Noah Berlatsky, the sleazy Playboy writer who calls himself a “feminist” and thinks women only matter when they give him erections.
Playboy writer and all-around puppet “feminist” Noah Berlatsky has written a contemptible article decrying anti-genderism, with all the usual straw men and hand-wringing. I am only interested in what Berlatsky has to say insofar as it reflects the commonplace “intellectual” views about anti-genderism, and if the conversation is to advance on this topic, we need to debunk this nonsense thoroughly.
The first issue that confronts us is, what is anti-genderism? What does it mean to abolish gender? In order to do so, we need to have a good understanding of what gender is. Unfortunately, Berlatsky, like most “intellectuals” who deign to discuss this topic, does not:
The problem here is a conceptual error. Radical feminists look at gender oppression and say, we must abolish gender. But it’s not the gender that’s the problem: It’s the oppression. Gender standards—and standards of genderlessness—are used to declare that certain gender expressions are wrong. Wearing heels, being gay, being trans, reading romance novels—if you perform gender in a certain way, you are unnatural or stupid or corrupt, and can be sneered at, or at worst, subject to violence.
This demonstrates a complete confusion on the subject being discussed, because Berlatsky thinks that 1. you can dissociate gender from oppression, and 2. that gender standards are about “expressions” (I assume he was grasping for the word “performance” and failed).
First, “gender” cannot be dissociated from “gender oppression.” Gender is a hierarchy and its purpose is the oppression of one class by another. The exploitation of women’s sexuality, labor, and dependence (by men) is tied with, and cannot be dissociated from, the dominant ideology which says that women can be objectified and silenced without any repercussions. Leaving this ideology untouched leaves only the possibility of fighting against specific forms of gender oppression.
Radical feminists reject this option because, as radicals, they seek to strike at the root of the problem, and that root is gender. Berlatsky can only say “it’s not the gender that’s the problem” because he believes in a fairy tale version of gender which is entirely, following Judith Butler’s postmodernism, framed in terms of performativity and subjectivity.
This leads us to the second point. Berlatsky’s worldview leads him to adopt a straw man view of anti-genderism where “gender expressions” are prohibited, things like “wearing heels, being gay, being trans, reading romance novels.”
But this has nothing to do with anti-genderism at all. Anti-genderism has to do with being against gender, which implies the association of certain traits or actions with superiority or inferiority. It’s not “wearing heels” that’s the problem, from an anti-genderist perspective, it’s the association of “wearing heels” with “being fuckable.” There is nothing wrong with “being gay,” but there is something wrong with associating “being gay” with “being an inferior man/woman.” Same for “being trans” or “reading romance novels.”
Berlatsky follow the common trope that a genderless society would be a fascistic society where everyone has to be the same. But this is pure projection. Genderist societies are the ones that put a great emphasis on gender conformity, and where people are socialized into that conformity from day 1. A hypothetical genderless society would be one where everyone can dress, act and love the way they want, without feeling like they have to conform to a gender role.
No female child would be called a tomboy and no male child would be called a sissy. No kid would ever be bullied for what we in our gendered world call “gender expression”…
And everyone would be free to be themselves without ever having to worry about gender expectations. Nobody would feel the need to repress certain parts of their personality and exaggerate others in order to fit into some gender role that is being forced on them.
Gender abolitionism is not about restricting people’s choices but about giving them greater freedom.
* Males and females will be able to act however the fuck they want (men might want to wear dresses, makeup, speak in a higher pitched voice; women might not want to wear any makeup, might not shave anywhere, might have short hair).
* The socialization of future generations will be a huge advantage. Males and females will not grow up with pre-determined interests, expectations, clothing, personalities, etc. there will be no more ‘what a cute little girl, let’s buy her baby borns and adorn her in beautiful little dresses’…
Getting rid of the box (gender) is the only way for complete liberation from gender’s shackles. Creating a million more genders (frog-kin, pixies, furries, candle-kin and shit like that??) WILL NOT end anything.
Genderless means no gender roles. Pretty simple, no? But to Berlatsky, this is unfathomable because everyone performs and therefore everyone always has a gender: so he equates a genderless society with a fascistic system where there’s only one gender role. Interestingly, he associates that fascist gender role with masculinity, which doesn’t make much sense for someone who outright rejects the gender hierarchy.
I think we’ve already seen why Berlatsky’s analysis fails: these two points are fundamental to understanding genderism (and anti-genderism) and he’s failed both. This has major consequences for the rest of his article.
Radical feminists often argue that we need to get rid of the “gender binary”—but in practice that seems to mean not getting rid of gender so much as getting rid of specifically feminine gender expression.
This is absolutely incorrect. I’ve never read any radical feminist advocating getting rid of the “gender binary,” for the simple reason that there’s no such thing as the “gender binary.” Gender is a hierarchy, not a binary. Berlatsky’s basic ignorance of the subject again shows through.
Gender is not some cosmic yin/yang; it’s a fist, and the flesh that bruises.
