[This content was written for exclusive publication in Glamour South Africa November issue 2019 and is not to be published without prior written permission and consent from Art of Superwoman and CreativeSHOPPE (PTY) Ltd)

In my opinion, when it comes to gender neutrality, I think they would go unnoticed in the context of society. We’ve had no gender neutral TV characters. We should all strive to be equalists and accepting of each other no matter your gender; though what is the meaning of being male or female or man or woman. Does gender neutrality speak to the intrinsic or biological changes of these; or does it speak to behaviourial manipulation through blinding the superficial in order to avoid one or other discrimination?

Step into character’s worldà Introducing the first gender non binary character ‘Taylor Mason’ of Billions: Taylor was introduced into Billions in the second season and they were an intern at Axe Capital. Their sharpness, intellect and know all is what attracts Axelrod to them which grows their role on the show to a significant one.

Notice the pronouns I use to describe the character: “they, their and them”, these are pronouns used to address gender non binary individuals. What this has done is strip the ‘beholder’ of the exterior, in order for the viewer to see past that and see an exceptional human for what they are.

But then again I ask myself, why can’t that be done whilst just acknowledging a human for who they are and how they were brought into the world (male or female)? Is the system fault not patriarchy?

Why does Axelrod find it easier to look past the face of Taylor as a neutral human than if she were a woman? Does this not equally make us wonder if this is another form then of patriarchy at play?

When I further researched gender neutrality, I noticed a different perspective of the policies at play in the United States – gender neutrality has changed the nature of custody battles, where fathers may have a higher chance of being granted custody of their children due to gender neutrality.

One other thing we should not confuse gender neutrality with is sexual orientation. Just because a female (or woman as society would typical refer to) does not identify as a woman does not necessarily mean that they are automatically attracted to other women, meaning they are gay or lesbian, they may very well be attracted to men and still not consider themselves gay or lesbian. Hell, they may even be attracted to both male and females and that would still not take away from their gender-neutrality.

We should also not confuse gender neutrality with gender non conforming (GNC). As GNC is doing something outside of the gender roles, ie. Wearing make up or dresses. 

See? It’s a complex subject matter that is going to take a lot of time and many discussions for many people to grasp given the world has still not fully embraced gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender.

Step into character’s worldà Introducing the first gender non binary character ‘Taylor Mason’ of Billions: Taylor was introduced into Billions in the second season and they were an intern at Axe Capital. Their sharpness, intellect and know all is what attracts Axelrod to them which grows their role on the show to a significant one. 

Notice the pronouns I use to describe the character: “they, their and them”, these are pronouns used to address gender non binary individuals. What this has done is strip the ‘beholder’ of the exterior, in order for the viewer to see past that and see an exceptional human for what they are.

But then again I ask myself, why can’t that be done whilst just acknowledging a human for who they are and how they were brought into the world (male or female)? Is the system fault not patriarchy?

Why does Axelrod find it easier to look past the face of Taylor as a neutral human than if she were a woman? Does this not equally make us wonder if this is another form then of patriarchy at play?

 

When I further researched gender neutrality, I noticed a different perspective of the policies at play in the United States – gender neutrality has changed the nature of custody battles, where fathers may have a higher chance of being granted custody of their children due to gender neutrality.

One other thing we should not confuse gender neutrality with is sexual orientation. Just because a female (or woman as society would typical refer to) does not identify as a woman does not necessarily mean that they are automatically attracted to other women, meaning they are gay or lesbian, they may very well be attracted to men and still not consider themselves gay or lesbian. Hell, they may even be attracted to both male and females and that would still not take away from their gender-neutrality.

We should also not confuse gender neutrality with gender non conforming (GNC). As GNC is doing something outside of the gender roles, ie. Wearing make up or dresses.

See? It’s a complex subject matter that is going to take a lot of time and many discussions for many people to grasp given the world has still not fully embraced gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender.

Is feminism under attack? If yes, what are your views on why?

