Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Banning the Binary?

by Dodo Charles

Ruby Rose (image source: Huffington Post)
The notion of the gender binary has recently become ever more present within societal discussions, as famous actors and musicians no longer conform to such rigidity. You simply have to look at the Internet’s response to Ruby Rose coming out as gender-fluid, to see an influx in acceptance and diversity. For those who don't know who Ruby Rose is, all you have to do is Google, and no doubt it will come up with a selection of memes, and girls screaming about their ovaries bursting… She’s quite hot… (Not that we should objectify people, but dayum.) I mean, look at the picture on the left. However, is the binary a necessary essential? Or can we rid ourselves of it as an archaic concept within our modern, revolutionary (in regards to gender and sexuality) society?

The simple answer, in my opinion, is that to simply say yes or no is too reductive an argument. It would be like banning marmite on the principle that a few people don't like it- please don't ban marmite, it’s great. So why do I hold such views? Let’s take a few moments to answer that- I have three main points and considerations:

1Will banning the binary actually cause more damage than benefit? Whilst this may seem counter-intuitive to some, hear me out on this one. I know first hand how important fighting for an identity is; being gay has been a rollercoaster tour of fighting to be accepted for being me. Therefore, shouldn't we consider what damage it might do to people if we remove the concept of the binary altogether? The Queer Theory argument for getting rid of the binary altogether comes with flaws. Firstly, it's not accessible unless you're a scholar. Secondly, and most importantly, it reduces people of an identity. For those who are trans and have fought hard to be accepted for their own identity is it right, or fair to then strip them of it? You wouldn't try and renounce people for claiming their own sexualities, so why should this apply to gender?
This is a very Western notion.  If we are to ban the binary, shouldn't it be universal? Yet, other cultures have no qualms with keeping the strict assumptions of the binary, but merely bending the societal expectations that come with it. In Kenya, it is not uncommon for tribesmen to perform a cross-dressing ceremony to welcome their youth into male adulthood. This leads to my third point:

3  Are people’s issues with the binary actually due to societal expectations? Personally, I would suggest that it is not that the binary needs to be banned, rather that it needs to be redefined, so that it is less distinct, and that is not to say that their shouldn't be crossovers between the two sections. In my opinion, the fault lays less with the binary, and more society’s assumptions of what the binary should consist of. Perhaps if we redefined the binary, we could reduce the need to ban the binary.

So, whilst these are simple musings, and frankly with a lack of philosophical backing (I don't want to be done by the IB for plagiarising my own work…), I hope that it at least sparks some debate in regards to the concept of the binary, and of what work society might need to do. And hey, perhaps, we will progress forwards to a place where we no longer need to even define the concept of the binary. To put on my feminist hat metaphorical speaking of course, people, I’m always a feminist, I don't have a feminist hat, it’s just a figure of speech, as we progress out of a patriarchal society, maybe there will be a shift in the binary naturally, as women further transcend beyond being housewives, and men are allowed to cry.

On which note, I leave you with this:

Is our problem with the concept of the gender binary, or the attitudes of the society within which we live?

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