Tuesday, February 10, 2009


The necessity of groups suggests that Hopkins's hope for dismantling the category of gender is largely wishful thinking. That is, at least if we are to understand dismantling as the complete elimination of the categories themselves; the final line of the piece suggests another reading, however. Rather than eliminating the categories of gender, it might be said that the goal should be to deconstruct the binary nature, to reinterpret it as a polar matrix of gender, one which admits of many shades of gender. Such a reconception seems in line with what many others have suggested for sexuality, and it seems appropriate that gender, which is intricately connected to sexuality (as Hopkins suggests) should follow a similar model. Using such a model allows for less rigidity while still allowing a general area of male and female, as the similar model of sexuality allows for polar heterosexuality and homosexuality while also allowing for an account of bisexuality and other more subtle sexualities. Under this manner of understanding, we can support the value of general gender and sexual identity while also acknowledging that the members who are said to belong to a particular group are not homogeneous. In doing so, we pay respect to the experiences of different groups as well as different individual experiences within a particular group. The goals of Hopkins and Spelman are both valued, and a subtlety is gained.

As to the question of whether being a woman today implies heterosexuality, it must be answered that this is case only inasmuch as the identity of a woman is understood within the binary model of gender. The rigidity of the heterosexuality, however, would seem to depend on the perspective of the observer; as society at large is largely patterned on the male perspective, and as the male perspective must understand the "other" only in generalized terms of what it is not, it stands that the field is more open. This is different within the field of positive speculation of what defines a woman, where the attempt to define who and what a women is are considered in positive terms. Accordingly, to men the woman can express a more subtle sense of sexuality, such as bisexuality, as long as she is not outwardly butch (though bisexuality is often normalized as mere promiscuity); to women, however, there seems to be less acceptance, and a similar expectation that the bisexual is merely a promiscuous individual (the bisexual always seems to lose).

Group boundaries serve to exclude as well as include, so that any positive form of group identification (that is, identification besides simply being an "other") serves to create a set of norms. So: only when we see bisexuals, transsexuals, transvestites, and others who engage in the critique of binary gender and sexuality (likely the best description of what is a complex phenomena) as normal individuals should there be said to be a lack of heterosexism.

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