Lena Kafka, Filler Collective, 4/6/2016
Gender as Governance
Gender is a hierarchy, one of the apparatuses of governance, that differentiates and categorizes bodies/people. Bodies are categorized into genders based on one’s appearance, behavior, economic/social/cultural position, and others. The categories are stacked in a hierarchy, where men and men’s labor are more valued than women and women’s labor (domestic work, youth/elderly care, psychological/social work, food service, retail, all jobs based on emotional labor, etc).
Gender uses its categories to play a part in governing the social sphere to maintain social reproduction. It creates a gendered division of labor, between masculine and feminine, “man’s work” and “women’s work”. Women’s work is valued and paid less, and for much domestic work not at all. The valuing women’s labor less than men’s attempts to make working class women reliant upon men economically. The forced reliance on heterosexual relationships is as old as civilization and class society. Women are coerced, structurally and interpersonally, into relationships with men for the sake of survival, and the reproduction of civilization. As “Against the Couple-Form” puts it, “rather than an essentialist concept, the category of woman stems a gendered mode of exploitation and relegates certain types of labor to a private, unwaged sphere.” The sphere of reproductive labor.
Economic exploitation is not the only way gender governs us. On a social level, gender sets standards and norms for our bodies and behaviors. Bodies get put into categories based on secondary sex characteristics, voice, behaviors, dress/aesthetic/ethnicity, etc. These expectations vary based upon social/cultural situation and position. Gender regulates bodies into certain norms to be interpreted into certain categories (man/woman, etc). These norms are regulated by stricter interpretation for women, and with harsher punishment for transgression. Gender is what tells women that we are not enough or too much anything and everything. Gender regulates our movements (“it’s not safe at night”) and our capabilities (“that’s not what women do”, “women shouldn’t do this or that”). Gender creates our anxieties/desires to be “manly” and “womanly”, to meet the capitalist ideal of easily identifiable, categorizable, and predictable bodies and actions. Gender governs the social sphere.