Thinking Citizen Blog — “Gender Essentialism,” Common Sense, and Rumi (the Sufi Mystic)

John Muresianu
3 min readJul 25, 2021

Thinking Citizen Blog — Saturday is Justice, Freedom, Law, and Values Day

Today’s Topic: “Gender Essentialism,” Common Sense, and Rumi (the Sufi Mystic)

Last week I learned a new term: “gender essentialism.” As best as I can understand it, the term is used as a pejorative to denigrate those who wrongly deny that gender is a “social construct,” that is, that ideas of the differences between the sexes have varied over time and place. My observation in life is that both women and men of the left and the right are constantly generalizing about “men” and “women” in one way or another and that passions often run high. Today, a few notes, a few quotes, and a wish. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

THE INCOMPREHENSIBILITY OF MOST GENDER STUDIES LANGUAGE

1. When I read about “intersectionality” and “transfeminism,” I tend to have the distinct guttural feeling, that my IQ is not high enough to grasp the most basic concepts.

2. This experience brings back painful memories of the year 1974 to 1975 that I spent in Paris vainly attempting to follow the reasoning of structuralist gurus Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucault.

3. I had this same sense of mental fatigue as I tried this morning to work my way through the Wikipedia entry on “gender essentialism.”

GOLDA MEIR’S LAMENT FOR THE IMPOTENCE OF MEN

1. “It’s men who are discriminated against. They can’t bear children. And no one is likely to do anything about that.” (Golda Meir)

2. Every day I am more conscious of the miracle that happens within female bodies only — the miracle of two half cells turning into 70 trillion differentiated cells within 9 months!

3. And then, in women’s bodies only, the production of life sustaining milk for the next year of life outside the womb.

NB: Is it possible to acknowledge both essential biological differences and their psychological consequences and the no less obvious variations
in ideas of sex roles across time and space?

SEVEN WAYS “GENDER ESSENTIALISM” HARMS US ALL

1. “It minimizes all the ways gender norms harm us.”

2. “It encourages gender stereotypes.”

3. “It invalidates genderqueer peoples identities.”

NB: Four more from last link: “it encourages benevolent sexism,” “It invalidates cultures that do things differently,” “it justifies the status quo,” “it limits our self expression.”

FOOTNOTE — Plato, Rumi, and the “sacred moment now”

1.) “”Essentialism” as a philosophical concept started with Plato, who posited that everything has an “essence” that makes it what it is. A rock, for example, is a rock because there’s an inherent “rockness” within it. Many philosophers have since come to believe that our understanding of the world is instead dependent on how our brains perceive things and how our cultures label them — and the same thing applies to gender.” (final link below)

2.) Rumi “Beyond all ideas of right and wrong, there is a field, meet me there.”

3.) For over a decade and a half I attended Unitarian Sunday services in Concord, MA. One phrase from a blessing resonates: “the sacred moment now.” Is it now possible to go to Rumi’s field to achieve clarity of thought on the essential and non-essential differencesbetween the sexes?

Gender essentialism

Social construction of gender

Sociology of gender

Susan Bordo

7 Ways Gender Essentialism Hurts Everyone

Click here for the last three years of posts arranged by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

YOUR TURN

Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to justice, freedom, the law or basic values. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to justice, freedom, the law, or basic values. Or just some random justice-related fact that blew you away.

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart.

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.