Gender binary is the classification of both sex and gender into two distinct and disconnected categories. The unrealistic expectations that go along with the labels boy and girl, leave people striving to meet standards that harm others and themselves. Take masculinity for example; “[Society] constructed an idea of masculinity in the United States that doesn’t give young boys a way to feel secure in their masculinity. So [they are made to] prove it all the time.” (Dr. Michael Kimmel, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hc45-ptHMxo) This creates hypermasculinity, which causes gender based violence, and low self-esteem. Now let’s switch to femininity. It is displayed in media with violent and oppressive images that shapes how women are viewed; as objects to be utilized by men.
The gender binary also hurts those who do not fit the binary. They do not meet societal expectations, and therefore face ostracisation and become victims of bullying and violence. The exclusive gender binary creates a divide which disconnects genders completely. Colonialism views gender as an either/or, not as fluid scale. This is an issue as the expectations are of the extreme ends of the scale, which leaves people in the middle to pick a side or risk exclusion.
For myself, it was interesting to discover the extent that gender binary hurts all people. I had assumed that without the pressures of femininity and masculinity, that scrutinization would be minimized, not magnified. It is important to undo the gender binary so that it gives people the ability to feel secure in themselves. Undoing gender is difficult, but it starts with simple changes such as using non-gender specific compliments, encouraging people to experience emotions across the gender spectrum, and uplift the voices of those who reject the gender binary. I also try to reassuring the men in my life that masculinity does not rely on proof, and I create my own expectations of what it means to be my best self. It is through hard work and conscious effort that the gender binary will be dismantled.
How do you plan to or already partake in the dismantlement of the gender binary?
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