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Reading Group: Gender Nihilism & A New Set of Traps

Reading Group: Gender Nihilism & A New Set of Traps [Sprache: Englisch]
// mit Jules Gleeson

17.11.2022; 5:45 pm

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Meeting-ID: 984 5449 5945

This workshop will explore the history and limits of revolutionary writings that advance gender abolitionist views.  Calls to abolish womanhood and gender were developed by a revolutionaries across a range of contexts in the mid-20th to 21st century, surfacing from essays by French materialist feminist authors of the new left, to anarchist e-zines. Together we will explore my own work on this lively polemical tendency, with particular focus on a brief text subsequently disavowed by its author, Gender Nihilism.

We’ll also consider a more recent scholarly historical account which further complicates “gender” as a strategic focus point. (This historical complication was notable by its absence in my two 2017 essays on the topic, it has to be said).

According to the “genealogical” account of gender’s emergence, the sex/gender distinction arose primarily as a response to crisis in sex’s fixity. This rearguard was then appropriated by a feminist movement, who sought to deploy the sexological evaluative lens in an emancipatory way: exposing the historicity of womens’ oppression. It was this acceptance of the clinical use of gender as sex’s stabiliser which set the foundation for today’s “Gender Critical” viewpoint, which reduces sex/gender to a partition of truth/ideology.

Especially strikingly, rather than exemplifying the harms done by gender (as Escalante had it in 2015), the medical treatment of intersex people from this view comes to serve as the submerged historical basis for the emergence of “gender” as a widely understood lens for grasping social division.

Gender Nihilism reasons that “If all of our attempts at positive projects of expansion have fallen short and only snared us in a new set of traps then there must be another approach”. Yet without clear response to the genealogical challenge, the conceptual retention of gender may serve as its own ensnarement.



Alyson Escalante – Gender Nihilism (2015)

Jules Joanne Gleeson – The Call for Gender Abolition & Abolitionism in the 21st Century

Jules Gill-Peterson – Histories of the Transgender Child (2018) – “Sex in Crisis: Intersex Children in the 1950s and the Invention of Gender” (pp. 97-128)