Bibliophile | Take a look at the vast range of ways of thinking about gender

Gender: A Graphic Guide
by Meg-John Barker and Jules Scheele
Icon Books

Meg-John Barker, who has written books on sex, gender and relationships, open their latest book with: “Every day we receive a barrage of confusing, complex – often contradictory – messages about gender. Gender is connected to everything in our lives. We can’t get away from it even if we want to.” They point out that gender is both personal and political, and can’t be separated from race, class, sexuality, disability, nationality, ethnicity, age or religion.

Looking at history, Barker traces how many of our current constrictions about gender originally came about. They highlight that concepts like ‘natural’, ‘normal’ and ‘right’ rarely are, and they reveal how patriarchy and colonialism have dealt out severe punishments to those who do not conform to rigid ideas about sex and gender.

Ideas about gender and sexuality divide communities and even though gender possibilities have expanded relatively recently and moved away from binary confines, the ‘moral majority’ still seems to be asserting themselves. Comparing it with the Tardis, Barker explains how the concept of gender is much larger than it appears.

From the creators of Queer: A Graphic History, this easy-to-read book comes to life thanks to brilliant illustrations by Jules Scheele. We can see the difficulties of dividing our world on the basis of binaries and how queer activism has challenged the female/male gender binary and the gay/straight sexuality binary.

Feminism has also fought this battle along with many others. “Historically women have been demonised … if they are old; unattractive to men; not maternal or child-bearing; wise, smart or powerful and/or independent and unreliant on men.”

Hoping that our societies can become more caring and celebratory about the diversity of gender and sexuality, Barker cites writings about plural selves who shift in gender identity, experience and expression. “There is no single story to tell about gender, instead let’s embrace its multiplicity of stories.”

Lezly Herbert