Gender Fluidity & Social Construction

30 January 2018

It is popular in certain circles to think of gender as a fluid spectrum: People can fall on many points between "very feminine" and "very masculine," and where they fall can change over time. In this Prospect article, Julian Baggini provides his own tweak to this framework. He argues for gender viscosity instead of gender fluidity, where one moves along the gender spectrum over a longer time frame.

In making this argument, he advances some interesting claims regarding the status of gender as both biological and socially constructed. For me, it raised the question—how much of gender is left after we take away its socially constructed component? Would the difference between biological sexes really get us any closer to our system of gender differentiation?

Here's the article:

Comments (1)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, February 1, 2018 -- 8:44 AM

I read Mr. Baggini's account

I read Mr. Baggini's account/description of what he calls gender viscosity. Interesting. If we operate on the premise that gender is at least partially a social construct, it is pretty easy to see how perceptions of gender identity can and have changed over time. In my view, part of this has to do with the notion that we are less morally-bound by traditions and beliefs, particularly in societies where emphasis on these has eroded---if you do not like that word, then choose another you find less offensive. In any case, here in the west and in other modern cultures, there seems to be, more and more, an anything goes sort of approach to, well, anything. Experimentation is a popular way of saying: I can be anyone or anything I want and don't have to feel badly about my choices, as long as I am hurting no one else. That as-long-as gets increasingly vague with the passage of time and relaxation of constraints. Frame this any way you wish. As the Kinks put it in their immensely popular song, Lola, (and as it was similarly phrased in Baggini's Prospect piece): "Girls will be boys and boys will be girls, it's a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world...and so's my Lola. L-o-l-a Lola...") Anything goes.