Gender: A Melee

The king was pregnant. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness It turns out the supply-side cheerleader George Gilder was more correct than not when he forecast, in the poignantly titled Sexual Suicide in 1973, that women playing at being men would spell the collapse of Western civilization and probably the social order itself. What he meant by sexual suicide was “the abolition of biological differences between men and women” — in his day, feminists demanding paychecks and forcing men to do housework, and thereby selfishly violating the pact they were supposed to be upholding with nature. Nature had endowed humankind with different sorts of bodies, from which different social roles followed: motherhood for some, breadwinning for others. Nature did not intend men to clean toilets! Or women to go to work, needless to say. It wasn’t just childbearing that society required from women; as the morally superior gender we were also meant to dragoon reluctant men into playing patres familias, according to Gilder, luring them into domestic cages like lion tamers at the circus, civilizing their beastly sex drives into socially productive ones. If we shirk the task, everything falls apart. Gay liberation was thus another sore spot in Gilder’s catalogue of contemporary woe, a world where women’s charms held no sway and male carnality thus ran amuck. How vulnerable the “primacy of the biological realm” would turn out to be, how tenuous its hold on the species if each of us had to pledge fealty to the gender binary to keep civilization afloat. How confident can nature’s defenders really be in the selling power of this story? After all, alarm bells aplenty have rung over the last half century yet have thus far failed to herd those renegade female factions back into their kitchens. And look

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