Christians for Biblical Equality

A Brief History of Gender and its Significance

Daniel Patterson

(Published in Sept 2016 on the EFAC Australia website)


The topic of gender has recently captured the public’s attention. One reason for this is the radical attempt by some organisations and theorists to “queer” gender. What follows describes, albeit in brief, the historical and theoretical backstory that has lead to the development and use of queer theory to achieve this end. Evangelical responses to this issue will be greatly enriched by better understanding the history that has brought us to this point. This article is not an attempt to engage the debate, but is focussed on the more modest task of explaining the historical and theoretical parameters of the debate. 

A Very Brief History

Questioning gender norms in the past has catalysed significant changes to culturally embedded gender norms. Following is a brief recount of how gender has been under question for over 100 years, and how each new wave of questioning of gender norms can be characterised by distinct emphases falling under the broad banner called feminism. The historical questioning of gender norms can be divided broadly into three feminist waves, each offering a depth of social analysis the previous wave did not achieve. 
It is not accurate to say that queer theory is feminism or even a kind of feminism, but one is able to identify queer theorisation as having emerged from and in response to perceived inadequacies of a particular formulation of feminism of the 1980s.

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