The Patriarchy Continuum – Genitoplasty v. De-Gendering

When it comes to individually producing patriarchally-preferred outcomes (having boys), parents will use whatever means are at their disposal. If contraception and abortion are not available, you will have infanticides, deaths by neglect or abandonment. If abortions are available, then, female fetuses will be aborted. And if the technology is available, why not just change the sex of the baby from girl to boy (via the formidable Taslima Nasreen who is on Twitter and you should all follow her), through a procedure called genitoplasty:

“Hundreds of girls – some as young as one – are having the procedure every year, it was claimed on Monday.

Wealthy parents in Delhi and Mumbai are flocking to the central city of Indore to pay £2,000 for children aged up to five to have surgery known as genitoplasty.

Some were said to have pressed for the operation despite warnings that the ‘converted’ boy would be infertile.

The procedure, normally used to correct a genital abnormality in fully grown patients, involves doctors building a penis using tissue from female organs before hormone drugs are administered. It has become popular because Indian society places a strong value on producing a son and heir. Sex determination tests during pregnancy are banned to stamp out the practice of women aborting female foetuses after alarming falls in the ratio of women to men.

Up to seven experts are believed to have each turned between 200 and 300 girls into ‘boys’. Critics voiced their anger yesterday after the ‘unprecedented’ trend was uncovered in a report by the Hindustan Times.

Author Taslima Nasreen wrote on Twitter: ‘Shocking! Not only do people kill unborn girls, they turn girls into boys by genitoplasty.’

Commentators say the system is unmonitored and open to abuse and have called for new regulations after legal experts said it was not against the law. ‘There has to be some guideline or law on how a child who is barely old enough to talk can undergo a life-changing surgery at the parents’ will,’ said Dr Anil Bhadoria, of the Indian Medical Association.

A parent whose child had genitoplasty aged two said: ‘I think he would not be confused over his gender when he grows up and can live a normal life as he would not have any memories of the surgery.’”

Of course not. And in all cases, it is a denial of choice and agency (if not life). All of these practices are the product of misogynistic systems and patriarchal social structures all leading to the idea that girls have no value and that boys do. And all leading to the consequential practices of getting rid of girls.

Which is why initiatives such as these are important, and yet feel completely weird because we are so used to identify into the gender binary:

“AT the Egalia preschool, staff avoid using words like “him” or “her” and address the 33 kids as “friends” rather than girls and boys.

From the colour and placement of toys to the choice of books, every detail has been carefully planned to make sure the children don’t fall into gender stereotypes.

“Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing,” says Jenny Johnsson, a 31-year-old teacher.

“Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be.”

The taxpayer-funded preschool which opened last year in the liberal Sodermalm district of Stockholm for kids aged one to six is among the most radical examples of Sweden’s efforts to engineer equality between the sexes from childhood onward.

Breaking down gender roles is a core mission in the national curriculum for preschools, underpinned by the theory that even in highly egalitarian-minded Sweden, society gives boys an unfair edge.”

And no, this is not out of control political correctness. It de-patriarchalizing and de-misogynizing (I doubt those are words, but what the heck) a system through de-gendered (and equalizing in the sense not of producing uniformity but producing identities less attached to enforced gender binaries) socialization.

And for the record, every time someone deplores political correctness, these are usually people who would like to have their own sexism / racism / homophobia accepted in discourse without being called to account or who are lashing out at the potential loss of privilege (that is, the privilege of being openly sexist, racist or homophobic) in the face of a slightly more open society.

One thought on “The Patriarchy Continuum – Genitoplasty v. De-Gendering

  1. Wow. Once again you enlighten me to something I would have never known.

    That genitoplasty is being inflicted on baby girls in India is absolutely horrifying. I can remember seeing a documentary about a young boy in the US that was the victim of a botched surgery that made him a “girl” and he had a miserable life trying to be a gender that he was not. I believe he committed suicide, even though the doctor who did the surgery wrote articles about how successful it all was. I feel so badly for these poor girls.

    I looked this up in the Hindu Times online, and I’m glad that the government is doing an investigation and want a report in 15 days. Thank goodness the press in India alerted the public to this.

    The Egalia experiment doesn’t seem like the answer to righting patriarchal preference, but I did understand their philosophy. But getting rid of all signs of gender, including pronouns, sounds cultish and a bit wacky.

    In both cases, kids seem like they are being experimented on, and that doesn’t seem right.

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