A brief history of ‘gender’

Please read this excellent analysis of the word ‘gender.’

language: a feminist guide

In New York City in 1999, I heard a talk in which Riki Anne Wilchins (self-styled ‘transexual menace’, and described in the Gender Variance Who’s Who as ‘one of the iconic transgender persons of the 1990s’) declared that feminists had no theory of gender. I thought: ‘what is she talking about? Feminists invented the concept of gender!’

Fast forward ten years to 2009, when I went to a bookfair in Edinburgh to speak about The Trouble & Strife Reader, a collection of writing from a feminist magazine I’d been involved with since the 1980s. Afterwards, two young women came up to chat. Interesting book, they said, but why is there nothing in it about gender?

From my perspective the book was allabout gender—by which I meant, in Gayle Rubin’s 1975 formulation, ‘the socially-imposed division of the sexes’. Feminists of my generation understood gender as part of the…

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8 thoughts on “A brief history of ‘gender’

  1. Someone recently suggested that we replace “gender” with “sex stereotypes,” and I’ve been endeavoring to do that. Because they are in fact one and the same, and the former term contains an implication of legitimizing those sex stereotypes.

    Liked by 1 person

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