Gender – theory or re-education programme?

by Gerlinde Höschter, Graz*

Is it possible to be in favour of the emancipation of women and the recognition of homosexual forms of life and yet argue against the gender ideology?

The power of taboo

Criticism on the issue of gender is a taboo in many circles because no one wants to be exposed to the blame of discrimination. In this way, even well meaning people who do not mind equality, but feel patronised by means of language regulation or the gentle repression of political correctness, become silent. But gender theory is not needed to solve political or ethical problems: the claim of political emancipation necessarily results from the concept “citizen”, and ethical rejection of discrimination can be gained from the concept “human being”. The assumption that these concepts already include discriminations is evidence only of the genderists’ ignorance, who obviously want to deal with political theory and anthropology only so far as it is neccssary to produce cheap enemy images.
If, however, genderism has no political and ethical surplus value, what is it for? Does it provide new insights or does it include a political re-education programme?

What is characteristic for gender ideology?

Core of this ideology is the assumption that both the biological sex and the social gender role is a product of social constructions. The classical constellation of man and woman – whether of heterosexual or homosexual orientation – is thus added to an almost endless diversity of sexes. Facebook distinguishes 58 genders, the genderists claim that there are thousands. However, the forms cited are completely inconsistent in a systematic way, because once anatomical findings, and another time roles from the homosexual subcultures or even preferred sexual practices are used for discrimination. Certainly, it is helpful that the focus is also placed on ambiguities, since there are people for whom the attribution to the man-woman-scheme becomes a burden. However, starting from these examples, denying the existence of the male and the female in general and depicting as a mere effect of a repressive society, certainly means to throw the baby out with the bath water.
In a key text by Judith Butler “Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity” it becomes obvious that it is not a matter of theory, that is, not recognising of which is the case, but rather a power strategy to transform reality. According to Butler the aim is subverting  and postponing “the naturalised and reified notions of gender that support male hegemony and
heterosexist power”. (p. 33/34) Thus genderism is a political subversion programme camouflaged as a theory or simpler: an ideology.

Human experiments with scalpel, hormones and training

The thesis of the social construction of sex was inspired by the human experiments of the American physician John Money.1 He had turned Bruce Reimer (b. 1965), whose penis had been irreparably destroyed during circumcision, an object of a surgical, hormonal and psychological sex transformation. Bruce was to become Brenda. In his publications and public appearances, he propagated the alleged success of his “therapy” and thereby nurtured the idea of any programmability of the sex. Alice Schwarzer, for example, invoked his experiments proving that gender was not given but made. The tragic fate of the boy became known far later. Right from the beginning – although the operation was carried out at the age of 22 months – he had refused to become the girl Money and the parents wanted to produce.2 Finally, he fought for the name David and a male identity. Nevertheless, the experiment had a traumatic effect, and he committed suicide in 2004. Money’s reputation as sexologist and the idea of a social construction and restructuring of the sex remained unaffected by this tragedy.

Criticism of the ideology

Genderism must be free to question whether it does not simply ignore the realities in favour of its political objectives, which should be further illuminated:
The fact of a historical and cultural diversity of gender roles is misinterpreted as a radically contingent construction. It would be more appropriate to speak of interpretations in which, on the one hand, the unavailability of the fateful sex and, on the other hand, human freedom in the process of dealing with it becomes visible. However, every interpretation remains bound to what it interprets. We exist as gender and interpret gender in social contexts.
Gender is thus not created by means of language, but is interpreted only within this language. Genderism is subject to naive or strategic logocentrism, which is why it is so obsessed with the control of language and the speaker. The reality of the speaker, however, is more and different from the reality he has just described. Analogously, there is a difference between the merely conceived gender and the thinking, sexual human being. In genderism both are equated naively, which leads to an alienation from one’s own body and its condition.

Political effects

Ideologies have two born enemies: logic and reality principle. The example of David Reimers and the contradictions cited should suffice to show the gaps of the approach and to put it into the moth-box of scientific scurrilities. The opposite is true: gender mainstreaming carries this baseless concept into all spheres of social life and forms a fatal alliance with the neoliberal economic model. Both have an interest in the eradication and isolation of human beings. Family policy in this light means a policy to destruct the family: emancipation is equated with employment, hospitalisation and institutionalisation of childhood is intended to compensate the work-life balance. The parental responsibility is called into question by early sexualisation and gender re-education in the institutions. The children are confronted with issues whose presentation and relevance do not correspond to their level of development. It is absurd if fifteen-year-olds plan a “brothel for all” during lessons.3

Family in the firing line

The family seems to be an important point of attack. Anthropologically, the family is a community characterised by erotic love between man and woman and family relationships among the generations. Family is more than a mere biological reproduction sit. It is a transcendental symbol of human life including suffering and passion. Individuals exist only because there are families. Therefore familiarity is also a non-cancellable way of being – even for homosexuals and transsexuals: Even if I break with my parents – for good reasons – my existence remains determined by the fate of childhood. The sex points out a deep dimension of relationship: it points at the counterpart and promises complement, it begets descendants and corresponds to the future. The thousands of social genders atomise the relational community of human beings into irrating gender particles without origin, without arrival, without future. Gender sociology recognises the family only as a social aggregate, as a temporary clump of vanities, who fulfill functions for each other, functions that could be taken over by other functionaries at any time. Thus the family loses all resistance to the access of political and economic interests and the people lose a protected space – private rootedness.    •

*     Pseudonym. The correct name is known to the editor.
1     Perthes et al. (Eds.): Menschenversuche. Frankfurt  2008. pp. 162.
2     Zastrow, Volker. “Gender Mainstreaming” In: “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” from 7 September  2006
3     Weber, Chr.: “Was Sie noch nie über Sex wissen wollten”. In: “Süddeutsche Zeitung” from 24 April 2014

(Translation Current Concerns)