Does Gender Actually Matter?
by Matt Coot
Male and female; would you believe it if I told you that these terms are not the only gender identities that people identify themselves as? Would you believe me if I told you that there are over one hundred different identities. Welcome to 2017; the world is a different place and your perception of gender needs a reboot.
Yesterday saw the announcement of the latest actor to be cast as The Doctor. Jodie Whittaker is a wonderful actor, she has played her roles with absolute perfection. She is incredibly talented. However, the fact that she is a she seems to be a problem for some people. But why? The Doctor is a time-travelling alien from a planet that is different from our own. Gender doesn’t matter. Timelords do not bother with such petty human identification stereotypes. The Doctor has never been male. The Doctor isn’t female. The Doctor is a Timelord. So why does it matter that a female actor is going to play the role? It doesn’t matter and it shouldn’t matter. The Doctor is genderfluid. So get over it.
There are over 100 different gender identities. ONE HUNDRED. Gender is no longer binary. It is no longer one thing or another. As Charlie Hobman said it best, during a TEDx Talk (below), “gender identity is not a straight line…it is a whole entire spectrum”. Gender identity is fascinating and it is fantastic. Gender has evolved and we require a supportive society for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer) issues. But not all of society is supportive. There are some in society who are still arguing over sexist matters that should be left in the past. We need to learn and we need to keep moving forward.
However, for this next section I’d like to put aside the matter of there being one hundred different gender identities in existence and just focus on the traditional (outdated) binary identities of male and female. Don’t worry, I’m not reversing my perception of identity, I just want to be able to write this next part without worrying about people focusing on trying to find loopholes in my grammar when I’m using him/her pronouns. Anyway, for this next part, we shall focus on the binary identities. I want to focus on the archaic suffixes and prefixes that we attach to words to make them gender specific. These include: fireman, waitress, actress, policeman, and mayoress. In fact, the term ‘mayoress’ is the one that I would like to focus on.
Saltash Town Council have been, and will be continuing to be, debating whether the Mayor’s Consort will be able to wear the “Mayoress’ Chain”. This is because the mayor of Saltash is female and her consort is her husband, a man. The argument is that a man should not be wearing a chain that is specifically to be worn by a woman. This, in my view, is sexism and, if it goes ahead, would be breaking the law under the Equality Act 2011. However, that is not my only problem with this debate. The chain shouldn’t have such a sexist name. Mayoress suggests that either women are not capable of being mayor and can only be the mayor’s consort, or that when the mayor is a woman that they require a different term to be addressed by because they are different to any other mayor. This is ridiculous and archaic. The correct term for the chain would be “The Mayoral Consort’s chain” (or similar). It should not be gender specific. In fact, as already explored in this article, we live in a world where there isn’t a binary gender identification system anymore. We live in a world with over one hundred different gender identities. By being specific with gender, the town council would be excluding those who identify themselves as being a different gender to that of the sexist name of the item.
Casual sexism should not be allowed to continue. I applaud Andy Murray for intervening during a press conference when a reporter was sexist during a question. The reporter was asking Murray for his opinion on Sam Querrey, who had just beaten Murray, being the first American to make it to a major semi-final. Murray interrupted the question to clarify that the reporter had meant the first male American tennis player, because – of course – there have been many female American tennis players who have reached semi-finals and even finals. This was a great example of a sporting hero standing up against sexism. I applaud Andy Murray for this, because there is no place for sexism in our modern world. And, actually, there’s no such thing as casual sexism. The term ‘casual’ has been used by many as a way to make it sound harmless. There’s no such thing as sexism that’s harmless. It is just wrong.
Gender is a fascinating subject to write about. I am sure that this won’t be my last article on the subject, but I am proud that this is my first. I accept all gender identities. I am understanding of people who do not feel like they fit into a particular box that society has laid out for them. Life, the world, should be freer than that. We should not have to tick a box to say we are either male or female. This is offensive. There are over one hundred different gender identities, we shouldn’t be forced to choose between two. We also shouldn’t be excluding members of our society from taking part in important matters. We should encourage everyone to reach for their potential and to do whatever they believe in.
Does gender matter? Of course it does. It matters what we identify as, what makes us feel like we can belong. It matters that we can be comfortable in our bodies and in the world. But does it matter what other people think? No, but unfortunately it always feels like it does. People should be accepted for who they are, not for what you believe they should be.
Welcome to 2017. This world is a different place to the one you were born in. That’s a good thing. The world is evolving and society is changing for the better. Open your eyes, open your heart, and open your mind. Welcome to 2017; do you require a reboot?