Since childhood I had been viewing Ghost in the Shell as a plot-driven film—as kids tend to do with everything they watch. But Ghost in the Shell is not a plot-driven film, it is a concept-driven film. The Puppet Master plot is just a vehicle to look at the deep questions of a cyberpunk society—especially those relating to humanity and gender: if the only thing that remains of your original body is a small piece of your brain, are you still human? What exactly is a soul? When anyone can have any body they choose, what exactly does gender mean anymore? Why is the most masculine character of the film (the Major) the only one with a woman’s body?
Moreover, the movie is very big on “show, don’t tell” and those scenes with little or no dialogue serve to explore the aforementioned questions (and others) through visual means alone.
Fast forward to the present day and I am definitely a fan of Ghost in the Shell—the film as well as its sequels, spin-offs, and the original manga. It taught me two important life lessons. Firstly, how changing how you look at something can change your enjoyment of it, and secondly, just because you hated something as a child doesn’t mean you’ll hate it as an adult.
– Richard Eisenbeis,
For Years I Hated Ghost in the Shell, Then I Grew Up (2013)
The term “pregnant women” should no longer be used, a recently sent letter to the UN by the British Government recommended. Instead, “pregnant people” should be used whenever the word ‘women’ can offend or exclude pregnant men.
And who wants to offend or exclude anyone?
Thus is removed the word ‘woman’, which is increasingly becoming regarded as a narrow and discriminatory word. But they who sign up for inclusion will soon find out that a new definition of gender is also given.
By this definition – which has begun to win ground without really being discussed – gender is not in the body but inside the head. Several countries, including Norway and Denmark, have already made legislative changes that allow people to choose their gender on their IDs without any surgery being necessary and according to a bill, the same will soon apply in Sweden. The International Olympic Committee recommends that athletes compete as the gender they identify with, on the condition that they have lived with this gender identity for four (4) years and have adapted hormone levels. The British Labour Party has issued new guidelines for its gender quota lists so that anyone who identifies themselves as women can take place on the women’s list.
It is generally assumed that this is a progressive change: no longer is the Ghostly Gender in the Fleshly Shell reduced to biology anymore, and now finally can Supreme Transpersonalities of Godhead be recognized in the Book of the Law! The reformulation – or reterritorialization – of gender as a matter of Personal Identity rather than Social Ideology has meant that the public debate has disappeared, despite being a fundamental social issue. For if society as a whole is to change its view on what gender is, it will have consequences for everyone. What happens to statistics on gender-based violence and wages, when we can no longer talk about biological gender – the sex? What happens to the perception of homosexuality? What happens to gender-specific spaces like prisons, changing rooms and women’s shelters? Indeed, what is sex? What is a woman?
The online Dictionary by Merriam-Webster defines a woman as “an adult female person”. To know what sex is, we go to a based science man, which informs us that apart from those born with chromosomal abnormalities, the difference is that women usually have two X chromosomes – XX, while men have an X and a Y chromosome – XY.
In addition, the old-school feminist dream is that sex only means this and nothing else.
Regrettably for feminists, that is not the case: in a modern industrialized and heteronormative society, having specific genitalia also comes together with a set of practical functions and symbolic performances. A man should be named, behave, look and ‘be’ in a certain way coded manly, and a woman in another way coded womanly. These roles are called “genders” in Gender Studies, as distinct from “sexes”.
Now the new definitions of sex and gender turn this on their heads. The sex is now not a reproductive function, it is a whole identity. This does not mean that there is to be a free choice – according to some doctors and in fact some trans-activists, sex identity is an essence that exists beyond socialization and the body. The trans-activist writer Julia Serano argue that there are aspects of femininity that are natural, which pre-exist socialization and exist beyond the biological sex.
Regardless, this is an Idealist notion in the sense that the mind rules over the body. By this notion, feelings should decide which sex someone belongs to and the body should be transformed accordingly. No longer are there talks about sex change, but instead of “sex correction” or “sex-confirming surgery”. To speak of “change” of sex would suggest that there was, once upon a time, another sex in the body before, while the one who “confirms” their sex only allows the body to nod in affirmation of the right sex – the one inside their head.
Yet who can then decide which sex someone really belongs to? Often, exactly the same gender roles that feminists want to remove from Western Civilization, are now proof that someone belongs to a certain sex. Some big-brained science folks argued, last Thursday, that sex identity is innate and that 7% of boys are perceived as “extremely girly” and slightly fewer girls as “extremely boyish”.
What were they trying to say here? Who observes and maps children’s behavior by gender, or “sex”?
