What would a genderless world look like?
The subject of gender has really exploded into the public consciousness in recent years. We've seen mainstream campaigns against the gendering of everything from children's toys to biros and razors, as well as an increasing number of people defining themselves as either transgender or non-binary (neither male nor female) – not least the high profile transition of Caitlin Jenner. It seems increasingly clear that, for many people, gender exists on a fluid, flexible spectrum of self-expression that doesn't fit into the rigid, binary definitions we currently understand as 'masculine' and 'feminine'. Even beyond those who define as trans, non-binary or gender fluid, many men and women feel they don't fit the archetypal role of tough, sporty, DIY-loving macho man or pink, fluffy, emotional girly girl. Very few – if any – of us perfectly fit either category. So what would the world look like if we did away with gender altogether?
Whether you're a man, woman, or none of the above, gender can sometimes feel like a tyrannous dictator, constantly issuing instructions on how to look, think, feel, dress, act or behave in order to fit. Without gender, if people were all free just to be people, what range of self-expression would that open up? Imagine gender-neutral fashion, gender-neutral jobs, and even genderless relationships; a world where people feel free to place themselves wherever they fancy, at any given time or place, on that spectrum of masculine to feminine. How would we choose to express ourselves, free from those gendered expectations we currently live by? Besides the physical appearance of our clothes, makeup and hair, freedom from gender would also mean freedom from 'manning up' or 'crying like a girl'; it would mean caring jobs being filled by anyone with a capacity to care, and manual jobs being filled by anyone with the right physique and work ethic. And how would our relationship dynamics change if everyone learned, as children, to express their emotions and communicate their struggles?
Freedom to express ourselves more authentically is one thing, but another inevitable side effect of a genderless world would surely be an end to gender inequality. Despite the Equal Pay Act, full-time working women in the UK currently earn 13.9% less than men http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/policy-research/the-gender-pay-gap/?gclid=COK_9f6B8c4CFUWfGwod9AwCNQ. Without gender, companies would finally pay staff the same wage for doing the same work, regardless of what they've got between their legs. Not only that, but we'd see a more diverse mix of people in more senior and leadership positions, with people being promoted on merit rather than through Old Boys' Clubs. Everyone would be treated as a human being, rather than a 'man' or a 'woman', and no one would feel that their gender had any bearing on what they could achieve with their life. As well as fairer pay policies, we'd also lose the inflated prices charged for gendered products – the pink razors that cost more than the black ones because they're "for women", or the "manly" skincare products that men are charged a premium for because heaven forbid they buy the same moisturiser as their wife. Without gender, everything from toys and electronics to clothes and toiletries could be gender neutral, and carry an equal price tag.
Finally, what would happen to violence and aggression in a genderless world? Although not always the case, there's no denying that violence often happens down gendered lines – no doubt thanks to those masculine ideals of 'manning up' and 'being the tough guy'. Would a genderless world also mean a world that's more cooperative; where emotions and conflicts can be talked through and resolved in a more healthy way, rather than resorting to violence and aggression? Perhaps we'd see a shift in the dynamics and leadership styles at play in international diplomacy – or, closer to home, better communication and emotional honesty between families, friends, and loved ones.
When you think about the restrictions gender places on us – men and women alike – it's really quite astonishing to imagine what the world could be like with all of those expectations and limitations stripped back. A world without gender would certainly be a world where everyone could be freer to express themselves, and to explore their full range of interests and desires. It sounds like some kind of utopian dream, where men, women, and everyone in between could live together in peace, harmony and equality – but who knows if it would really work in practice. Would a genderless world also see an end to people discriminating and abusing each other down racial, age, religious, disability, or class divides? Perhaps not, but sometimes it's just nice to fantasise about the possibilities!
Author: Sarah Graham