Judith Lorber ‘Imagining a World without Gender’

I stole this excellent piece which is from Lorber’s “Breaking the Bowls” from this Paste-Pound. I thought it was too good and too interesting to leave there.

Imagining a World without Gender

Judith Lorber

Brooklyn College and Graduate Center, CUNY. Reprinted from Breaking the Bowls

Love and sexuality, friendships and intimacies revolve around people with a mutual attraction to each other’s bodies, intellects, interests and personalities. Males inseminate willing females through copulation or provide sperm for insemination. Females who want to, give birth to infants. These infants become part of families of different kinds of kinship groups and households composed of a variety of responsible adults. The are breast-fed by lactating females and care for by competent child minders. They receive love and affection from the older children and adults in their circles of relationships. Their favorites and role models vary over time, but there is at least one legally responsible adult for every child.

Children are not sexed at birth — their genitalia are irrelevant in the choice of names, blankets, and clothing. “A child is born to…,” the announcements read. In play groups and schools, children are organized by age, size, talents, skills, reading ability, math competence, whatever the needs of the group. Children’s talents, skills, and interests shape their choices of further education or job training.

If we can assume nonassortment by other invidious categories, such as racial ethnic group, people would be hired on the basis of their credentials, experience, interviewing skills, and connections. The salary scales and prestige value of occupations and professions depend on the various kinds of social assessments, just as they do now, but the positions that pay best and are valued most are not monopolized by any one type of person. Science is done by scientists, teaching by teachers, cultural production by writers, artists, musicians, dancers, singers, actors, and media producers. The beliefs and values and technologies of the time and place govern the content.

Positions of public authority in corporations, bureaucracies, and governments are attained by competition, sponsorship and patronage, networking, and other familiar forms of mobility. Charity, honesty, and competence are as evident as corruption, double-dealing, and shoddy work — people are people.

So there are still murders, war, and other forms of violence, although perhaps through an ethical evolution, societies might develop in which people are taught how to handle anger and conflict in positive ways. But rules are made to be broken, so there is still need for police and soldiers, judges and prison guards.

Games and sports are placed for fitness and fun. New games have been devised that put less emphasis on body shapes and more on skill. In competitions, people of different levels of body functioning and abilities compete against one another in a variety of “Olympics.”

In the major and minor religions, new liturgies and rituals are in use, but old ones are turned to for their historical cultural value, as are old novels, plays, songs, and operas. Those who have the calling and the talent lead congregations and prayer services and speak for the god(s).

New language forms have been developed that do not mark or categorize the speaker or the spoken about. The old forms of language and literature are studied for their archaic beauty and what they tell us about the way people used to live and behave and think.

People group and identify themselves on the basis of all sorts of similarities and differences. Sometimes those who identify with each other wear similar clothing or hair styles or jewelry or cosmetics. Sometimes these displays become fashions for all who consider themselves chic. Group and individual ways of speaking, dressing, and behaving serve as cues for interaction and distancing.

There are no women or men, boys or girls — just parents and children, siblings and cousins, and other newly named kin, and partners and lovers, friends and enemies, managers and workers, rulers and ruled, conformers and rebels. People form social groups and have statuses and positions and rights and responsibilities — and no gender. The world goes on quite familiarly but is radically changed — gender no longer determines an infant’s upbringing, a child’s education, an adult’s occupation, a parent’s care, and economy’s distribution of wealth, a country’s politicians, the world’s power brokers.

3 Replies to “Judith Lorber ‘Imagining a World without Gender’”

  1. Wonderful vision but of course, we can only get there by seeing sex and measuring and fighting against females’ subordinate status and patriarchal institutions and practices currently prevalent. Also, In my gender free utopia, I see no problem with observing and noting a child’s sex at birth just as I do with my dogs and cats though a child’s sex should not determine its dress, personality, skills, who they love, future work or role in the world except for sexual reproduction (should they choose to engage in such). Also, in my opinion, an egalitarian society free of gender roles and sex and race oppression and hierarchy would have no room for war or class hierarchy either and would be far more democratic in every aspect of life than anything we have seen in many millenium.

  2. How about a world where each child is cherished and celebrated for who they are? That female children are wanted, parents are excited and enthusiastic about her? Her potential and her talents not dictated by her sex but her sex is recognized and celebrated as part of who she is, just not *the* most important part of her.

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