Equality and Equity For All: Beyond The Gender Binary


In the early 1900s, the gender binary was still heavily enforced and, as such, people were forced into binary gender roles based on the sexes they were assigned at birth. At this point in time, people would often be thrown into the category of “male/man” or “female/woman”, completely disregarding the existences of people who fall outside of the binary, such as intersex people who were often coercively assigned a binary gender of male or female. This also erased the existences of people whose gender did not match their assigned sex (non-binary and transgender people).

Contrary to belief, the gender binary is a relatively new concept (Hughes and Dvorsky, 2). Transgender, non-binary, and intersex people have been present in American society since pre-colonial times. Similarly to modern day, many also faced rampant transphobia for not dressing how they were expected to and would even be forced to fit within the binary gender role of their assigned sex. Because of this, I will not be using terms like “man” or “woman” within this post except for clarification or elaboration purposes because it erases the identities of people who fought for equal rights and, as a non-binary person, I can’t justify using binary language.

The topic of equality has always been a roaring debate in society. In the 1920s, those who were [coercively*] assigned female at birth** [(C)AFAB] still did not have the right to vote and a movement began to change this. These amazing individuals challenged the sexist patriarchy that restrained them and eventually won. However, what does equality really mean? Let’s talk about that.

*refers to intersex people who were coercively assigned female or male at birth (CAFAB, CAMAB)
**refers to dyadic (non-intersex) people who were assigned female or male at birth (AFAB, AMAB)

Does equality require that people of all genders have the “same” rights and be subject to the same treatment, or does equality require “different” treatment?

I believe there is a difference between equality and equity. Equality would suggest that people of all genders have the same rights and therefore are subject to the same treatment. However, equity is more of a subset of equality; those who are (C)AFAB may be given different treatment than those who are (C)AMAB in some contexts but not in all. Equity is giving everyone the tools that they need in order to be successful while equality focuses on everyone receiving the same treatments. With that being said, equality and equity are both important standards to have in a society and both ideals mentioned above are necessary components to have in a fair and just world.

Equality requires that people of all genders have the same rights and be subject to the same treatment, but there needs to be more push for that requirement to be followed. There are still women, intersex people, transgender (especially transgender women), and non-binary people who still face extreme violence, discrimination, and erasure in comparison to men. This conversation can get really complex due to the fact that intersectionality exists and certain groups will have less privilege in society despite having a component of their identity that is privileged. However, I don’t think I can summarize all of this into one blog post.

Equality for people of all genders, not just men and women, is immensely important. It means everyone will be able to vote. Men won’t be seen as the superior gender and women won’t be seen as weaker. Nobody will have to fit into the binary gender roles that have been put in place. Women can be strong, educated, and motherly. They don’t have to be homemakers; they can work and do amazing things (Cott, 504). Men don’t have to give into toxic masculinity; they can be in touch with their emotions. They don’t have to be the breadwinners. Non-binary and transgender folks can live comfortably with themselves if there were equality for all genders. People of all genders could hold the same jobs, earn the same wages, and accomplish the same feats (Cott, 505). It would be easier to obtain access to certain resources and opportunities regardless of gender. Gender discrimination wouldn’t exist because everyone would be treated equally. These are only a few examples.

Now, let’s talk about gender equity.

How should the law treat the difference created by those who have uteri? 

Remember, not all people with uteri are women. Similarly, not all women have a uterus. Intersex and non-binary people are not women unless they identify that way. Trans men are not women; they are men.

Gender equity plays a huge role in how the law addresses the differences between those with uteri and those without them. Those without uteri simply do not face the same issues as those who have them.

Those who menstruate will need access to things like free birth control. Birth control pills/shots, etc. are helpful in regulating the period and alleviating any painful symptoms should they arise. Menstrual products should be free as well since it is an extra finance that those without uteri don’t need to pay for. Those with excruciating symptoms from menstruation should have the ability to stay home from their obligations to rest without penalty.

If sexually active, the pill/shot, etc. can help prevent pregnancy. However, in the case of an unwanted pregnancy (or a dangerous pregnancy), those with uteri should have access to facilities like Planned Parenthood so that they can take the proper steps should they need to have an abortion or need any other assistance. If they have a child, they should be given more than several weeks off of work because the development of children requires much more time with the parent than a few weeks. In addition to that, their leave from work should be paid since those with uteri often don’t return to work after giving birth to a child because employers make it difficult to return.