Feminism used to be seen as women who don’t shave, are lesbians, burn bras and throw profanity and are at upheaval at every notion that men do things better than women. This has evolved and changed.

I think feminism has taken on a new identity – men are becoming feminists (slowly, but they are). It seeks to bring men and women (or more appropriately, males and females) to the same table, the same level. It speaks to assigning the same roles, identities and policies to both men and women. So for me I ask the question, why have the introduction of gender neutrality which complicates the intricacies that come with biology and behaviour, when we are both working on changing the perceptions of feminism and on the route of encouraging the all genders to be feminists? Can feminism and gender neutrality co-exist? With feminist, we are (incidentally) attempting to be gender non-binary because what is perceived as gender is being adjusted not-so? Then again the use of the actual word ‘feminism’ could be gender binary on its own. Now we’re back to square one.

Is SA ready to talk gender neutrality?

I struggle to answer this question purely because once again, we have not been introduced to the concept formally as South Africans. When I say formally, I don’t mean a gender advocate or the likes. I mean in the media, a TV character on the TV screen – one we can take apart and discuss. Unless we will debate it and discuss it in the American context, we can take a part and discuss the Taylor character from Billions… when we’ve all watched it. Not just the higher LSM – when all of us do. Which would mean waiting for SABC to acquire the rights to Billions and then waiting for Season 2… then the conversations on social media can begin. Then again, have we not just gotten a seat at the table to discuss gender equality. Is that not higher up the priority list? Secondly, the pronouns may just be a huge issue in South Africa where you have these preferred pronouns used as a way of respect to your elders or those you respect: In African culture you do not refer to your elders or those that are respected as a singular, but rather as “They, their and them” when directly translated… See the issue here?

Who is breaking gender codes in SA and globally?

I would say Somizi and his recent make-up endorsement. I would also say that Riky Rick (though not gender neutral), has a gender neutral style – he might not think so. Purely an opinion on my end.  Recently Jaden Smith was named the face of Louis Vuitton’s womenswear line. Both himself and his sister have been known to lend their voices to gender neutrality advocacy and conversation. And of course as mentioned above Taylor Mason of Billions.

What are their contributions to the conversation?

Are labels necessary? Are the rules, policies and behaviours associated with each gender necessary to conform to? Are we conforming out of fear of being outcasts or comfort of the known?

Our November issue is themed “Powered By Women”. How do you think the word women and all initiatives, campaigns, public holidays and gender specific women resonate with gender non binary people?

I honestly don’t know. Firstly, the public holidays, campaigns and initiatives that speak to women, speak to equality – gender neutrality speaks to eliminating the stereotype and label and replacing it with a neutral label. So I get the sense that with gender neutral and non-binary people, they feel erased from the conversation and excluded. The word woman sort of isolates them to the notion that the feminist movement is only for the binary movement and not those that remain neutral.

 

Once again, that feeling that feminism is woman only but really isn’t, therefore the narrative has changed to include men being feminist.

 

How do we create a conversation where gender neutrality is inclusive of the ‘woman/women’ label or do we drop the whole binary label overall? Or again, perhaps inviting the gender non-binary and the gender non-conforming individuals of South Africa to conversations such as these would open up the new page of gender labels and gender roles and allow us to have a wider spread conversation that seeks to explore whether womanhood is exclusively about having a vagina and possessing uterus.

Do you think media is gender biased?

Gender stereotypes, especially those displayed in the media are biased.

In the context of a place like South Africa, we have so much to deal with in terms of gender structures and patriarchy in order to break through this conversation, but it cannot happen if mainstream media does not lead the conversation in one way or the other.

A blurred vision of masculine and feminine is the new norm. Do we see enough representation in fashion beauty and media?

Gender stereotypes, especially those displayed in the media are biased.

In the context of a place like South Africa, we have so much to deal with in terms of gender structures and patriarchy in order to break through this conversation, but it cannot happen if mainstream media does not lead the conversation in one way or the other.

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Entrepreneur, mom and wife. Superwoman.

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