Gender Panic, Gender Policy: Volume 24

Cover of Gender Panic, Gender Policy

Table of contents

(16 chapters)

Purpose/approach: This introduction provides an overview of the themes and chapters of this volume.

Research implications: The chapters in this volume present original research employing empirical and textual methods illustrating the complex responses and policy challenges posed by contemporary understandings and misunderstandings of the nature of gender. Various forms of gender panic and responses to it within individuals, institutions, national states, and the world society are explored.

Practical and social implications: Research demonstrates that gender panic can lead to potentially harmful reactions and fruitless policies that reinforce rather than dismantle the gender binary, thereby, impacting vulnerable members of societies.

Value of the chapter: The chapter and the volume are intended to illustrate the nature of current gender panics and related policies and to encourage further scholarship with the goal of promoting greater understanding as well as developing constructive solutions to issues raised.

Part I: Tradition, Women, and the Place of Reproduction


Purpose: This chapter analyzes the gender/sexuality/race system through which the Argentine Army was constructed as the representative of the nation and guardian of its essential values. I will focus on the challenges faced because of the implementation of gender policies by the Ministry of Defense from a rights-based perspective in the institutional matrix of the military, structured through gender and race hierarchies.

Design/methodology/approach: This chapter is based on findings obtained through my experience as a member of the Gender Policy Council for Defense (GPC), from its creation in 2007 to the present, and my fieldwork on the Argentine Armed Forces.

Findings: The resistance to the implementation of gender policies in large part stems from the defiance of the “national ideal” – incarnated by the Argentine Army – constructed upon gender and race inequalities.

Research limitations/implications: Gender inequalities have generally been excluded and ignored in political analysis and in the study of nations and nationalism. For this reason, it is difficult to recover the missing links of history and give women’s lives and gender relations the importance they deserve in analyses of power. The chapter contributes to this task.

Practical and social implications: The resistance to the implementation of the policies sponsored by the GPC of the Ministry of Defense should be evaluated from a gender and ethnoracial perspective.

Originality/value: Research on women in the Argentine Armed Forces is still limited.


Purpose: After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus began to develop a national policy on reproductive health, influenced by late Soviet policy, market relations, and international actors. The central question of this research is how the issues of reproduction and woman’s health are reconsidered in post-Soviet Belarus, in light of the influence of various social and political factors.

Methodology/approach: This chapter critically examines discourses of legal regulations of reproduction and how they promote certain understandings of national security and traditional values through reproduction. In particular, the study is based on the discourse-analysis of the official legislative documents on reproduction in Belarus between 1991 and 2015.

Findings: The transformation of the post-Soviet social protection system, reproductive health care, family policy, as well as specific configuration of public discourse legitimize one model (unified and homogenized normative body that is heterosexual, fertile, healthy, prosperous) and exclude others (non-normative bodies that are non-heterosexual, infertile, unhealthy, poor, and thus precarious for the nation) in favor of the interests of biopolitical governance, nation-building, and neoliberal ideology. Moreover, legal documents legalize new principles of social stratification and produce new ideas about responsible parenthood.

Social implications: Although there is some scholarship on reproduction in Belarus, a thorough analysis of the public discourse and the legal regulations of reproduction has yet to be conducted. Contributing to the debate about post-Soviet reproductive politics, this chapter explores the influence of the biopolitical dialogue and the panic around depopulation on social policies. In particular, this chapter offers more critical perspective toward the economic and social dynamics in Belarus, taking into account the variety of processes and configurations of discourses that influence official policy.


Purpose: In the early 2010s, Japanese society recognized and experienced a panic about increasing infertility and people’s lack of knowledge about human reproduction. This chapter focuses on several graphs that misrepresented or distorted scientific findings that were used in the campaign related to this panic and explores (1) how the graphs were made, used, and authorized, and (2) how they contributed to changes in discourses and policies.

Methodology/approach: Literature survey.

Findings: (1) The graphs were made in the field of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive medicine by questionable methods, including falsifying, trimming, and misunderstanding of data. (2) Researchers in the field of fertility study relied on secondary and tertiary sources thus ignoring and compounding errors. (3) Such inauthentic research was approved and politically mobilized by professional organizations, rather than being penalized or criticized. (4) Discourse based on such unscientific knowledge may have encouraged a pronatalist policy of promoting early marriage and education about human fertility and life planning, targeted at teenage girls.

Research limitations/implications: Any society suffering from a low birthrate can experience similar phenomena. This study focuses on Japan, but it has wider implications about how low integrity and quality of the presentation of medical research can cause these issues elsewhere in the world.

Social implications: This chapter includes a warning against biological explanations that contain unscientific connotations about gender.

Originality/value of study: This study confirms how gender-related policy in 2010s Japan was influenced by science that lacked research integrity and was of sub-standard quality.


