Dualism, polarities and cishetnormativity
i agree that polarities certainly exist in reality in some sense, e.g. light and dark. And there's certainly a common recognition that there can be a spectrum between such polarities, e.g. the range of twilight. The issue i have is gender being treated in such a manner, as a fundamental reality of the universe/multiverse.
i regard treating ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ as polarities in a zero-sum game[a], in which one can only be ‘more’ of one by being ‘less’ of the other, as problematic for several reasons:
- It requires attributes to be categorised as somehow inherently ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’. Is ‘strength’ a ‘masculine’ attribute? Is ‘caring’ a ‘feminine’ attribute? If so, it creates dynamics where, for example, part of the reason women and girls avoid STEM is (as research shows, and as i mentioned in a previous post[b]) because it's coded ‘masculine’, and they want to be considered ‘feminine’. Similarly, men end up feeling they can't be more caring without also feeling they're losing part of their ‘masculinity’.
- It supports and reinforces heteronormative ‘complementary opposites’, reflected in people asking of same-sex/-gender couples, “So who's the man and who's the woman?” If one person in the relationship is ‘more masculine’ (typically coded as ‘dominant’), the other must ‘obviously’ be ‘more feminine’ (typically coded as ‘submissive’). This, of course, reinforces the stereotype that gay men must in some way necessarily be ‘effeminate’, which itself conflates sexual orientation, sense of gender, and gender presentation.
- It doesn't match my lived experiences of my sense of gender. i'm two-gendered/transgenderqueer, but my gender is not fluid. i'm a woman and a man, simultaneously, all the time, and don't constantly shift between feeling ‘more feminine’ or ‘more masculine’. Nor does how i present give any indication of how ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ i feel at a given moment. At least one person i know is agendered, and at least one person is pangendered; i don't know how they feel about the extent to which a putative ‘femininity’-‘masculinity’ spectrum applies to them, but superficially, it seems like the model might exclude them.
My experience is that there's a lot of ‘received wisdom’ dualism in the communities to which i otherwise feel most connected (e.g. spiritual communities). As a result, i often feel that my lived experience is constantly erased, or implicitly excluded. i feel i'd have to distort my sense of self to be able to fit within the sort of conceptual frameworks being assumed.☙