People often question where the validity in this is (Cott, 504). Why should these people receive all this “special treatment” because of their uteri and menstruation? They should receive the help because it will make them successful and a more productive member of society. Restricting them from a financially stable life due to their reproductive system is extremely sexist.

The laws should be centered around helping those with uteri living comfortably. It would provide for them easier access to resources and opportunities which is one of the main goals in the fight for the larger aspect of equality. In the end, these problems only affect those with uteri and they don’t infringe on the rights of those who do not have them.

Equal rights for others doesn’t mean less rights for anyone else. If we provide everyone with the same opportunities and access to resources, people of all genders can be equal and free. If we provide everyone with the tools they need to be successful, that will help them get to the road of equality. Equity helps us get to equality in the end by providing tools to one group that the other group might not really need or benefit from.

Bibliography

Cott, Nancy F. (2016). Equal Rights and Economic Roles: The Conflict over the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1920s. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hughes, James and George Dvorsky (2008). Postgenderism: Beyond the gender binary. Hartford: Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.

23 thoughts on “Equality and Equity For All: Beyond The Gender Binary

  1. Your blog post was powerful to read. I agree that men do not have to give in to masculinity, and that they should be able to show a soft side to them without penalty.Also, I know a lot of households where women have the better paying job, while the men stay comfortably at home with the children, and that is completely fine. If the men wanted to make a change and go out and get a good paying job, then they have the opportunity to do that as well. Opportunity is out there, it just takes commitment to go out there and take it. I also agree that more than several weeks are needed off to stay home with a newborn. That extra time off should be paid for without penalty. Good read!

    1. Thank you! Gender roles have had such an impact on our society. It seems minuscule in the grand scheme of things but the reinforcement of these binary roles in society have contributed to sexism and misogyny. If we abolished gender roles and simply let people be people, maybe there would be less hatred because there would be no standard for somebody to live up to. I’m glad you agree with that point. How can mothers expect to care for their children when their workplace is essentially punishing them for giving birth to the child? Giving the mother time off without pay can be really detrimental to the well-being of the home.

      Additionally, the time following childbirth needs to be spent building a connection and bond with the child. It also would help the mother readjust and learn how to care for them, especially if they’re a first-time mother. Postpartum depression is very serious and I think oftentimes it can be triggered by all of the extra stress a mother must endure following the birth of their child; they not only have to care for this small being, but they might be stressing about money, if their job will even let them return, if they will be able to create a bond with their child, caring for the child, consider their relationships with the people around them, etc. Perhaps if we made things easier for mothers when they have children, we could also see a drop in postpartum depression cases. It’s a nice thought, anyways.

      Thank you for reading!

      1. The issue of maternity leave is huge equality issue in the work place. I think this “right” should actually be offered as “parental leave” so both parents have to option for paid time off work to bond with the child without fear of losing their job or not being able to pay bills because they took the time off. If we could let go of the gender roles that say women are the ones who stay home with the child then this would help close the gap within the workplace. This would allow fathers to also take time to support their partner after the baby is born and bond, and would take some of the stigma off women for needing time off after having a child.

    2. I thought that was a very good point and I agree, because toxic masculinity is a serious issue in society, men definitely should be able to have feelings and show emotion without being ridiculed by others. Men also should not have to be the breadwinners in their household and the idea that they should could be a product of toxic masculinity and new mothers should be able to stay at home with infants and not face any penalties at work because not only is it important for the child to develop a bond with the mother, but it can also be important for the mental health of the mother. I enjoyed reading your comment, well said!

      1. I couldn’t agree more with you, Danielle! I think one of the most prominent issues in society is toxic masculinity because it encompasses so many other issues. A lot of times people think that the term “toxic masculinity” means that we’re saying all men are bad, which is not the case. It’s the idea that being a “man” means you must be violent, emotionless, dominant, etc. For example, it’s not manly to be emotionaless and it’s not weak to show emotion; it’s human nature. This concept is a major factor that plays into school shootings as well, which is another pressing issue we’re facing in America. Most shooters whether at schools, concerts, etc., are male and in many cases can be traced back to the individual’s own experience with toxic masculinity.

