Postgenderism is a diverse social, political and cultural movement whose adherents affirm the voluntary elimination of gender in the human species through the application of advanced biotechnology and assistive reproductive technologies. Most recently the term has been promoted by IEET Board Chair George Dvorsky and IEET Executive Director James Hughes in their IEET white paper “Postgenderism: Beyond the Gender Binary.”
Advocates of postgenderism argue that the presence of gender roles, social stratification, and cogno-physical disparities and differences are generally to the detriment of individuals and society. Given the radical potential for advanced assistive reproductive options, postgenderists believe that sex for reproductive purposes will either become obsolete, or that all post-gendered humans will have the ability, if they so choose, to both carry a pregnancy to term and ‘father’ a child, which, postgenderists believe, would have the effect of eliminating the need for definite genders in such a society.
Postgenderism as a cultural phenomenon has roots in feminism, masculism, along with the androgyny, metrosexual/technosexual and transgender movements. However, it has been through the application of transhumanist philosophy that postgenderists have conceived the potential for actual morphological changes to the members of the human species and how future humans in a postgender society will reproduce. In this sense, it is an offshoot of transhumanism, posthumanism, and futurism.
One of the earliest expressions of postgenderism was Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex. It argues,
[The] end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital differences between human beings would no longer matter culturally. (A reversion to an unobstructed pansexuality Freud’s ‘polymorphous perversity’ - would probably supersede hetero/homo/bi-sexuality.) The reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefit of both would be replaced by (at least the option of) artificial reproduction: children would born to both sexes equally, or independently of. either, however one chooses to look at it; the dependence of the child on the mother (and vice versa) would give way to a greatly shortened dependence on a small group of others in general, and any remaining inferiority to adults in physical strength would be compensated for culturally.
Another important and influential work in this regard was socialist feminist Donna Haraway’s essay, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991), pp. 149–181. In this work, Haraway is interpreted as arguing that women would only be freed from their biological restraints when their reproductive obligations were dispensed with. This may be viewed as Haraway expressing belief that women will only achieve true liberation once they become postbiological organisms, or postgendered. However, Haraway has publicly stated that their use of the word “post-gender” has been grossly misinterpreted.
Types of postgenderism
Postgenderists are not exclusively advocates of androgyny, although most believe that a “mixing” of both masculine and feminine traits is desirable—essentially the creation of androgynous individuals who exhibit the best of what males and females have to offer in terms of physical and psychological abilities and proclivities. Just what these traits are exactly is a matter of great debate and conjecture.
Postgenderism is not concerned solely with the physical sex or its assumed traits. It is focused on the idea of eliminating or moving beyond gendered identities. In a traditional gender construct one is either a man or woman (regardless of their genitalia), but in postgenderism one is neither a man nor woman nor any other assumed gender role. Thus an individual in society is not reduced to a gender role but is simply an agent of humanity who is to be defined (if at all) by one’s actions.
In regard to potential assistive reproductive technologies, it is believed that reproduction can continue to happen outside of conventional methods, namely intercourse and artificial insemination. Advances such as human cloning, parthenogenesis and artificial wombs may significantly extend the potential for human reproduction.
Many argue that posthuman space will be more virtual than real. Individuals may consist of uploaded minds living as data patterns on supercomputers or users engaged in completely immersive virtual realities. Postgenderists contend that these types of existences are not gender-specific thus allowing individuals to morph their virtual appearances and sexuality at will.
George Dvorsky and James Hughes “Postgenderism: Beyond the Gender Binary.” IEET White Paper 2008