Sex versus Gender

Article excerpt

by Loretta A. Kane, former Vice President-Action

I have great concerns about the trend to embrace gender - both as a term and as the foundation of a political movement. My primary opposition is that gender is nothing more than an arbitrary social construct, the sole purpose of which is to keep women in subservient roles.

According to Merriam-Webster, gender is "the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex" - while sex is defined as "either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as female or male." In other words, gender is subjective. Sex is biological.

While Gertrude Stein might argue that "a rose is a rose is a rose," I believe that the difference between sex and gender is of paramount importance to women and the feminist movement. Further, the new "gender rights movement" - which is touted by many as the logical next step in the so-called post-feminist era - will, ultimately, hurt women.

I have visited many college campuses across the country. During all of my trips, I have held organizing meetings to work with students, faculty and staff on a variety of feminist campaigns. The first place I land on a campus is always the women's studies department. (And that has been true without fail.) While I am not a big fan of academic feminism, it is the case that women's studies breeds feminists. And some of those feminists are just waiting for us to turn them into activists. (Many, of course, already are activists!)

The patriarchy understands the power of women's studies. And one of the most effective weapons against women's studies is gender studies. Time after time, I have encountered women's studies professors who have been under attack because women's studies is "sexist." They are pressured to convert their programs to gender studies - which, of course, is alright because it includes men.

If left unchallenged, gender studies programs will usher in the end of women's studies, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) studies. And it also will open the door for men's studies courses to be taught in the name of fairness. How long before we see Wade Horn or some other misogynist fathers' rights leader teaching gender studies courses? By embracing gender, academia is poised to weaken or annihilate already struggling women's studies programs throughout the country.

Similarly, I believe that the gender rights movement will have the same impact on the feminist movement. …