technical math musings on gender
November 19, 2012
I started this epic comment on this blog post about the problems with ‘nonbinary’ as ID term and figured I’d just post it on my own blog.
one note. I don’t, for the most part disagree with your points. rather just quibbling on a small point. while binary/nonbinary does set up another dyad, the nature of this dyad is different than man/woman. if we use set theory to conceptualize this, man and woman represent two sets. whereas binary represents a set and non-binary represents its compliment. every set has a compliment. in a strictly binary system, the compliment for man (i.e., non-man) would just so happen to be equivalent to the set woman (and vice versa). And the union of man and woman would be equivalent to the set binary (and, as you essentially point out, in a very strictly enforced binary system, the compliment for binary – non-binary – would actually be a null set).
but this isn’t necessarily true in a system where a binary isn’t strictly enforced, or I suppose a gender system without a binary.
my real problem, though with some of the content is in this paragraph:
And, to follow on from that – if my goal is the dissolution of binary categorisation, how can I, in good conscience, use the terms ‘binary’ and ‘nonbinary’ as personal descriptions, creating yet another dyadic system? I wouldn’t use dyadic systems in any other form of critical thought or social philosophy, so why in the realm of gender and sex?
the note above wrt set theory basically says that binary/non-binary isn’t really a dyadic system in the same what that man/woman is, so not necessarily a problematic approach for concpetualizing gender (on these terms alone).
where the problems are, in fact, as I pointed out before about the relationship between binarism and colonialism. Using the term ‘non-binary’ rests on a fictional set designed to oppress and erase poc gender systems. and in doing so, a more serious problem with ‘nonbinary’ beyond semantics is that by presupposing the white binary it ends up, just like binarism itself, being a white supremacist term.
they both end up legitimizing and supporting a white colonialist gender system. this is why, at least, i don’t call myself ‘nonbinary’ (even as I strategically and, somewhat for my own amusement, reclaim third gender – which has more or less the same problems as nonbinary.
this, more than anything, is very much why ‘nonbinary’ shouldn’t be used, particularly as an umbrella term for genders not contained within man or woman.
(sidenote: i also find something lacking in an analysis that advocates for “the dissolution of binary categorisation” that doesn’t mention white supremacy and colonialism.)