Take a look at a column from this week’s opinion section:
There’s some good and some bad in this piece, and I want to parse out which is which. As a former opinion writer, I’m glad to see somebody buying into campus discourse, affirming critical thought as a social culture rather than just a classroom performance. I also appreciate the intent I read behind this piece. I see a genuine interest in productive dialogue informed by genuine concern for gender politics issues. I think I even agree with the spirit of the piece (is it condescending to say “I agree with what he’s trying to say”?), the idea that government shouldn’t intervene to artificially equalize socio-economic outcomes assuming it’s provided for equal opportunity.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far in WGS 160 though, it’s this: words matter… bigtime. It’s on those grounds that I take issue with this piece. Think about this paragraph:
He’s conflated biologically determined sex (what parts you have) with socially constructed gender (how you present your body socially), using the logic of one category to make arguments about another. Even if we ignore the erasure of intersex bodies implicit in the binary absolutism of “men are biologically programmed to be providers, and women are more predisposed to be better caregivers,” at the very least, there’s a terminological confusion in making claims about the behavioral tendencies of certain gender identities based on evidence that only speaks to differences between sexes. Gender and sex aren’t the same thing, plain and simple. Although I doubt it was a deliberate mistake, we reify social institutions in our word choices regardless of whether it’s deliberate. Biological essentialism has done real damage over the years, so should it always be put down when it rears its head?