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September 16, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Editorial – Gender

You don’t need a BA majoring in gender studies to realise that judging people based on what’s in their pants is pretty unhelpful, fairly arbitrary, and most definitely an outdated view of things.

The gender binary—much like all of the other black-and-white ways of viewing the world that we’ve long since done away with—is an unhelpful construct which seems to do more harm than it does good. Why do we expect to understand how someone should act, talk, or dress; what they should like or who they should love; how they should identify, or what they should call themselves—simply because, way down on a genetic level, they’re more XX than XY or vice versa?

Unlike our mothers, whose views about how they should be treated have a more female-centric focus (“I am female, hear me roar”), we feel—and have always felt—that gender is pretty irrelevant to us. We expect to be assessed as people, rather than women; addressed by our names, rather than as “Ladies”. Neither of us have ever felt like our gender has genuinely hampered us reaching our potential at University—procrastination and laziness hasn’t had anything to do with the fact that we have boobs; our tendency to overshare on social media is more likely to hinder our job prospects than the fact we don’t have a dick.

Yes, there are differences. We get periods, contraception is more expensive and generally considered our responsibility, and we spend a fortune on bras. But for us, these inconveniences are just unfortunate biological facts of life—and have nothing to do with how we see ourselves or expect to be treated.

That being said, we realise that our ambivalence towards our own genders doesn’t mean that ongoing disparities between males and females—not to mention the oppression of those who don’t fit into those arbitrary classifications—don’t exist. Simply refusing to assign a great deal of significance to the gender binary doesn’t mean that it won’t affect us. We will soon leave our comfortable, equal, liberal university bubble, graduating only to be greeted by a 9 per cent gender pay gap, and a lesser likelihood of career progression into leadership positions than our male counterparts.

In an ideal world, these leadership positions would be filled on the basis of an individual’s capabilities, rather than—on the one hand—because society has determined one gender’s ‘qualities’ are ‘better-suited’ to the role, or—on the other hand—because society sees the error of its gender-based assumptions and seeks to fix the problem by promoting one gender over another in a clumsy process that hurts everyone and benefits no one.

In an ideal world, disparities in numbers of males and females in our Parliament and on our boards of trustees wouldn’t matter because they wouldn’t reflect an inherent disparity between the genders themselves. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t matter who is making a decision, or who’s in charge, so long as the decisions they’re making are both informed and fair. It doesn’t take a vagina to know that our abortion legislation is in desperate need of reform—just like it doesn’t take a penis to drink beer, be sexually empowered, or operate a drill.


Molly & Stella

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About the Author ()

Molly McCarthy and Stella Blake-Kelly are Salient Co-Editors for 2013, AKA Salient Babes.

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He Tāonga

:   I wanted to write this piece, in order to connect to all tauira within the University, with the hope that we can all remind ourselves that we are a part of an environment which is valuable, no matter our culture, our beliefs or our skin colour. The ultimate purpose of this