Friday, October 7, 2011

A Clarifying Note for Committed Essentialists Regarding Discussions About Gender and Identity

Not a single person or group involved in discussions about sex, gender, and identity contests the incontestable fact that there is both a biological and a social difference between women and men. The only question is whether, and to what extent, the former ought to determine the latter. Or to put it differently: Given that the former does shape and determine the latter in various ways, and has in all societies everywhere throughout history, should it in a normative way -- today, in our society -- or are there factors to consider related to context, time, place, polity, religion, etc.? And to whatever extent that it (possibly) should, ought it to bracket or peremptorily define societal role, personal value, and/or social opportunity?

Even the most committed of essentialists cannot rule out these questions, if for no other reason than the equally incontestable fact that modern patriarchalists and complementarians allow and even encourage certain social roles, forms of life, and cultural participation (for both women and men) that were considered unthinkable just a century ago. The discussion, therefore, is a legitimate one, and has not been answered once and for all time, and is, so to speak, discursively up for grabs.

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