A little while back I ran across this short, clear summary of the reality of gender and gender norms by Theology of the Body scholar and popularizer Christoper West, entitled “A De-Gendered Society Is Bound to De-Generate.” Three things struck me about this piece. First, it explains what’s wrong with idea of gender fluidity, for the lay person, pretty clearly, in about 600 words. Second, it boggles the mind by introducing a new chart of gender symbols (click to see it full-scale) and explaining, essentially, that Facebook now offers 50 options or so for gender, plus a fill-in-the-blank if you can’t “find yourself” among the pre-sets.
But what I enjoyed most about the article is that West draws attention to the roots of words, drawing the historical connections between gender, genital, and generation, for example.
Words have meaning, and we endanger our own beliefs when we allow others to disconnect them from their long-held meanings. Of course, language evolves and changes over time, but if words lose their agreed-upon meaning and connection to their roots entirely, we will find ourselves — like all those symbols, and those who try to find themselves among them — unable to convey any meaning sensibly.