Race and Gender: Dangerous Ideas Inherited from Class Society

Communism Sees Comrades, Not Categories

Not long ago, many scientists taught that “race” was a fixed biological category. Racists – including some scientists – lied that segregation and super-exploitation were “natural” results of supposed biological differences.

Now we know better. While genetics affects many physical traits, there is no biological way to sort humans into five, or three, or any number of distinct “races.” The racism of class society – especially capitalist slavery in the US – created “races.” When class society is destroyed by communist revolution, we’ll end racism. Eventually even the idea of “race” will disappear.

Much the same is true of sex and gender.

With few exceptions, gender roles come from the sexism of class society, not from inborn biological differences. Even the binary division of humanity between “men” and “women” is a social construct like “race.”

Rulers of class societies need to divide the masses they exploit and oppress. They need to make their cruel and selfish domination seem “natural.” At first religion was the main excuse—and it still serves that purpose. But in the capitalist era, the rulers’ distorted science became the new rationale for sexism as well as racism.

Communists fight for a classless society where nobody will exploit anyone. We’ll work voluntarily and collectively to meet everyone’s needs without profits or money or barter. To win and build communism we need to destroy racism, sexism, borders and every “ism” the rulers use to divide us.

Communism means “from each according to ability and commitment, to each according to need.” Communist society will value each person as a distinct comrade within a huge interconnected social network. We won’t think of ourselves or each other in terms of “boxes” like races or genders.

That doesn’t mean throwing out science! On the contrary, many more of us will do and understand much more – and better – science.

Gender and Biology

How do male and female humans differ biologically? Not much. It’s “fake news” that biology makes “Men from Mars, Women from Venus.”

Gender differences don’t come from different anatomy. They are not in the genes that are our biological inheritance. They are not in the hormones coursing through our bodies. (See “Gender and Biology” below)

Almost all the psychological and social differences we see (or think we see) between men and women come from how capitalism treats us differently. And from the sexist ways that capitalism teaches us to see and treat ourselves and other workers.

Gender and Culture

Various pre-capitalist cultures identified more than two genders. A third gender is recognized by Zapotec people in Oaxaca (muxes) and by Hindus and Muslims in India (hijras). Warias are a third gender in Indonesia, now stigmatized by Muslim rulers. Christian missionaries in Hawaii suppressed indigenous Mahus. Over 150 indigenous groups across Native Americans traditionally recognized – and revered — a third gender called “two-spirited people.”

The Buginese people of Sulawesi (Indonesia) recognize four genders and a fifth category for people who belong to all four.   Classical Judaism had six genders.

Human rights groups are now pushing hard, internationally, for transgender rights. But they never question how the sexism of class society shapes an individual’s sense of being “really male” or “really female.” The “genderqueer” movement rejects the male/female “gender binary” but generally not the capitalist society that perpetuates it.

Once communism destroys the material basis of sexism, we’ll be able to win the fight to end all discrimination and divisions based on gender or perceived gender. Starting now, we mobilize for communism based on an appreciation of everyone’s contributions and everyone’s needs, and on an active fight against sexism in all its forms.

Gender and Biology

How is a person’s sex determined? Usually by their anatomy (external and internal) or by their genes.

The gene is the basic unit of heredity. Each gene is a stretch of the chemical DNA, found in structures called chromosomes in every cell. We inherit one copy of each gene from each parent.

Genes help determine our physical traits by coding for the production of specific proteins. Scientists are still figuring out why a gene triggers production of a protein in one cell but not in another.

Most humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes in each cell. One pair is called “sex chromosomes” and the other 22 are called “autosomes.” Here we are mainly interested in the “sex chromosomes.” The larger is called “X” and the smaller is “Y.”

About 45% of all people have two X chromosomes and are anatomically female. They have ovaries, a uterus and other female organs. Another 45% have one X and one Y chromosome and are anatomically male.

That leaves about 10% of all people who don’t fit neatly into the genetic male/female gender binary categories. That’s quite a few! It’s more than the percentage of non-Han people in China or the percentage of “Coloured” in South Africa.

There’s a lot of variation among that 10%.

About one out of every 500 males born is “XXY.” Others are XXXY, XXXXY, XXYY or XXXYY. Almost all have male genitalia but many have secondary sex characteristics (such as body type or patterns of body hair) that are not typically male.

Some people who present as females have three, four or even five X chromosomes, or just one. They, too, often differ from “typical” females.   The most puzzling cases are newborns with male anatomy but XX chromosomes.

Some people are “mosaics.”   Their cells have different sets of “sex” chromosomes. Some of these are technically intersex.   Perhaps 2% of all babies have ambiguous external genitalia.

But advanced capitalism’s commitment to the “gender binary” demands that everyone must be labeled “male” or “female.” Usually a doctor decides the child’s “real” sex and does “corrective surgery.”

What about Male and Female Hormones?

Hormones are chemical messengers that are created in the endocrine glands, regulated by genes. They are critical to most major bodily functions, including reproduction.

Women’s ovaries secrete the hormones estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. Men’s testes produce testosterone. Other endocrine glands also secrete hormones that are involved in libido, or “sex drive.”

Due to gender-binary thinking, testosterone is called the “male hormone” even though women produce it, too. Estrogen and progesterone are called “female hormones” even though men produce them too. Everyone needs all these hormones to stay healthy.

Biology is real. But it doesn’t justify gender-binary thinking. And it’s not destiny.

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