Literature that deals with the issue of gender reversal has grown significantly over the past years. The theme of gender reversal has frequently occurred in ancient texts but with varying significance. The understanding of gender reversal depends on the concept of gender culture in various societies. This is due to the fact that it is the society’s culture that informs the individual on the collective behavior of their specific gender. According to Sabrina Petra, in chapter one of the book, gender reversal is defined as any change that may bring a person closer to the opposite gender. The definition and view of gender reversal are very broad and satisfactory, since changes talked about include social behavior, work, clothing, mannerisms, speech, self-designation or ideology.
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The book discusses gender reversal, and how it has been used to maintain social order. In Indian societies, females were allowed to change their gender to male in an instance where the family could not manage to give birth to a male child. This in my view did not help in dealing with society’s social problem but just postponed the problems. These societies were, therefore, not able to deal with the pressures of genders sharing the same roles.
They preferred females changing to male to enable them to carry out roles such as hunting to provide food for their families. Such societies would be better in dealing with the changes in social order, rather than people who change their genders, which is a very important aspect of self identification. This problems is still actual in modern times where female children are seen as less important than male children. It not only happens in India, but also in most African communities. In some African communities, giving birth to several girls with no male in the family line was seen as a curse. These societies viewed women as lower beings than men, and this denied them many opportunities. Gender reversal should, therefore, not be used as a way to take care of this. Women should not have to change their genders to be able to perform some tasks. Society should be the first to change.
Gender reversal is also discussed as a way of social mobility. This part, however, talks mostly of women who cross-dressed to take up male careers in army and piracy, for example. This can be viewed as society being too rigid in defining the roles of males and females in society where people, especially women, had to go to these extents. Gender should never to be a criterion to judge who can do a certain job and who cannot.
While males may be physically stronger compared to females, there are also females who are strong enough to do tasks that are usually associated with men. Society should try as much as it can to accept both genders and not use the gender factor to limit individuals. Restricting opportunities to individuals, as society did in the Middle Ages only, leads to under utilization of the society’s potential. The restrictions and limitations that gender had placed on these women pushed most of them to the point of cross-dressing to perform tasks of the other gender (Wasiak n. p.)
Transgenderism is another topic of debate. Critics of transgenderism, such as Judith Shapiro and Thomas Kando accuse transsexuals of lack of originality and view transsexuals as conformists to gender definitions. In reality, transsexuals are very opposite to this, they do not conform to society’s definition of gender. Transsexuals go against the right wing’s favored unchangerbility of sex; their dressing style is a mixture from both genders, even the duties they perform are a combination of some of the stereotypical male and stereotypical female roles. (Field n. p.) This strikes at the heart of the rigid system that the right winger’s try to impose on society. Transsexuals are, therefore, among the most authentic dissidents in a liberal society.
All in all, this chapter does a good job in introducing gender reversal and gender culture to a reader who may not even be conversant with this area of study. It represents gender reversal in a different way, and even shows the role it has been playing in society since ancient times till now.
Field, Kimmie. A Synopsis of Transsexualism. 2005. Web.
Wasiak, Kjersti. Changing Gender Ideologies in New England from 1600s to 1800s. 2007. Web.