Nationality and the Myth of the Gender Binary
Ajey Pandey
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What a thoughtful, wonderful response. Thank you for acknowledging your background/privilege at the beginning, but I want to mention that being a cis-male does NOT mean your opinions shouldn’t be heard. That’s not what feminism means. Feminism means carving out a space for diverse voices to be heard. Being a good ally means using your position as a male to speak about these issues. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage in them. So thank you for sharing your thoughts.

As someone who is Persian but American born, the child of immigrants, I think about national identity a lot. Am I Persian? Am I American? Why do I want to be Persian and reject being American? Why do I cling to being a person of color when the census calls me caucasian, or say I’m foriegn when the culture I know is right here?

(right here being Chicago)

I do think your analysis of gender and nationality being filters for people is accurate. I think the differences are in what you mention at the end — “The filters are biased, and that’s both why they work and why societal discrimination exists.” There are certain nationalities or race or skin color (man, that’s a debate of definitions too) that have been actively oppressed. And so have women. And it is easier to pinpoint someone as “woman” and less easy to say “Iranian, American, Indian,” especially given your discussion on the fuzziness of national identity.

I read that link you posted about gender not being a spectrum — and in many ways, I agree. I can’t speak for others, but I personally have no problem with everyone being non-binary, or calling themselves whatever they want. The whole point, for me, is to call into question our automatic assumptions about gender, not to box others up. My identity has nothing to do with yours, as yours is separate from mine? I appreciate the author’s perspective, because that’s what’s happening to her. That’s the exact opposite of what I, at least, am trying to do. But the reason why I care about it is because of the associations with gender.

Like your description on nationality, I think gender is a fluid thing. (May I note, though, that I have to think more on nationality being fluid; those issues are ones I’m still trying to sort.) By personally identifying as non-binary, I mean that I don’t believe in the assumptions that is tagged to being labeled as “male” and “female.” (Indeed, to complicate things, I identify as a non-binary woman, because here I use woman to represent what my external presentation means to people.)

The discussion on gender not being a spectrum is interesting. I’m not vetted , but I do point out this: if we say gender is a societal construct, we have to awknowledge what that construct is. And that is two genders, male and female, each with their own assumptions and roles. In order to subvert it in a way that makes sense to us, we say there is a range between the two, or outside the two, or some sort of mathematical model that encompasses those ideas and doesn’t in other ways. But in order to think about gender as the author says, we must reform the concept altogther. We have to remove what we think of as gender now.

Sounds good to me.

A final thought: a lot of people like being gendered, and like the associations. I’m not suggesting that everyone has to reject their gender identity. Go where the love is. If that means you identify as male, whatever that means to you, go for it.

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