As someone who doesn’t fully identify as female, I have always had a different experience with feminism and the gender binary than most people. In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to share what feminism means to me, as well as the problems feminism is now facing with the gender binary.
In my experience, feminists are seen as angry, annoying, boob-loving man haters. Men seem to believe feminism is all about women hating men, which stems from media distortion, not from the movement's real aim of equality for the sexes.
To me, feminism contests the assumption that men and women are separated by substantial categories of difference. This perceived difference is used to justify women being viewed as inferior to males and hence treated less favorably (being paid less, being more subject to sexual violence, being valued differently, etc.) on account of their gender.
There are two components to the underlying societal assumptions that feminism actively confronts: the problem with treating one group of people as inferior and the problem with splitting individuals into two groups in the first place. Pointing out and attempting to alter gender discrimination and pointing out and attempting to change the premise that gender is binary are all part of the same struggle.
Gender is not binary. People’s sex or gender cannot be classified as male or female based on any biological, psychological or social assessment. There is significant pressure in Western culture to binarize and keep individuals in fixed categories of “men” and “women” with restricted conventions about what qualifies inclusion into each group. This has adverse effects on almost everyone concerned.
For me, the political—and feminist—side of being almost non-binary, with my gender identity being complicated and not fully figured out yet, points out that gender isn't binary—that men and women aren't the only categories into which individuals may fit.
Masculinity and femininity are impossible to define. They mean different things to different people. It is crucial to me to fight for a future in which no one has to go through a painful and bruising gender conflict at any age. Feminism particularly helped me reach the point of seeing and thinking about my own gender in this way, and that is what I love most about it.
I believe it is politically vital to broaden what is possible within gender, sex and feminism. We as a society need to question the weight put on these specific labels and to highlight their arbitrariness. To me, that is what feminism is all about.
By Evelyn Summers, Staff Writer