The spectrum idea and why I don’t like thing


Following Bill Nye ‘the vagina guy’ and his recent television show; which is blowing up all over my Twitter right now with all sorts of people throwing down their 2c. I figured I should probably post something about spectrums and the more I think about it, the more sexist and archaic the idea seems. Which is odd since its supposed to be this progressive idea of inclusiveness.

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First, lets look at what the spectrum seeks to replace; the binary ideas of sex and gender. The binary, in its simplest form is just 1 or 0. Male or female. Man or woman. the idea serves us well because… yeah… that’s what we observe when we look at what is typical for our species. We see men and women, we see the sexual dimorphism between them. We know that male + female = baby. We know that women typically have breasts, ovaries and that men typically have penises and produce sperm. These are just the facts of not just our species, but many other sexually dimorphic species too.  And of course, I wasn’t giving an exhaustive list there.

Even in animals you’ve heard of that seem to be non-binary – like seahorses or hyenas. There’s commonly misunderstood things about these animals, yes male seahorses do carry their young – but no they do not produce eggs. No female hyenas don’t have actual penises, they have an enlarged clitoris, it takes an entirely different developmental path. 

So now lets compare the spectrum of sex vs the binary idea of it. The common argument for the spectrum is that within sexes there is enough variance and overlap with the other sex that it makes no sense to call it a binary. Instead its a spectrum and you appear somewhere along it, between male and female. Except… this doesn’t really work for me, because it kinda seems like you’re saying if you’re a man who doesn’t grow to 6’0″+ you’re not even a real man. If your height starts with 5′ tap out or trap out. 

Typically speaking, whether or not a male can grow a full bushy beard & grow tall as heck or not, they are still a male. Not more male, or less male than any other male. Just a male. It’s kinda fundamentally sexist when you think about it, the same as when you tell people “you’re not man enough” or whatever.

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Another argument made in favour of the sex spectrum is intersex people – who make up at best 1.7% of people and at worst less than 0.1%, depending on how you draw the definition. If you include conditions such as Klinefelter’s syndrome and Turner’s syndrome then the number is 1.7% – but there’s a lot of debate within the field at the moment on whether or not the term intersex becomes an arbitrary term this way. Its less than 0.1% if we define it the other way, which relies on chromosomal type not matching phenotype, so tldr being born with a penis but having XX chromosomes or something to that effect.

Either way – the argument is that  look, these exceptions to the binary exist! So that must mean there’s a spectrum! But it doesn’t – by definition these conditions are atypical and do not invalidate the rule for what is typical. Its not like we start saying humans can have three or four legs when a random mutation happens that causes that in someone. We’re still a bipedal species. Or are our legs on a spectrum now too?

Now onto the gender binary – which should be quicker, because… well… yeah they’re not talking about the actual idea of gender that relates to intersex and trans people. The idea that your brain is wired one way and your body set up another. Like trying to play an Xbox One game on a SNES. One of these things does not fit with the other and its gonna cause you issues. They’re instead talking about the social constructionist view of gender, the one that feminists tend to use.

This idea relies on roles and expression fundamentally altering your identity. So a male who is a man who likes to get dommed in bed and wear frilly dresses sometimes, gets a new identity different to other men because of that. He places somewhere else on the spectrum to the dude with the beard who only fucks from behind while the TV is on. Whereas trans inverts that, identity – what your brain says you are – tends to inform your roles and expression. For example, my identity lead me to change my expression which now means people never ask me to carry heavy things any more. Its great (Y). Before anyone loses their shit, no, I don’t mean inherently, but all people take part in social roles in different ways as a matter of choice. If I wanted to lift heavy things I could insist that they let me. But I don’t, fuck that.

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A man who likes films like The Notebook is as much a man as a man who only watches gore videos on 4chan. A woman who hunts deer and feasts on their still beating heart is as much a woman as the home-maker who bakes and always has nice nails. That’s the function of the binary, its important because it makes all women equally women and all men equally men. A spectrum inherently puts people either on the more of a man side of the scale or more of a woman side of the scale. Which implies they’re less of a man or less of a woman, as if its a percentage you can have.

