Rethinking Sex and Gender

BlogHer Original Post

One topic I feel I covered poorly in my short time as a contributing editor on Feminism & Gender at BlogHer is gender. The second definition of gender at Merriam-Webster Online is “a: SEX b : the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex,� but I don’t agree at that idea all. Gender means many different things to different audiences. Unlike the dictionary, in past posts, I tried hard to not equate gender with sex, not always successfully.

The naked blogging session at BlogHer ’06 reminded me why it is so critical to keep gender and sex separate. I arrived at the session 15 minutes late (as a result of running into the wonderful Arse Poetica on my way to the room), and as I walked in, panelist Lauren from Feministe was describing her experience blogging in the voice and persona of a man. She found that she is taken more seriously. This led to an interesting discussion on the disconnect between reader expectations and misconceptions about the relationship of sex and gender. SJ from I, Asshole commented from the audience that despite indicating on her blog that she is a woman, many of the comments and emails she received addressed her as a man until she began writing about her experiences as a mother. This sadly was the only thing that reconciled her biological equipment with her voice in some readers’ minds, although at one point, she “almost ran with that and grew the dick�* to meet their expectations.

Shuna, a food blogger at Eggbeater, later stood up and bravely (in my eyes, anyway) spoke about her experience blogging as a person whose gender and sex are not necessarily the same:

People take my photo and how I write to decide my gender for me... Me personally I feel we choose our gender, maybe that's just me. I'm going to go home and try to blog about the gender that I have chosen.*

I was incredibly moved by her honesty and willingness to share the details of striving for one’s own identity in a world that relies heavily on labels and stereotypes, and shoehorns people into convenient boxes.

Ultimately, I left the session questioning my own ideas about the intersection between sex and gender. Days later, it is something I still struggle with, as I expect will be the case for a long time to come, and most likely over the course of my life. Thanks to the panelists and audience members for being completely naked.

*Quotes taken from Liz Henry’s session notes on Huffington Post. Many thanks!

Suzanne also blogs at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants

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