According to the American organization TransYouth Project, a boy who does not abandon princess dresses is ‘sex-aberrant’ and should undergo a gender identity psycho-medical assessment. If he also wants long hair, plays with girls and is drawn to flashing pink shoes, he is probably a girl according to this American organization. He can then be treated with the puberty blocker Lupron Depot in the form of injections into the muscles every three months, or alternatively have a histrelin implant implanted inside the upper arm, which secretes testosterone inhibitors.
So far, there has been an age limit for treatment of this kind in Sweden, but more doctors want to remove it. The Swedish political party aspiring for parliamentary presence Feminist Initiative wants to abolish the age limit for genital surgery and that it should suffice with “the will and best of the child together with the consent of a custodian”.
Now when all is said and done, few can deny that there are children who strongly perceive belonging to the other gender and are envious of the latter’s gender role; and also that it can be terribly cruel to grow up in a society punishing aberrant children. The ones who dismiss this as mere fantasy and make-believe should read biographies of transgender people, who illustrate a lifelong feeling of never fitting in and the emancipation that came with finding their true selves, the True Will in Thelemic parlance.
Yet there remains much to problematize on this trending issue. How ethical is it, really, to remove the genitals of children who are unable to foresee the long-term consequences?
And does not this ‘progressive’ attitude risk maintaining an unexpectedly conservative view of gender?
Verily, the only difference is that while previously society removed the dresses from children with penises, now lets them keep the dresses but removes the penises. The gender roles are preserved, but the sex shall be cut off.
What is not cut off, however, is the norm that a person with penis should not have a dress – which is not emancipation from biology, but the very opposite in a Postmodern twist of paradox.
That sex becomes something that you can assess on your own has also led to unexpected consequences, such as rapists being placed on women prisons – which has happened in England, where Martin Ponting, convicted of two rapes, was placed in a women’s prison after changing sex. But more intriguing, this change has led to women born as men making breakthroughs and occupying space in the world of women; in American boxing rings, in Italian volleyball leagues and in Canadian cycling races, individuals born as men compete in the ladies’ classes.
In 2017, an Australian weightlifting championship was won by Laurel Hubbard, who ten years ago was a man and competed under the name of Gavin Hubbard. While still a man Hubbard was not so successful – as a woman she lifted 19 kg more than the one just second to her in the aforementioned Championship. As the U.S. Woman of the Year 2015, Caitlyn Jenner was selected, who was a man just the year before. The best-paid female CEO in the United States back in 2013 was Martine Rothblatt, also born as a man. However, examples of the opposite are difficult to find. Few women-born people make success in the world of men. The most common headline about a transman last year was that he was pregnant. What signals all this send to women is that in order to reach the positions of the Woman of the Year, Most Well-Paid Woman of the Year etc. – they should have been born as men, just what women have always been told, only that now they need to be second-place even amongst themselves.
To take this up for debate has, however, been almost impossible. Speaking of differences between those born as men and those born as women – once upon a time the fundament of Feminism – is now considered to be by definition Transphobia or Transmisogyny.
Feminists accused of transphobia are subjected to (social) media witch hunts, death threats, rape threats, boycotts and disemployment. Lesbian women who do not want to have sex with people with penises are called transphobes on social media, when a penis is considered a “female penis” if it is attached to a transwoman. The ciswomen in sports who object to unfair terms are informed that they should be quiet because they have “cisprivileges” – as if it were a major advantage to be born a woman, in general. I, for one, am happy I wasn’t born that way – it’s much more than okay to be male.
Anyway, often these aggressions are excused by the fact that transgender people is an unbelievably exposed group with high suicide rates and is at high risk of violence and hate crime.
But something smells rotten here – even though there are men who perform virtually all violence and hatred against transfolks, it is women who are blamed, just because they write and think about gender. Must all people unanimously agree on sex being inside the mind, in order to ensure that people are not offended?
It can’t be.
To expect respect, same rights as all other citizens and the end of violence against transgenders sure is commonsensical – yet pretending it is exactly the same to have been born a woman and becoming one at adulthood, is not.
For if bodies do not matter, if upbringing does not matter, why does gender mean anything? Understanding sex as material reality and gender as a social construction has been central to Socialist Feminism, and so it should remain in Patriarchal Feminism. When our bodies produce sperm or egg, this happens regardless of what we think of the body or what we call the body.
But sure, suppose we make gender something we choose. Suppose we ask our children what they feel like and make sure they get into the correct category, or we’ll create more categories. It might lead to greater freedom for all. What to do with that half of humanity born with XX chromosomes and who commonly have breast, vagina, menstrual cycles and can usually become pregnant? What to do with the group which is more likely to be aborted, genitally mutilated, kidnapped, raped, poisoned as a child, beaten at home, getting lower pay, exposed to sexual harassment, suffer labour market discrimination and performing most of the home work – should this group not have any name of its own, at all?