[Religion News Service, August 22, 1995]
Quick, how many genders do you think there are? Two? Three, if you count Richard Simmons?
Such stingy thinking is scorned by some of those preparing for the Fourth World Conference on Women, to be held in Beijing next month. The Draft Platform for Action, adopted at a "PrepCom" (Preparatory Committee meeting) in New York, asserts that "the differences between women’s and men’s achievements and activities are … the consequences of socially constructed gender roles rather than immutable biological differences." At the meeting, venerable feminist warhorse Bella Abzug thundered, "We will not be forced back to the `biology is destiny’ concept."
Once gender is liberated from biology, there’s no reason to stop counting. A topic enthusiastically discussed by some attending the PrepCom was the notion that the world must come to understand "an equality of five genders." Those five would include male and female heterosexuality, male and female homosexuality, and trans or bisexuals. A possible sixth: "omnisexuality," apparently covering those who will press their affections on anything unwary enough to stand still in their vicinity.
A paper circulated at the PrepCom (subtitled "Why Male and Female are Not Enough") introduces us to male and female, herms, merms and ferms (hermaphrodites, male pseudo‑hermaphrodites and female pseudo‑hermaphrodites). The combined count would raise us to nine genders, and we still don’t know where to put Michael Jackson.
One of the senior U.S. delegates to the Beijing gathering, Marjorie Margolies‑Mevinsky, maintains that the purpose of the conference is not to re‑define gender or sexual conduct, but rather to focus on issues that concern women and girls around the world.
That may be so. And all this "five gender" talk may simply be the buzzings of the radical fringe. But that doesn’t explain why the rules of political correctness demand that we say "gender" when "sex" is what we really mean to say. "Gender," as used by feminist activists, indicates that sex roles and behaviors are artificially constructed and freely chosen. Such roles, liberated from biology, are only tangentially related to the equipment that came standard at delivery.
Thus, the word "gender" appears 216 times in the 120‑page "Platform for Action" that will be presented in Beijing. By contrast, the words "mother," "father," "wife," and "husband" don’t appear at all. Thus "gender" isn’t a simple descriptive term; "gender" equals "agenda."
Is it a negative agenda? It is a hot‑house agenda, one powered by feminist dreams that have little to do with the real‑life choices of most women. The platform demands 50 percent female representation in all appointed and elected jobs; one imagines women dragged away from nursing babies in order to serve on village councils, whether they want to or not.
"Mainstreaming a gender perspective" means conscious promotion of alternative sexualities, something that probably sounds splendid in Manhattan but is going to appear bizarre in traditional religious communities elsewhere. The gender agenda is cultural imperialism of the worst sort, imposing Western notions of recreational sex on others’ beliefs, and ignoring the wisdom worked out in communities over the millennia.
We’ve tried unhinging sex from marriage in America over the last 30 years, and it has been a colossal failure, resulting in more divorce, abortion, impoverishment of women and children, sexually‑transmitted disease, and generalized heartbreak than ever known before. Any country that believes the developed Western nations have something to teach them about handling sexuality could be profitably approached about buying a bridge.
No matter how we pout and moan, some aspects of biology are indeed destiny. Strange as it sounds, sexuality is intrinsically linked to reproduction; all animals are driven to reproduce. Human ingenuity may find nine or 12 alternate ways to express sexuality, but most people are going to find it most naturally linked to having babies. Raising a human baby is a two‑parent job, so most people will hope to form monogamous unions that retain their
benefits ‑‑ companionship, pleasure, mutual support ‑‑ even when the children are grown.
Diane Knippers, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, will lead the Ecumenical Coalition on Women and Society delegation to Beijing. She was planning to attend a recent meeting on Capitol Hill protesting the tilt of the conference, and toying with the idea of carrying a sign: "I’m for sex, not for gender."
"But what if your picture winds up on the front page of the paper?" a friend asked Knippers. She replied, "My husband would love it."
Off in the distance, the gender feminists were screaming.