Each body is clearly different but still they all get put in one of two categories. Each person acts in their own unique way but still there’s supposedly just two kinds of people. The thing we want to criticise is the division into male and female.
She’s a woman*, he’s a man*. In a world that strictly divides everyone into two sexes/genders, that’s the only way it can be. This division gets justified by referring to biology: men* and women* are claimed to be fundamentally different by nature. The notion that there are two sexes is the basis sexist society is built on, because natural differences can’t be altered. But these differences are neither clear cut nor natural. They are a product of society. Not all women* are the same, nor are all men*. Each human looks different. The idea of how women* or men* should look and act isn’t as strictly and clearly defined as it used to be. However, there are still societal guidelines that are passed on, adopted, and followed by most people. This is what makes it easy to quickly assign a certain sex/gender to people we don’t know. It has nothing to do with biology but rather with acquired ways of perception.
You’re likely to know some arguments that defend the existence of the gender binary. Often they revolve around different genitals and extreme examples from the world of competitive sports. The latter are used to argue that better results on the side of the men* prove their physical superiority. But this only works because lots of influencing factors are not mentioned at all, like training, upbringing, moral support and social status. All of these factors show the impact that society and personal circumstances have on our bodies. In our society women* and men* are viewed and treated quite differently. This discrepancy also affects the body of each individual. This means that we cannot say that women* are naturally weaker than men*. Society always leaves its mark. Apart from that, there are great varieties within the categories of woman* and man*, the so called top performers only make up a tiny fraction of that.
Which genitals are hidden in your pants still seems to be extremely important, even though genitals don’t play a part in any type of sport we know.
Then there’s the thing with penis and vulva. Their existence can’t be denied. In some cases, for example with contraception, the distinction is important. But genitals say very little about a person in general. The extreme focus on them is a product of society. The shape of these body parts can differ a great deal from person to person and so can the way they function. There are also genitals that are not clearly distinguishable, and people who have both. Additionally, in theory, medicine offers us many ways to change our bodies. But in a sexist society everyone needs to be clearly assigned to one sex/gender, which is why genitals play such a huge role. If something doesn’t fit the norm it is marked as sick and unnatural and assimilated by force.
Moreover we need to question the scientific findings in this field. Medicine and science have conducted surveys with men* and women* and have discovered differences. But the categories of man* and woman* were never challenged, so two sexes was the only possible result. These differences were then cemented as being natural and the impact of society was ignored completely. To not think of bodies as being male or female is a formidable challenge. Our whole lives are based on that distinction. From an early age on we learn to differentiate and to feel like we belong to one of the genders, which is why it’s so hard to fight against this. But it’s worth the struggle! Because without the divide into two genders we can live more autonomously.
We don’t like the division into man* and woman*. But right now it makes a big difference whether people are read as men* or women*. It makes sense to still talk about women* and men* in order to not ignore that fact.