Radical feminism, and anti-genderism, are not about getting rid of any “gender binary” or of any “gender expression.” But I’ve already covered that part.
Genderlessness, then, isn’t so much different from the gender we’ve got—which makes sense when you think about it. Our current gendered system is based on a universal misogynist standard; maleness is good, everything not male is bad. The genderless ideal wants to abolish gender in the name of “no gender.” But when you do that “no gender” becomes the standard itself. And, since in our society, maleness—as the standard—is unmarked, “no gender,” by default, just ends up being that standard of maleness all over again.
Our gendered male standard says that femininity is frivolous and stupid and ugly and debased. And the genderless utopia standard says that femininity is frivolous and stupid and ugly and debased. “No gender” means don’t wear heels.
This is basically the culmination of all of Berlatsky’s very basic confusion and ignorance, which would have been easily solved if he had taken the time to ask just one radical feminist about their position.
This quote is truly mind-boggling. I think I’ve already identified the source of the blind confusion being displayed here: Berlatsky believes a genderless society means one fascistic gender role because he cannot actually imagine people living without gender roles; he cannot imagine people without gender roles because he equates gender role with performance, and everyone performs in some way or another.
Berlatsky’s irrational ideology has painted him in a corner, and he cannot get out of it. He is literally unable to understand the first thing on the very topic he writes about. It’s hard to take this whole thing seriously at all. Some people have suggested that Berlatsky is engaged in performance art demonstrating the irrationality of liberalism. Unfortunately that would require intelligence, a quality he has not yet exhibited.
Utopia, then, is not a world in which there is no gender. Rather, utopia is a world in which there are a wide variety of genders and gendered expressions, all of which are seen as equally true, and equally acceptable. Gender of all sorts would ideally be as unmarked, and unremarked, as whether or not you wear glasses or contacts. You’d notice if someone was male or female or both or neither, but it wouldn’t be defining, and wouldn’t carry with it a weight of expectations, anger, censure, and potential violence.
Again, this is a repetition of previous errors. There is no such thing as gender which does not entail conformity and expectations, because gender is a hierarchy and all hierarchies foster conformity. It does not matter if we have two genders, three genders, or forty genders: gender systems are all hierarchical, no matter how many genders they have (this is also why Berlatsky’s “one gender role” straw man makes no sense: you can’t have a hierarchy with only one group).
Liberal feminists have been pushing for diversity of genders and sexual orientations. They honestly believe that gender is not oppressive in itself, and that by multiplying the number of accepted genders they will bring about acceptance of all the kinds of people that are out there. But multiplying the prison cells is not the way to utopia, it’s only the way to more customizable prison cells.
When non-feminists or liberal feminists address the issue of gender abolition, they cannot confront the basic fact that gender is oppression and that they are supporting oppression. Therefore they have to use straw men and projections to get around that fact.
Gender serves two crucial roles in liberal feminism:
1. Gender is a part of arousal, especially for people who were raised on pornography. We can never expect pornsick men (since he writes for Playboy, it is very likely that Berlatsky is in this category) to accurately write about gender or genderism because they are addicted to representations of highly gendered sexuality.
2. Gender is a part of self-identification: we see our status as man or woman as an essential part of who we are. As their ideology is fundamentally subjectivist, liberal feminists use self-identification as their sole standard of how to label people.
But even from a subjectivist standard, self-identification is not, and cannot, be authentic self-expression because the way we identify ourselves is the product of socialization and indoctrination. For this argument to work, self-identification (including self-identification of one’s gender) would have to be irreducible, but it clearly is not.
If there’s any piece to the puzzle that they’re just completely missing, it has to be socialization. FETAs rarely address socialization, and when they do, it’s to simply deny its existence or minimize it. The liberal concept of gender completely denies the existence of socialization and starts from the premise that the experience of gender is irreducible and necessary.
A genderless society cannot be achieved without profound changes in the way we socialize children and the way we treat each other as adults. It’s much, much easier to play “multiply the genders” and “explode the gender binary.” But all we’re doing with this nonsense is customizing oppression to fit every mind, and reinforcing existing socialization by pointing out how necessary and important gender is, by making it into something that every person should be intimately concerned with and needs to connect with.
Berlatsky believes that conformity to the “binary” is the source of gender oppression. This is, frankly, a gross insult to all women who have actually experienced gender oppression. Conformity to the “binary” is not the oppression, it is the tool that makes actual oppression of women (gynocide, social and political control over women’s bodies, widespread rape and VAW, prostitution, pornography, sexual harassment, workplace inequality, etc) possible.
Gender is not a performance and it’s not a binary; it’s the fist that hits and the flesh that bruises. Multiplying the variety of fists will not preserve the flesh.
Here’s a wild idea: what if, instead of creating 100 new genders and making people even more confused about themselves, we just get rid of this whole ‘gender-idea’ and raise boys and girls the same way and treat women and men the same way and just let everyone wear, do and act however they want, without making them think that something is wrong with them.