Why Gender Matters
Rus Ervin Funk
The name of this blog series is meant to convey two different but inter-related themes: a) that gender matters and b) that gender matters. What I mean by this is that with regards to just about any issue that we’re facing (and in every issue that I’ll be addressing here), gender matters. We’re not only going to be looking at traditional foci of gender, but how all things can be viewed with a gender lens.
And gender matters – that is, we are not yet at a point where we can ignore gender and different aspect of gender. We re no more in a post gendered world than we are in a post-racial society (as has been argued by some since Barak Obama was elected President of the US).
I am launching this series of blog posts – which will morph into a podcast later this year – to examine the ways that gender matters. In our current socio-cultural-political contexts, perhaps as much as at any other time in our history, gender matters – and paying attention to gender matters.
Gender matters in how we think about ourSelves and how we interact with each other; gender matters in public policy, how budgets are formed, how our organizations are structured, even how cities are designed and buildings built; and gender matters in our advocacy and activism. Gender matters in all that we do, and in all aspects of our lives. And yet, we particularly as men, rarely pay attention to gender and the influence that gender, gender expectations and gender norms have on our thinking, behavior and interactions; and the social-cultural-political context in which we think, behave and interact.
This series explores the ways that gender matters. The intention is to bring gender, gender dynamics, and a gender analysis to what is so often de-gendered –which happens all the time. In our current reality: the pandemic, the racial uprising, the economic downturn that is resulting from the pandemic and the current Administration practices, and the upcoming election…are all with rare exception, de-gendered.
You may well question why I, as a man, am writing this series. This is a legitimate question, but also one that exposes a mis-understanding of “gender” and, in part, helps to make the argument as to why this series is so critical and why it so important that a man is writing it. Gender is not synonymous with women and/or women’s rights (although I do come from a solidly women’s rights perspective). I am writing this series because I have a gender, and gender impacts me. I am writing this series because gender includes all of us.
For far too long “gender” has been understood to mean women and girls, meaning that masculinity is not interrogated or explored. Gender and how we understand, experience and express gender also impacts on the ways men and boys act, and the impact of issues and dynamics on men and boys. I am an activist for gender justice because I am also a gendered person, and because I am the parent of a gendered child.
Gender matters to me, and as such I am writing Gender Matters
Gender matters because it is central to how most of us understand and express ourselves and is built into the structures that impact all aspects of our lives. Gender, here is understood as the characteristics that are used to identify and distinguish between masculine and feminine. I understand gender to be primarily a social construction – that is, we make up what it means to be male or female (and everything in between), and the ways that it is “appropriate” for one to express their masculinity and/or femininity.
Gender also has become a core to how we think about and interact with the world (most often without ever noticing that this is what we’re doing); and on how we address and respond to social problems. Despite the fact that I have spent thirty years thinking about and addressing gender, I am still not always conscious of the ways that being a man impacts on how I think about, analyze and interact with the world (any more than I’m conscious of my whiteness, or my generation, or my relative degree to physical and mental abilities). Just because I am not conscious of the ways my being a man impact on how I think about and interact with my world, does not mean the gender doesn’t matter. It just means that gender is hidden.
Even though gender is central to our lives, how we experience and interpret what’s happening around us, and how we think about and develop responses; gender is rarely an explicit part of how we discuss what is happening, or plan our individual or collective responses. The result is that our responses and solutions, even the dialogue itself, is incomplete—and far too often, has harmful consequences.
While I will focus on the ways that gender matters, gender is not all that matters. Race and ethnicity also matter, sexual orientation matters and gender identity matters, class, religion and faith, and degree of physical and mental ability also matter. These all matter and the way that they intersect with each other and with gender also matter. My centering on gender does not exclude or sideline these other issues and dynamics as they pertain to the various issues I’ll be addressing. My centering on gender in Gender Matters is meant to highlight the ways that gender is so much a center of our lives and efforts and is so often not considered.
At the beginning and end of the day, I am an advocate and activist. I worship as an activist, I parent as an activist, I watch movies, shows and sports as an activist… and I write as an activist. So this series will have an activist bent. This activism will be a part of my analysis, and you can expect that, nearly always, I will include a call to act.
I welcome you to this series of blogs. I hope that this triggers a broader conversation. And I hope that you will raise your voice (with me or in other venues) on the ways that you see how gender matters.
© 2020 by Rus Ervin Funk, All Rights Reserved