Gender is widely recognized today as a more malleable concept than in the past. Social scientists have long understood that gender is a social construct, separate from one’s biological form. In recent decades, however, some countries have begun to recognize more than two genders. Categories such as CIS men, CIS women, Transgender Men, Transgender Women, Non-Binary Gender have emerged. These terms help individuals name the identity they feel most comfortable with. There is a close connection between emerging gender identities and sexual preference, which is often referred to as lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, etc. These categories do not necessarily align in neat and predictable ways.
Some countries outside of the Euro-American group have long recognized alternative genders (India, for example). The willingness to accept multiple gender and sexual identity categories in the U.S. is a recent, and contested, phenomenon.
Read the following articles to prepare for your essay:
Other resources you may find useful:
Pick one country from outside the North American and European regions to compare and contrast with the United States. Research the attitudes and policies of each country in regard to the status of women specifically as a gender category, and then, research the attitudes and policies of each country regarding the recognition and protection of the rights of alternative genders and sexualities. Answer the following questions in your essay:
Consider women’s right to education, participation in the workforce, right to own property, vote, drive, etc., reproductive rights, women’s rights to contraception and the right to control or terminate a pregnancy. Are there differences between the two countries?
Are LGBTQ people protected by law from discrimination in each country? If so, are these centralized, federal protections, or do they vary by city or county?
Are there laws that punish people for their gender and sexual identities?
What is the overall culture of the society in regard to the equality of people of all genders and sexual identities? Are there any current conflicts in the public arena over the treatment of LGBTQ people, such as a movement to promote greater rights and protections for these groups, or a movement to suppress and criminalize them?
In your analysis, consider the regional context for each country. Does the country reflect the larger cultural values of the region? What might explain the differences in attitude and treatment of people of different genders in the two countries? Consider using the kinds of geographic tools we are developing in class: level of economic development, cultural or religious characteristics, colonial past, political system, etc. How do those differences help illustrate the importance of geographic context, as well as our interconnectedness in a global economic, political and cultural system?
Using the practice of perspective-taking, identify the point of view (POV) of the mainstream culture in each society, and compare and contrast them. Next, consider common ground: what do the two countries have in common? Is there a basis for a universal ethics of gender?