April 15, 2016 at 4:38 am #5901
As we move more and more into the realm of bioenhancement, and as we more and more subvert our traditional ideas of what defines us as humans, surely our archaic ideas of gender identity will shift. Naturally, they are doing so already, with gender identities such as gender non-conforming, gender-fluid, and new genderless pronouns gaining more and more visibility in society. This will hopefully bring more and more gender equality across the gender spectrum and for those of all identities. I am curious whether or not this direction, compounded with the idea that in the future we may be able to choose new forms of being in which gender as a concept would be entirely irrelevant (for instance, entirely chucking our need for a physical body in a physical world in favor of living in a VR world), will bring about the eventual rejection of “gender” as something that needs to exist, let alone be pointed out (and subsequently discriminated upon). The idea of gender as a concept at all may become cumbersome and unnecessary, maybe eliminating the need for it entirely. Perhaps these perceived differences in biology will be eliminated, and a genderless society will come about? How will the rise of both more progressive ideals surrounding gender and new forms of being that gender doesn’t apply to impact the existence of gender at all?
April 15, 2016 at 6:35 am #5911
Alternatively, genders may become even more prominent and distinct if modifications are chosen to reflect traits expected from each gender. Genetic modifications will allow people to choose their children’s tendencies at birth, and knowing the sex of an embryo may have an influence on the modifications chosen. Parents of boys, for example, may choose enhancements that will make their son grow to be bigger and stronger due to the prominent stereotype that this is how the male gender should be. Females, on the other hand, would likely not be designed to be as tall; even having prominent muscles is often considered strange to see on females. Further, enhancements regarding emotions, decision making, nurturing, and other traits may be chosen based on gender, thus creating differences in cognition in addition to physical characteristics.
Choosing enhancements based on a child’s gender would create actual biological differences that reflect the stereotypes of today. These gender stereotypes would thus become more than just stereotypes—they will become fact. Thus, in a way, enhancements could actually create a larger gap between genders instead of meshing them together and ultimately doing away with them altogether.
April 15, 2016 at 1:34 pm #5912
On the one hand, the short-term benefits of having more distinguished sex traits might be seen, but this seems to be strictly short-term; over time as more involved bioenhancements were invented, many of them would seem to begin to be seen as gender-neutral, since they would likely raise people to similar levels. Although gender discrimination is still likely to occur in some cases, in many contexts the rapid change where anyone can essentially have the same characteristics seems likely to break down gender roles in the long-term.
This especially seems to apply in the context of bioelectronic enhancement, since it seems likely that such technologies would be unisex. In that case, the ways in which we graft on different “parts” would seem to not reflect gender views significantly at all. Of course, this is not to say that societal norms will not be considered, but I would argue that at least in most developed nations, which is also where more enhancement will be occurring, the outcry against selecting for specific gender traits will be enough of a deterrent to prevent most parents from doing it, with more gender-neutral choices being more appealing and more likely in the long run, I believe.
April 15, 2016 at 3:01 pm #5915
I think OP’s observation on increasing gender fluidity is a strong one, and is particularly salient in regards to the increasingly virtual worlds we find ourselves in. While the biological modification of gendered qualities certainly warrants its own discussion, I think it is without question that virtual worlds democratize gender identity. For the first time in history, we can imagine our fantasies and experiment with multiple selves in a realm that is both immaterial and outside of our own minds. As Bess argues in chapter 13 of OGR, we can expect to have available simulations of much greater realism in the coming decades——virtual reality headsets as they exist today are already almost completely immersive insofar as a user’s psychological reaction is concerned. All other concerns aside, virtual worlds offer a chance to explore potential selves in a very free way, and breaking free of one’s birth sex into another or into something else altogether is a likely benefit.
April 15, 2016 at 7:35 pm #5959
OP seems to operate under the assumption that gender norms are bad, and archaic. I understand your call for importance of gender equality, but “archaic” ideas of gender, like a man being aggressive and strong, or a woman being gentle and compassionate, are not inherently repressive beliefs. They are just some people’s ideas of what the world should look like, just like how some people want there to be no genders at all. Now, when they try to enforce these beliefs, that’s when things go bad. Some of these gender ideals encompass cultural and traditional ideals, which are not bad by themselves either. One thing I am confused about is the notion of a genderless society. Having no gender wouldn’t eliminate our given sex differences, so I wonder how exactly a genderless society would operate, assuming that they still have sexes, in this society.
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