    3. I have been thinking about this topic a lot with my cousin just having a baby and he and his wife both have very good paying jobs but it was very hard for him to get time off and he was not very happy about it. I think your 100% correct shouldn’t have to penalized for needing time off I think that is ridiculous. He ended up working from home and I think that is not good at all he should be able to bring his child into this world anyway he wants to not having to worry about work that is ridiculous. I really enjoyed this chapter and you gave very insight.

  2. I’m always astounded that it’s not a basic right for those with uteri to have comfortable menstruation and/or access to birth control. The fact that some regard the pursuit for these rights as “special treatment” is unfair, especially considering the fact that no one chooses to menstruate and the obligations of birth control and family planning are typically placed onto women. Though many use birth control simply to regulate hormones/ periods, I’d like to see more contraceptives geared towards men to alleviate the pressures of one person having all of the responsibility of avoiding pregnancy. In fact, I’ve recently read an article that argued for more contraceptives aimed at men because they are capable of having a countless amount of children by their ability to release sperm, while women can only become pregnant once per year, which I found incredibly interesting.
    I especially liked the last paragraph of your post when you said “equal rights for others doesn’t mean less rights for anyone else.” Hopefully one day there will be enough progressive minds to allow for the traditional gender binaries to be broken and people will be allowed to unabashedly and freely be themselves.

    1. It is astounding, isn’t it?

      I agree that it’s unfair that people consider it “special treatment”. Overall, it just comes down to the differences between reproductive systems and the needs that come with each. You definitely raise a good point about menstruation; no one chooses to menstruate, it is a function that naturally occurs. Non-men shouldn’t be the only ones that need to seek out birth control or engage in the process of family planning. Men should have the same access to birth control and family planning resources as non-men.

      I actually have read that article too and I think it’s an excellent reason to advocate for more contraceptives aimed at men.

      Thanks for responding and for your positive comments and insight. I really appreciate it! A world where the gender binary is broken and people are allowed to just be people, free of gender roles, sounds like an amazing world where people can simply be happy with who they are. I just hope I’m here to see it!

    2. I agree, it is outrageous that free access to birth control and menstruation products are deemed “special treatment.” I have even heard this sentiment from cisgender women, which is hard for me to wrap my head around. As for cisgender men with this mindset, it is unfair for such a population without any empirical knowledge thereof to make such idiotic claims! There have been many articles that satirize this by claiming that if cisgender men could menstruate, there would be free birth control and menstruation products in every workplace, restaurant, school, etc. Although we can joke about such a scenario, it is quite sad that there is no federal legislation that guarantees free access to such products. Perhaps this could be a new amendment (though it sadly seems unlikely under this current administration…)

    3. Elise, that makes alot of sense for men to also have the responsibility to seek contraceptives. There are many times that they do more damage to the economy than women. They produce dozens of children and leave them for us to raise. It also amazes me how government officials believe that planned pregnancy should not be covered by insurance or be offered to women.

    4. I couldn’t have said it better myself! It still boggles my mind to think that basic rights regarding menstruation and birth control are still being questioned. I read an article last year about how Scotland was running a 6 month pilot distributing female sanitary products to women on low incomes. It’s a noble venture, but in retrospect it’s crazy to think that this isn’t something being practiced around the world all of the time–that this practice isn’t just considered normal by now. Of all the strides made for the sake of equality, I wish more hearts and minds could be opened up to that idea that Nori put so well: “Equal rights for others doesn’t mean less rights for anyone else.”

  3. This post was extremely insightful and so powerful to read, I like that you included the tools that are needed for equity for people with uteri in society and I completely agree, the fact that people with uteri do not have access to free birth control, reproductive care, and free menstrual products is honestly baffling. The worst part is that many people believe that if people with uteri have access to these things it somehow oppresses them, which is not true and you included that fact so beautifully in saying, “Restricting them from a financially stable life due to their reproductive system is extremely sexist.” Very well done Nori!

    1. I would have to agree with you this post by far one of the most powerful ones we have had in a long time. Uteri to me is a very sensitive subject to get into but we need that program to start giving away free stuff and care that is just so baffling like you said to me to that they don’t. You can’t control your reproductive system that is totally out of your control and to punish them for that just makes me sick. Your insight was well worth reading had to reply to your comment.

