Saturday 19 January 2013

Information and gender identity

How about the question of information and gender identity?

In today's Guardian Deborah Orr writes about feminism and trans gender women (Feminism shouldn't be about telling trans women they're not female enough). She says:
[I]f my entire body was removed, and only my head remained, somehow attached to machines that kept me alive, I'd still feel entirely female, just as I felt as a child, before my breasts had developed, before I even knew I had a vagina or a womb.
So what is it that makes someone male or female?

Personally, I'm completely baffled by gender. It's never crossed my mind to wonder about my own gender, but I've no idea whether that's because I am inherently, unequivocally, male, or whether it just something I've never had cause to address.

Actually I'm skeptical of what Deborah Orr says.  How can she know that she would "still feel entirely female"? What does it mean to be "entirely female" anyway?  No, I really can't buy that. I just don't think "entirely female" or "entirely male" exists.


Syed Mustafa Ali said...

Perhaps what Orr is pointing to is something that, in The Matrix films, is referred to as "residual self-image". The fact that her scenario is about a post-embodied experience indicates that her prior embodiment might condition her conception of self sufficiently strongly to effect some form of "gender essence" construction / maintenance.

David Chapman said...

(Orr's article was in reaction to an earlier piece in the Guardian by Julie Burchill which had in some way been attacking trans-gender women. I didn't see Burchill's piece and it has now been taken down - the Guardian deemed it to be too offensive and thought they'd been mistaken to allow it in the first place. However I can well believe that Burchill was offensive: she's good at that.)

I see the point that Orr's arguing that she was female before the outward bodily features were developed so she would still be so without the body, but I guess I'm just very skeptical of any sort of 'essence'. I like the onion metaphor: you keep peeling away the layers to get to the essence of the onion only to find there's nothing there!