Postgenderism

Postgenderism is a topic I’ve only come across recently but its something which I have put some thought towards. I’m guessing most people have no idea what I’m talking about right now, so I had best explain what postgenderism is.

The concept is fairly simple, organisms on earth reproduce. Some do so asexually (one parent) others do so sexually (two parents). Sexual systems are further divided into two types. The first are the hermaphrodites where all members of the species are the same ‘gender’, they all have both female and male reproductive organs. The second is the type we are used to, where there are two separate genders and you need one of each to reproduce.

However we really should ask ourselves why this is the case. Why have two genders in the first place? Why not stick with asexuality? The answer is an evolutionary one, having two genders means you get genetic mix in a population ergo more diversity ergo a more resilient species on the whole. You may then ask, why is it that we do not see species with more than two sexes? Surely it makes sense that if you had more than two sexes you would see greater diversity. The answer to this question is a harder one and one I can only make a guess at. The most likely reason is practicality, its just too much work to deal with three sexes, it just makes reproduction more difficult. Furthermore the evolution which developed into sexuality occurred very early in evolutionary history (in an early Eukaryote) thus there may be the problem of finding an appropriate evolutionary pathway to a third (or more) gender. In other words, because of that early evolutionary pathway we’re stuck with it.

Postgenderism Male Female

So now I have explained what genderism is. Having two genders seems natural to us, but is it for the best? The postgenderism movement says it is not. One of the main reasons for this is equality. Genders are not equal – they are in no biological way equal. Up until recently women have been way behind men in human rights, even now in many countries around the world they suffer horrible injustice. The feminist movement says that females should have equal rights to males, the humanist movement says both genders should be equal and the postgenderism movement says we should not have genders at all. So what would a world without gender be like? Is such a world even possible? And is such a world desirable?

A World Without Gender

I’ll start with whether a world without gender is possible. The short of it is that currently it isn’t possible, but it might very well be possible soon. I’ve mentioned transhumanism before, the genetic modification of our species for beneficial reasons, and if this movement continues we will see the possibility to remove gender appear. In Japan scientists have already succeeded in turning rat eggs into sperm (which produce viable offspring), furthermore work on artificial wombs is ever increasing. Scientists are now growing whole organs in vitro and our understanding of genetics and the human brain is ever increasing. The power will be in our hands – the question is how shall we use it?

Before I go further I should mention the malleability of what people like and are attracted to, these traits are purely genetic and changeable. Just because something doesn’t sound appealing to you in your current body doesn’t mean you couldn’t be changed to feel that way – its just replacing one imperative with another.

A world without gender could take a few different forms. The first and most obvious choice is to make all humans hermaphrodites – that is with both sets of sexual organs. Another slightly more complex and cunning way of achieving this may be to design the organs such that they can be grown (by choice) into one type or the other through specific hormones. Another possible world is where humans pass on the ability to reproduce themselves and instead entrust this process to professionals and machines – who can take and work with genetic code in complex manors (in effect they could gain the advantages of having a race with as many genders as it has individuals) using advanced technology to make reproduction something different.

Benefits of Postgenderism

But what is the point? Why should we change from our current system? There are a few key benefits of such new systems:

Postgenderism

1. Social

Postgenderism argues that our current system is deeply flawed and will never be able to reach an equilibrium. We live in an awkward world which values equality of all people on earth, yet which cannot achieve even simple equality thanks to the vast differences between genders. Thus the removal of gender, or the combination of it, would lead to a world which is more equal for all humans.

2. Biological

Postgenderism could yield vital biological advancement to the human race. In the early days of the human race our ability to use technology outpaced our evolution. Culture became our new form of advancement and while we have advanced past our wildest dreams culturally and technologically we have been by and large stuck in the same bodies we started with. Postgenderism is not only a change we can make to our species – it enables other changes to be made more easily.

Imagine a world where each person in the world contributes their DNA into a database for reproduction. This database can work with our DNA (and other dna for that matter) to create the next generation of children. We will get amazing diversity and combination of genomes. In a single generation we will lose the concept of race (another one of those huge issues facing social equality), we will all be the same “race” and we will all be equally related. No longer will your parents be more related to you than others, every human will be just as closely related to one another. We will be able to engineer a tremendous diversity in our species and through that diversity, strength.

Problems of Postgenderism

Genetic DatabaseThere are also problems with postgenderism however. One of the main concerns would be our increased reliance on technology – although one could argue that we are already beyond the point of no return in that regard. A second problem of course is that we can’t just enforce postgenderism on people, it needs to be chosen by the public as a whole. Even if the majority favor the concept there will be a minority which will resist it – this may be good or bad, perhaps this resistance will just die out eventually.

There are some other concerns with the concept but most are unfounded. I believe a lot of people will have a natural distaste of the concept because they will fear it. Humans LIKE having two genders, we are attracted to one, the other or both. These attractions are natural and its hard to imagine a world where that is not the case. This is not to say that this is the death of sexuality. Postgenderists go to lengths to mention that that is NOT the emphasis of their movement, sexuality can be preserved and even enhanced – but it will no longer be tied to undesirable social inequality. Depending on the way things go sexuality may become a construct outside of reproduction in which case it will likely move to either a more recreational place or something more deeply rooted in relationships. Love would  not be a casualty of postgenderism, but it would become different to the way it has been.

Time will tell what direction this movement goes in and there is still a long time before it becomes something which is a public topic. However the movement is growing and if equality is the ideal we hold it to be – it may be the path humanity takes.


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~ by Myles O'Neill on September 9, 2009.

7 Responses to “Postgenderism”

  1. Hi, we just posted an article addressing postgender on mute- you might find it interesting:

    When Nothing is Produced
    By Marcel Stoetzler

    http://www.metamute.org/content/when_nothing_is_produced

    Bourgeois society’s reduction of sexuality to the logic of (re)production results in a series of rigid dichotomies. Drawing on a rich history of radical theory, Marcel Stoetzler rejects sexual dimorphism and the gay/straight split to imagine a sexuality that is free to recreate itself

  2. I hope nothing of this will never happen. And i know it won´t. Horror scenario. Really.

  3. My video on the topic

    http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=2F159E2FB9FEB466

  4. Great summary of the topic. Really awesome that you take the time to write a clarifying article on this. We featured it on http://manniskaplus.org yesterday.

    Ben Goertzel offers a post-sexuality perspective: http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/goertzel20100123/

  5. many earth worms have male female sex organs as well as multiple plants having hermaphrodite plant with both carpels and stamens is rare but is present
    i although think that the sea horse displays a very strange adaptation that is beyond me but maybe an evolutionary change from male to female also catch me here probability.possibility@gmail.com

  6. I think it’s a very interesting idea, but I really don’t like the idea of using technology to achieve this end. I think human society would be better off if it were culturally androgynous–that is, that men and women are not bound by gender stereotypes. Of course, there will always remain some difference, given that biologically it is women who give birth, but all other differences are more or less cultural. Using technology to achieve this, I think, is dangerous, because it could give rise to new inequalities. A post-genderizing technology would probably be available only by those who can afford it. In the distant future, maybe people who still retain a gender will be ostracized. Men who can’t give birth might be regarded as freaks, and so on. Just saying…there’s always a law of unintended consequences….

  7. […] of gender binary has limited human potential, and that there should be an elimination at birth through neurotechnologies, biotechnologies and reproductive technologies. Yet, to ignore wtm transmen, continue legislation against women’s reproductive choice (when […]

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