It has been long thought that there were just two sexes. After all, Genesis proclaimed that God created them “male” and “female”. All cultures throughout history have seen fit to distinguish the sexes in this manner. There are separate restrooms and separate Olympic events for men and women. Men and women are distinctive in their attire, their voices, and in their biology. When a baby comes into the world, the first question is whether it is a boy or girl. Tax forms require a check in the boxes marked “m” or “f”. The sex of a person, male or female, is the first thing you notice in another and the last thing you are likely to forget. How important is the binary division of the sexes to society? According to sociologist Margaret Mead, “If any human society—large or small, simple or complex, based on the most rudimentary hunting and fishing, or on the whole elaborate interchange of manufactured products—is to survive, it must have a pattern of social life that comes to terms with the differences between the sexes.”
Well, as a result of a revolution of staggering proportions, all this has changed. Facebook, the social media giant that serves approximately 1.15 billion monthly users throughout the world, is adding 50 different terms by which people can identify their sexuality. Among the new sexual identities are “androgynous,” “bi-gender,” “intersex,” “gender fluid,” and “transsexual”. However, this may be too limiting a number for those who see gender as a spectrum that may contain an infinite number of sexual identities.
How has this come about and is it something which we must all accept? Its roots are in a form of Neo-Marxism that sees the relationship between man and woman not as complementary, but as oppressive. Just as, according to Marx, the capitalist class oppressed the working class, men oppressed women. In the words of Friedrich Engels, “The first class antagonism in history coincides with the antagonism between men and women in monogamous marriage, and the first class oppression with that of the female sex by the male.”
The revolution that Marx and Engels initiated was liberation from oppression so that each individual would gain the freedom to become himself/herself. The oppressed class was a stereotype. Gender feminists, following Marxism, have sought to eradicate three categories of stereotypes by deconstructing masculinity and femininity, mother, father, husband, and wife, and finally, socially constructed roles that are assigned to one sex or the other. Thus, the deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Lacan can proclaim, “There is no such thing as Woman.”
Once liberated from stereotypes and artificial categories, people would no longer feel trapped. Because gender, according to the theory, was entirely socially constructed, people could define themselves as they pleased. In a paper prepared for the Beijing Conference on Women, Anne Fausto Sterling penned, “The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female Are Not Enough.” She added “herms,” merms,” and “ferms” to the traditional two. First Things reported that the University of Chicago was adding new bathrooms for those who felt uncomfortable about classifying themselves within the “hegemonic taxonomies of bourgeois heteronormativity”.
Jean-Paul Sartre, a Marxist in his own right, argued that there is no such thing as a human being. He did not want the person whom convention refers to as a human being to be imprisoned by a label. His philosophy called for “absolute freedom”. Simone de Beauvoir, the long-time colleague of Sartre, begins he epoch making book, The Second Sex, by declaring that the term “female” is derogatory “because it imprisons her in her sex”.
The current fascination with a multiplicity of genders is based on two erroneous assumptions. The first is that all men oppress all women. All the loving marriages throughout history, and they are numberless, attest to this fallacy. The second is that freedom reaches its zenith in the absence of any restricting nature. One misguided thinker believed that a bird could fly at maximum speed if he flew into a resistance-less vacuum. In a vacuum, of course, they bird could not breath nor would it have any air against which it could flap its wings.
The fact that one is a woman does not restrict her identity. As Shakespeare says of Cleopatra, “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety” (Antony and Cleopatra). Our nature does not limit us, but defines us. Our truest freedom is not in becoming something we cannot be, but in being ourselves, something that requires both freedom and realistic common sense.
Dr. Donald DeMarco is adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College & Seminary in Cromwell, CT, a Senior Fellow of Human Life International and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. This article has been published by kind permission of Human Life International’s Truth and Charity Forum.