  4. The very last sentence succinctly summarizes the entirety of your well-written, passionate post: “Equity helps us get to equality in the end by providing tools to one group that the other group might not really need or benefit from.” I have had this exact idea in my head for a while now but have never been able to transform it into words. Before we can discuss equality of any sort, we must first establish equity, like you said. Individuals cannot control some physical, bodily functions, some of which hinder success, such as menstrual pains. But, because those who have been in power throughout most of history have had penises that do not bleed monthly, little consideration has been given to those who do experience menstruation and childbirth. Hopefully as society progresses, we will see more equity and eventually equality granted to everybody, especially those who cannot control what their body is or does. I think the majority of people and even some feminists in the early twentieth century and before did not consider this, unfortunately, as suggested by the reading.

    Excellent post, Nori!

  5. Very good post! I agree with the points you made as well. Especially with the points about maternity leave. I think that is a very crucial time for the mother to develop a bond with the baby especially if she is breast feeding etc. As a mother myself I had a part time job when I had my son so I did not get paid at all while I was off. My job now also allows the men to take time off for “paternity leave”, which I think that is great.

  6. I think more and more in today’s society people are becoming more comfortable with people clarifying what their sexual preference is. I like how you explained that people were transgendered in this time of age but, could only say if they were male or female. Throughout time people started using all these different clarifications terms and this would never be allowed in these times like you said. It is so interesting to see the transformation of times. I also like how you said mothers need more time on maternity leave because infants need their parents the most during the first year of life. Yet once again in today’s society this time of leave was chosen so now any further time taken off is looked as the mother is a poor worker. But, people don’t realize the healing process that the mother herself has to go through so they should be paid for longer time like you said. Great points!

    1. Yes, people are definitely becoming more comfortable accepting who they are in modern day times because many people are now more accepting. Back then it would have been extremely frowned upon to see yourself as anything not considered “normal”. It is great to see how times are changing for the better.

    2. Marisa, I do agree that people are now more comfortable saying what they would like to be identified by. However I think the more we familiarize are selves with these terms, the more we place barriers upon them. For instance there was a debate about transgenders being allowed to join the U.S army. Prior to this we may have not had such debate. I just feel the more we openly talk about who or what we are, the more barriers. I don’t think anyone should have to live in a shell; I just wish we could embrace people and drop labels. I think by all labels of people and being identified by being human can help encourage equality and equity.

  7. I agree women should definitely be provided free birth control and other types of resources having to do with basic needs of the body, it is terrible that some people suggest they should have to pay for it. Just another controversial topic that nobody can agree on.

  8. Thank you Nori for being so detailed in your blog. I never really thought about all of the extra expenses people with uteri have. I have to agree, it would be fair for them to have access to all things mentioned above. I think that we are still far from having a 100% equal rights country. That is especially when employers continue to discriminate against women. We should in fact have paid maternity leave and time off for uteri related health issues. And in additional to that I also think that non binary and transgender should be granted equal rights and opportunities. Instead we have continued to identify certain groups of people and place barriers upon them.

  9. Very powerful post! Thank you for educating me on binary and non-binary genders. Unfortunately I don’t know much on that particular topic, so it was great to learn more about it from someone so passionate and well-versed on the subject. The way you summarized the idea of the uteri being a biological factor and not a choice really put things in perspective. I also really enjoyed how you brought up the notion that we shouldn’t condemn those for needing “special treatment” because of their uteri and menstruation, but rather should fight for the rights and help they may need in order to become successful; to put the productivity of society above oneself. I agree that the key can be as simple as aiming to help one another, not to always be fighting for the sake of self-interest. Hopefully selflessness will one day work its way into the heart of our legislation and government so we can find equity and equality.

    Honestly, it was a wonderful reflection and a great read!

  10. I really like how you summed up that this isn’t just a men and women debate today. Today there are so many different opportunities to be who you want to be to feel happy, but people will always hate on you and not give you fair rights.That being said it defeats the purpose of being who you are. Making that step towards EVERYONE being completely equal is going to be extremely hard because some of this is very new, but I think slowly we can make that step.

  11. After reading this blog and the comments I very much so agree that women should have free birth control and even some feminine products. How is it fair that women have to pay for all there things, but yet some of them are to prevent things that men are involved in. If someone can’t even afford birth control and they have a baby that means they really won’t be able to afford it and may result in them having to get rid of it. There is all these people upset with abortions, but yet no ones pushing for free birth control to try and prevent people from having to make that decision.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s