If we divide the population of the world by sex then, according to some statistics we get:
3.97 billion males (50.42%)
3.905 billion females (49.98%)
This looks straight forward and could be argued that both sexes are practically equal in numbers. However, we know that intersex people exist and also that these statistics have an unknown accuracy margin.
Since Intersex people do exist either somehow they are not being counted, or being assumed to be either male or female. Some statistics suggest that only 1.7% of the world’s population are Intersex, around 131,410,000 people (2.19%). Although as a percentage this is small, that’s still a lot of people. Crucially I think it both undermines the accuracy of the grouping of sex in the data and it potentially undermines the notion that we’re using some kind of conclusive science to determine it. It’s some people’s opinion that Intersex people do indeed scientifically fit into a traditional sex category but for others, those people are a separate sex category. I think this also shows that words like “man” and “woman” are not necessarily scientific definitions, they are dictionary definitions. Dictionary definitions are not determined by science, they are determined by a small number of people using their perceived ideas about common usage of words.
So what if we divide the population of the world by gender?
First of all, I can’t really do that in the same way as is done for sex, simply because gender isn’t recorded as much. Possibly gender isn’t recorded as much, because in some places, some people say that sex and gender are the same thing. I’m not going to dwell too much on that here, but I think that gender does exist as a separate (but often linked) thing to sex. There are sets of behaviours for example, cultural differences between genders, there are the way people of different genders are treated by each other. There are many historical and current reasons why I think gender and sex are not the same. I do think there is both nature and nuture at play in determining these things, but certainly I do think that it would be unwise to say that someone is a certain way simply because of the genitals they are born with, or chromosomes, plus there are many exceptions to gender norms in society.
If we accept that gender exists as separate to sex, then there’s the question as to how many genders there are. This could get very messy and this is possibly one of the reasons people don’t like to break things down into gender. However, if we simply break it down into “man”, “woman” and “trans” (or even non binary) for example then I think our view of the world, in terms of how people are grouped, could be radically altered, and I think this is what many fear and why some react to the idea of a gendered humanity, with aggression.
Humans are tribal and insecure. We tend to want to think that most people are like us, to make us feel safer, to make the world seem easier to understand. We are inherently diverse, complex though, and I think often labelling, grouping people, makes our lives much worse, becoming conflict in which one group feels its dominance in society is threatened, so it oppresses another, or even, goes to war.
Perhaps, aside from the obvious 20th Century events, Stalin, Hitler et al, since we’re talking about sex and gender here, the most relevant example of this oppression, is the oppression of women. Patriarchy.
Yes, sex based oppression exists, absolutely, and it’s abhorrent. I think gender oppression exists too, actually, and some may not like this, perhaps some of the things that some call sex based oppression, are gender based oppression?
The oppression of women (gender) by men (gender). Well, may be a bit more complex.
Some people don’t like the term “cis”, some people don’t even know what it means. For argument sake here, I’m just using it to talk about people who aren’t trans or non binary.
What I’m talking about here, rather than simply the oppression of women by men, is the oppression of people who aren’t cis men, by cis men. Add into this sexuality, and we’ve got the oppression people who aren’t cis men (or simply who aren’t straight), by straight cis men.
Of course, it’s easy to knock this idea down by pointing at exceptions but just look around, look at the news, look at your own lived experience (particularly if you’re not a cis man) and then decide. Most wars, if not all, are started by and fought by cis men. Most domestic abuse, most sexual assaults are committed by cis men. It’s possible that this isn’t true, that other genders are somehow better at not getting caught, or there’s some conspiracy that targets cis men, but I think highly unlikely.
If we accept what seems to be the truth here, that there’s something problematic about cis men in general, then what’s causing it? I don’t think it’s simply because they have testicles. Imagine that, imagine fearing anyone with testicles might try to attack you? Actually, I don’t need to imagine it, sadly I often have this problem myself.
Fortunately I can argue with myself pretty well. I believe that not everyone with a cock and balls, is a man, and I believe that the things that make men, cis men, do the bad things they do, are to do with culture, language, how they think and communicate.
Culture is language. It’s expression of ourselves but also awareness of ourselves and crucially of those around us. Good culture has good language, good language enables empathy, empathy brings people together and may be a far superior way of stopping conflict, than any gun.
I think I’ve veered off somewhat from my original thoughts that sparked this piece of writing, I think it’s all relevant though.
I don’t think the world is a happy place. Maybe that’s ok, we’re human, with complex emotions, we can’t by design, be happy all the time. All emotions work together but I think humanity is off balance. We have a particularly nasty cocktail of anger expressed as aggression, of fear and anxiety, and I think looking at the world simple divided by sex, rather than gender, helps hide why we’re in this mess.
We have statistics that suggests there are only males and females and that there is equality. Then we have the reality, even for those who believe in the gender binary, that we are not equal, this is largely a world of men. Cis men. Except they aren’t even the majority, if we actually do things by gender. We can safely assume that an unknown percentage of those categorised as “male” (sex), are not actually male (gender). Then again we can say the same for “female”. However, generally speaking, females, women, girls, are not the big problematic issue in life, men are.
The balance of aggressive power in our world is probably weighted heavily toward cis men, in particular, straight cis men, yet they are highly unlikely to be the majority. Sometimes it’s ok to champion minorities, when we (yes we, since I’m part of one of them, as a transgender person) are oppressed. Cis men are the oppressors though, not the oppressed.
I care about this world, about people. It’s unfair and I don’t accept it cannot be changed, made fairer. I think perhaps a good place to look, to find a way to rebalance things, build a better world, is in understanding gender better.
Men (and sadly some women) do not want to accept that gender exists as something separate to sex. I think it is happening though, right now, and its our inevitable future, a world that is viewed in more appropriately complex and diverse way. Let’s try to move forward in the healthiest way though.