Sometimes people say that “nothing is gendered” or that gender stereotypes are entirely fictional/should be done away with. They might, say, e.g., that “clothing has no gender” or “makeup has no gender”. I believe this sentiment is often made in order to combat transphobia and to help trans people fight dysphoria or deal with being in the closet, pre-everything, or early in transition, all noble causes. But is it really true that nothing in and of itself has no gender? That nothing is “really” or “truly” gendered in and of itself?
But….here’s the thing. If nothing was inherently gendered, then facial hair wouldn’t be gendered. And I don’t know a single trans girl in real life or on the internet, who, if given the option, wouldn’t press a magic button to get rid of their facial hair. If nothing is gendered, then why does facial hair cause so much dysphoria in 99% of trans girls?
Objection 1: But like there is a trans woman on the internet with a beard! [finds obscure picture of woman with a beard]
Reply: So what? It’s still true that like 99% of trans girls hate their facial hair and would press that magic button. I’m gonna build my gender theory off the 99%, not the 1%.
Objection 2: but not everyone can afford laser/electrolysis and they’re still women!
Reply: the argument isn’t about whether trans women with facial hair shadow are women. Of course they’re women. But the debate is about whether “nothing is [truly] [really] [inherently] gendered”.
Objection 3: but some cis women have hormonal issues that cause them to grow beards and some of these women actually grow out their beards for religious purposes
Again, it comes down to whether we’re gonna do out metaphysics from the 99% or the 1%. I don’t deny there are some female-identified persons out there with beards. But they are the extreme rare cases. Think about Americans, just your typical American going about your day grocery shopping or entering into gendered spaces such as bathrooms. When was the last time you EVER saw a woman with a beard? I’m not talking about peach fuzz or a few dark hairs – I’m talking about like a full-on beard.
Objection 4: You’re just policing people’s gender
No – policing people’s gender would be saying “You shouldn’t express yourself like that”. I support all bearded ladies rights to wear their beards loud and proud. But if we focus on the beard itself detached from their identity as a person then I believe it is largely undeniable that beards are gendered masculine/male. Partially I think this stems from evolutionary sexual dimorphism
Objection 5: But society is changing all the time – in 100 years maybe it will be normatively acceptable for women to have facial hair – gender is a social construction
Sure – I grant the premise that social norms will change. But gender is an inherently social phenomenon – actually I think it’s a hyrbid phenomenon – it is constructed out of biology, personal experience, and social norms – all of which are complex, diverse phenomena. In a sense it is impossible to tease apart the various threads that contribute to the way in which beards have become gendered “male”. Is it because of physical biology? Or because of society? Or both? I think it’s kinda like the old nature nurture debate. Few things are ever either entirely nature or entirely nurture – it’s almost always both interacting in complex ways. That’s how I feel about gender.
So right now in our Western society coupled with the biological dispositions of statistically normal people it seems to be a true statement to say that beards are gendered male.