People who support some dominant institution which faces criticism sometimes make strong, dramatic claims about the dire consequences of abandoning that institution. I think there’s two main reasons for that. One, spectacular claims divert attention away from their own lies and misrepresentations. Two, people who defend destructive social constructs have to make the alternative sound worse.
Some FETAs make the claim that the abolition of gender will lead to cultural genocide. This is a laughable claim, in the same way that all other dramatic claims about abandoning religion, or class distinctions, or race distinctions, are laughable. They are wholly unrealistic disaster scenarios which are predicated on the essential nature of their pet institution.
This essay by a “non-binary” FETA is as good of an example of this tendency as any, and was shown to me by commentator John Doe, so I thought I would use it as a debunking of this sort of nonsense.
When confronted, what they mean when they say gender abolition is the abolition of Gender Roles (and sometimes Gender Behaviors and Gender Expressions). You have to wheedle this out of them, because they will describe these three distinct parts of gender as if they are all one thing.
They are not the same thing, nor are they one thing. They are parts of gender, so what they really want to get rid of are parts of gender.
We have to be specific about what gender is, because the root of the disagreement between FETAs and feminists starts at their conception of gender. FETAs believe that gender is an innate feeling that one is supposed to act in certain ways. Feminists believe that gender is a hierarchy (with men at the top and women at the bottom), which imposes a link between biological attributes (sex) and certain actions and attitudes (gender stereotypes). This link is what we call gender roles.
So while they are technically not the same thing, they are all part of gender and they are all necessary for the existence of gender. Eliminate gender roles and you’ve eliminated gender. To a FETA, this makes no sense, because they believe their gender feeling is innate and that gender roles are only a product of that feeling. But when feminists say they want to get rid of gender or gender roles, they mean the same thing, because getting rid of gender roles does mean getting rid of gender. Without the gender roles to link biology to, there is no way to establish a hierarchy with one role being superior and the other role being inferior.
Now, the argument they will often use in defense of their statements is that they are arguing it from a feminist perspective. In this perspective, it explicitly excludes biological aspects — so referencing any sort of social construction relating to biology (such as saying that then only sex would be left) is in direct contravention to this idea, since the social constructions themselves are part of the social conventions and structures that are part of Gender.
This refers to the common FETA belief that sex is a social construct. I have already debunked this fallacy-riddled, anti-scientific belief. Sex is a biological fact, not a social construct. Likewise, gender is a social construct, not a biological fact.
As for the accusation that feminists do not care about the biological aspects, well, that’s exactly backwards: feminists are very well aware that gender is assigned to people based on their biology at birth. Babies who come out looking more like males are assigned as boys and babies who come out looking more like females are assigned as girls. It is FETAs who deny the biological aspects of gender, since they believe that we have an “innate gender” which has no relation to the composition of our bodies. But this is clearly not true.
The outcome they invariably arrive at is that the world would be a better place, so that the exercise really looks like this:
* Say we will abolish gender.
* The world is better!
If you don’t believe me, ask them how they plan to achieve that stuff in the middle.
This is the same old argument given to people who advocate the abolition of any institution. I’m sure people who argued against slavery, a feature of world cultures for thousands of years, faced the same objections. Same for people who advocate against prostitution, which has been called “the world’s oldest profession.” And yet neither of these fights were, in the end, futile. Slavery has been made illegal in most countries, even though it still exists. The Nordic model has been adopted in many countries already, and is picking up steam. Did the first opponents of these institutions have a clear vision of how this would happen? I doubt it.
This is also a logical fallacy. Even if every single feminist who advocates for the abolition of gender has no concrete plan on how to do so, how does that prove that gender is desirable? This is a variant of the argument from ignorance: just because we can’t explain right now how gender could, or will, be abolished, does not mean it cannot be abolished.
So let me get to the point here and address the accusation of cultural genocide:
Getting back to that question mark, they seem to think that somehow this one thing will overcome all the other social aspects of differing culturals and varying identities, and magically change the world for the better. Yet if you say to them they are engaging in magical thinking (literally) then they get defensive and deny it, and so you have to take them at face value if you are acting in good faith and that means they are willing to engage in the western notion of manifest destiny and righteous propriety and actively colonize and override and in the end force entire other groups of people who have very different ideas of gender and propriety and destroy those cultures.
The thing is, we (anti-genderists) are against all conceptions of gender, not just non-Western conceptions of gender. It makes no more sense to accuse feminists of being imperialists for objecting to gender as it exists in other cultures, than to accuse them of being terrorists for objecting to gender as it exists in our societies. Feminists aren’t imperialists out to destroy other cultures. Actually, most feminists are against imperialism and are quite opposed to FETAs when they co-opt other cultures’ conceptions of gender (like Native Americans and the “two spirits”) for their own dogma.
If family is the building block of a society, then gender is the building block of family. That is how deep it lies within a given culture — at the root, as they note and claim, and what that means is that in attacking it, the ripples throughout that culture and society will, ultimately, destroy it.
Abolishing gender means not indoctrinating children and not imposing this concept on other people. Eradicating native cultures means imposing colonialist values on people by indoctrination or force. These two concepts are directly opposite. The latter is more like the imposition of gender that people like this FETA preach… a deviation from what is natural in humans. Forming cultures is a natural thing, but gender is not, not any more than racism or childism.
Gender is a bigotry that is deeply encoded in our cultures. As such, it is true that abolishing gender means an upheaval of cultures, in the same way that making slavery illegal has been an upheaval in many cultures. Saying that this makes it a bad thing because it destroys cultures is illogical. Even though slavery was a deeply held bigotry, abolishing it (on paper, at least) in many cultures has not destroyed those cultures. The only way to argue this is to ignore the victims of these practices as not being part of the culture. And that’s real erasure and real hatred.
In the case of gender, we are all victims to a certain extent, which means that abolishing gender cannot, in any way, destroy the culture, because we, its victims, are all part of it. You can imagine a way of life similar to the Ursula LeGuin story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, where an entire culture is built around the suffering of a single child, and where the entire population minus one benefits from it in absolute terms: perhaps, in this case, one could argue that saving that one child is not worth it because it means destroying the culture its suffering is built upon (I would disagree strongly, but the concept is not absurd on its face). But the case of gender is the opposite of this. Everyone is a victim and, while men benefit from it compared to women, no one benefits from it in absolute terms. Everyone would be better off without gender.
To conclude their rant, the FETA crows that gender abolitionists will never win (when have we heard this before?):
The biggest issue is that gender is a social construct, and there has, in all of human history, never been an abolishment of a social construct.
While this may be true, many social constructs which used to be very important have lost most of their importance. I already gave slavery as an example. While slavery is still very much extant everywhere, making it illegal has greatly reduced its importance. Monarchies and royalty in general has lost most of its importance in the world. Religious constructs, like gods, sin, and salvation, are still widely believed but have lost much of their importance in society. So why can’t the same thing ever happen with gender? I see no particular reason to believe that gender is somehow immune to the human desire for freedom and fairness which have moved people to overthrow these other oppressive constructs. In the long run, if humanity survives that long, I think the concept of gender will be thrown away into the dustbin of history. Do I know how it will happen? No, I’m not a psychic or a soothsayer. Why should I be expected to be in order to say something should be abolished? My inability to tell the future does not prevent me from having a moral sense.