I get the idea, I get wanting to try and be all like “ooh look guys, we’re all the same because we’re all on the same spectrum” – but maybe if you want people to be the same, and to be inclusive and intersectional. Just maybe you shouldn’t keep drawing up arbitrary lines between things? Because whether the lines are blurry at the edges or not, there are still distinctive labels and separations between colours in the colour spectrum. The same holds true for the gender and sex spectrums and well… that’s hardly inclusive at all.

 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “The spectrum idea and why I don’t like thing

  1. ☠️Melissa Karlee☠️ (@MelissaKarlee) says:

    I think the people who use the gender-spectrum argument have their hearts in the right place. I think they want to create a social environment where GNC men and women can still be men and women. I also think it is used to validate transsexuals in their own terms.

    It is also often poorly argued and followed up by rather unsavory behavior. I can think of a few people who’ve actually done well in arguing for it. Contrapoints’ video Gender did a great job in presenting the argument in a way that makes sense and doesn’t have any crazy bullshit attached to it (fair warning, Contrapoints is a little out there but Contrapoints argument is not).

    Not that I agree with everything Contrapoints said in that video but he did present his argument in a cohesive manner.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A.R. says:

    Good criticism of the sex/gender spectrum concept, although in defense of the idea, I always saw it as heuristic to help understand the blurriness and overlap between categories. Like, to use your example of secondary sex characteristics in males, like facial hair, or sexual dimorphism in terms of height, some males are not gonna grow beards and some are gonna be shorter than women. You’re correct that these attributes alone don’t make them not-male, we can still substantively talk about sex in terms of reproduction and it generally holds true, but it does mean that categorical definitions like “men can grow beards” or “men are taller than women” impose stricter divisions than actually exist in nature.

    I also understand gender as a social construction more as something built from sex that winds up imposing ideas back onto sex. So if men generally tend to be taller than women, this becomes an expectation imposed onto men, that if they are shorter than women, there is something less manly about them. Which, yeah, if you understand the spectrum as suggesting the less tall men are less manly, winds up just reinforcing sexism toward men. But the underlying problem is the imposition of strict binary definitions of what a man or woman should be.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Louis Naughtic says:

    People have different personalities. Some are weak, some are strong. A woman can be physically strong, mentally strong, and a sagacious leader, without outwardly appearing male. A man can be a useless, simpering, manipulative less bitch, while dressed in a soldier’s uniform.

    It appears that the entire “nonbinary” movement has an obsession with reinforcing and comforting to stereotypical gender roles – contrary to it’s proclaimed goals. MTF dress up as males to be treated as how they imagine males a stereotypically treated; the reverse with FTM; and the androgynous tend to sleep with everyone that passes them, and exploit the social influence that grants.

    So, I’m confused. The entire thing seems completely unnecessary, barring the possible legitimacy of dysphoria?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. DragunFyre says:

    My personal views on this are that many of these people seem to confuse the idea of “spectrum” with “vector”. Essentially, you can be more masculine or feminine, regardless of your biological sex. So they throw in this, wholly unnecessary, “spectrum” idea under the guise of appearing inclusive. When the reality is that they’re just pandering in order to make themselves feel good and morally superior.

    From my experience with people, most humans just want to be left alone to fit in with society as unobtrusively as possible. So, the undo focus/spotlight/etc on people makes their lives more difficult, not less so. So when you’re constantly slamming people over the head for the sake of “inclusivity”, you’re actually hurting the people you claim to be helping.

    Which, I suppose, is a long way to go about saying that things were better off left the way they were. No talks of spectrums/etc. Let the group speak for themselves. In this case, the trans folks. So many people have the misguided notion of speaking for a group they’re not a member of to try and make themselves feel good. If the group is question has an issue they need addressed, let them bring it up. Otherwise, your moral posturing is nothing but hot air being used to blow smoke up the asses of people who probably know better but also want to feel good about themselves.

    My ADD is kicking in, and I’ve been drinking so this is probably rambling nonsense at this point, but maybe I’ve made a point or two somewhere along the way. In conclusion, I’d just like to say that rum is delicious and humans are fascinating creatures… I should probably stop typing now…

    Like

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