire S. (2012). “Toy Genre Marketing: An Analysis of Toy Color and Type on the Disney Store Website.” Sexual functions 67 (7-8): 375-388. ISSN 0360-0025. doi: 10.1007 / s11199-012-0177-8.
      • Karniol, Raquel; For the drawings, Michal (2009). “The Impact of Reference Readers on Gender Stereotypes vs. Gender Stereotypes on Gender Stereotypes of Grade 1 Children: A Natural Experience.” Journal of Research in Childhood Education 23 (4): 411-420. ISSN 0256-8543. doi: 10.1080 / 02568540909594670
      • Davis, Leslie L. (1985). “Sex, Gender Identity and Gender-Related Clothing Behaviors”. Journal of Textile and Clothing Research 3 (2): 20-24 ISSN 0887-302X. doi: 10.1177 / 0887302X8500300203.
      • Royal Spanish Academy (sf) “Citizens”, “boys and girls” Madrid, Spain. Royal Spanish Academy. https://www.rae.es/espanol-al-dia/los-ciudadanos-y-las-ciudadanas-los-ninos-y-las-ninas
      • Udry, J. Richard (1994). “The nature of the genre.” Demographics 31 (4): 561-573. PMID 7890091. doi: 10.2307 / 2061790

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