Our weird cultural commitment to the gender binary goes way beyond actual living men and women—if it didn’t, people wouldn’t freak out so badly when someone declines to choose. Masculinity and femininity are concepts we layer on top of everything from people to pens to political parties. Sometimes there’s a middle ground, but often we seem lost without our familiar patterns; it’s the confused hetero doofus asking a gay couple “which one’s the woman,” except for the entire world. Take any opposed things—Democrats and Republicans, cats and dogs, even the sun and the moon—and you’ll find one of them associated with physical strength, action, and domineering behavior, and the other associated with emotion, reticence, and calm. That’s not just descriptive; it’s prescriptive, and proscriptive too. If we could judge the moon for yelling, we would.
Jess Zimmerman on binaries.
This is from a longer, and more specific, analysis on the Democratic party in the US, specifically the fact that it’s seen as “feminized”—as (ahem) “opposed” to the masculinized Republican party—and how that results in a heavily gendered political dynamic (i.e. the GOP are allowed to whine and scream and be giant manbabies, because mantrums, while Democrats are forever play the role of the “reasonable” mother-wife).
Mostly, though, I think it’s a reminder that “smash the gender binary!” doesn’t mean “ban individual gender expression” but rather “critique and dismantle cultural constructs that assign specific traits to genders and then in turn those genders to non-human objects/concepts.”