Transgender feminist Cristan Williams moves the focus of her conversation with radical feminist John Stoltenberg towards questioning the idea that society’s binary body labeling system we regard as being “sex” exists in a “natural” and thus, unconstructed state.
Keywords: Sex Gender Social Constructionism Dialectics
A Natural Sex Pedagogy?
Your response reminds me of a recent article in the journal Nature wherein biologists critique the way culture seems to construct our belief in a natural sex binary:
Biologists may have been building a more nuanced view of sex, but society has yet to catch up. True, more than half a century of activism from members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has softened social attitudes to sexual orientation and gender. Many societies are now comfortable with men and women crossing conventional societal boundaries in their choice of appearance, career and sexual partner. But when it comes to sex, there is still intense social pressure to conform to the binary model.
In a world in which trans and intersex people are upturning the very idea of a legal and eternal sex binary and challenging entrenched sex essentialism in arguably every aspect of Western culture, I had a very hard time understanding why “radical feminism” was so attached to the idea that within our culture, a sexed body binary system exists ex nihilo as an empirically unconstructed state of human embodiment which, nonetheless, somehow also relies upon the assessing gaze, language and pedagogy of those within the culture. Reading both you and Andrea was a breath of fresh air!