Gender: A Fictional Tale
Let me tell you a story about gender. Once upon a time, gender was not a given. A person was not simply born a female or male for life, and they did not necessarily take on “traditionally” female or male roles. These people lived, participated in their culture, contributed to their societies, perhaps raised children, and eventually died. And they were fine. The world kept turning, and life went on.
One day, this cycle changed. Now, men were born as men, and women were born as women. The men had male parts, the women had female parts, and they acted like all good men and women should. The men made money, the women did housework and raised children, and they lived. The world kept turning, and life went on, albeit slightly differently.
These gendered people who lived as either men or women with no mixing, in-between, or outside, were unaware for a time that people in other places did not make this change. When they found these other nongendered people, they decided that their own way of life must be superior, since they had progressed past this other way of life. Living without a strict definition of man and woman was incompatible with their world view. Why would these other people not want to live like them? They were better, smarter, more evolved…So they decided to use this knowledge to their advantage.
Slowly, the gendered people began imposing their knowledge onto the nongendered people. They told the nongendered people that their way of life was immoral, inhuman, and wrong. The gendered people used their knowledge of gender as rationalization for why the nongendered people were less human, and why they themselves were more deserving. The gendered people began more literally elevating themselves above the nongendered people; forcing the nongendered people to work for them, give up their land, and their culture in order to appease the new world order required by the gendered people.
Eventually all people conformed—to a degree—to this system where gender was enforced. Some people noticed the roles of these genders were different for people with different skin colors, what the original gendered people called races. The people with the palest skin, the original gendered people, continued to assert their dominance with race. These were the people who gender roles were based upon: the pale men were strong protectors, and the pale women were fragile and in need of protection.
The pale people said that although the other people were now conforming to gender, they were still inferior because of their race. They told tales about the dark men, that they were predators and would kill the pale women. They fetishized the dark women, decided that they were aggressive, exotic, and sexy. Since these descriptions did not hold to the pale people’s ideas about gender, they used this concept of race to further dehumanize the dark people.
As time went on, some people’s notions of gender once again expanded. They dreamed of genders beyond male and female; dreamed of not being constricted by these rigid roles and expectations. But the system struck back against these people, trying to force them into the glass boxes of male and female, reassuring them that if they were born with female parts they were meant to be women, and if they were born with male parts they were meant to be men. More and more people began criticizing gendered thought, and the more the people criticized, the more the glass boxes cracked.
Today, the boxes still exist. The pale people, who were the original gendered people, cry and moan about the way things should be, according to their world view. More cracks appear in the glass boxes everyday, but they hold strong because the pale people continue to hold the power over the gender boxes. But not all the people believe in these genders, and one day the thin glass that holds the constructions will shatter with the pressure of them pushing free.
This story is a work of fiction based on the theory of the coloniality of gender, developed by María Lugones and real events.