Purpose: This chapter examines the resurgence of femininity among Euro-American women who do so under the guidance of a dating coach for success in heteronormative relationships. I set this analysis against Sheryl Sandberg’s concept of “leaning in” at the workplace and older strains of feminist theory in order to analyze, contextualize, and situate the dating group’s engagement with and resistance to feminist theory.

Methodology/Approach: My argument comes from a narrative and content analysis of the dating coach’s blog, public access forum, and data from following the group’s Facebook members-only group from January 2016 to January 2017.

Findings: Katarina Phang’s dating group both rejects and engages with feminist theory. It is very similar to the neoliberal vision of female embodiment in three key ways. The group’s techniques also reference older variants of feminist theory, specifically Virginia Woolf’s and second wave feminist proponents of “consciousness-raising.”

Research Implications: In a “postfeminist” period, researchers have reported a contradiction of a conception of feminism co-existing with a desire for a traditional heteronormative relationship. Phang’s dating philosophy fills and outlines this space neatly.

Social Implications: The cultural resurgence of femininity re-inscribes the gender binary and re-invokes polarized conceptions of gender within heteronormative relationships as well as re-invokes older variants of feminist theory.

Originality/Value: No such study of this dating group has been conducted, nor attention to the resurgence of femininity among Euro-American women with desire as the prime motivator.

Part II: Questioning the Gender Binary


Purpose: The overall purpose of the chapter is to begin development of a frame of reference that encompasses all gender constructs. This chapter focuses on gender constructs in relatively small-scale, sub-national ethnicities. These peoples represent a major focus of strain in the processes of national development and consolidation. The emphasis here is on the cultural (in this case gender oriented) variations that are preserved by their persistence.

Methodology/approach: The chapter is primarily a review of ethnographic literature, focusing on selected case studies that illustrate both the gender variations that exist and some of those that have already been lost.

Findings: The varieties of gender constructs that exist make it clear that the current binary social science paradigm for organizing our knowledge of gender is inadequate.

Value: This chapter is a reminder that rampant globalization threatens the survival of a variety of ethnic patterns and in reducing them to nameless, faceless cogs in a consumer-driven structure, cultural evolutionary potential for adapting to unforeseen conditions is lost.

Limitations: The data cited do not represent a systematic sample of existing variations. They have been chosen to illustrate the range of data existing outside the commonly accepted patterns.


Purpose: The purpose of this chapter is to examine women’s college alumnae’s gender panics surrounding transgender admittance policies and negotiations on how to define the boundaries of the alumnae community in moments of these panics.

Methodology/Approach: I explore these negotiations by conducting a modified grounded theory approach of online discussion threads of one women’s college alumnae Facebook group from 2013 to 2016. These threads (39 threads; 2,812 comments) discuss transgender admissions policies at women’s colleges and the definition of woman more broadly.

Findings: I outline three strategies that define who belongs to a women’s college community in response to peers’ gender panics. First, I discuss the ways in which alumnae “call out hate” and label exclusionary peers as Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFS). Second, I discuss the negotiated boundaries of who is included within the women’s college community. Finally, I focus on the recommended suggestions and expectations for fellow alumnae to be allies toward their trans peers.

Social Implications: These findings imply that feminist boundary negotiation is not only simply based on external threats, but can also be debated among members within the community.

Originality/Value of Study: This study highlights the nuances and strategies of boundary construction in regards to the social category of woman. I propose that researchers expand theorizations of gendered boundary negotiation to consider the ways in which boundaries are drawn not only as a form of panic and exclusion but also as a response to such panics to promote inclusivity and diversity.


Purpose: This chapter provides a contextualized understanding of the gendered anxieties expressed by elite sport regulators that motivated the formulation of sex testing policies in sport between 1937 and 1968. The focus is on complicating the claim that sex testing was first instituted to prevent explicit male bodies from fraudulently masquerading as women in sport. Rather, the chapter argues that sex testing policies were formulated in response to anxieties over sex binary pollution.

Methodology: The chapter is based on a genealogical study of the female category in elite sport, built on archival research conducted at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) historical archives and online newspaper archive collections.

Findings: Boundaries around female embodiment were navigated and written into sex testing policy in response to threats to presumed ideas around gendered and sexed normality in sport. These threats were embodied by athletes who polluted or crossed the border between female and male, to the extent that their bodies were rendered hermaphroditic, excessively masculinized, or hybrid. These bodies caused gendered anxieties for sport regulators, who reacted with policy responses that aimed to purify the sex binary from category pollution or sex abnormality.

Implications: As long as sex binary policing in elite sport continues, awareness of the contextual history of sex testing is essential for understanding the underlying ideas upon which sex binary policing in sport has been built.


Purpose: In this chapter, I analyze proceedings from 2015 when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was asked to determine whether Dutee Chand, an Indian sprinter, could compete as a female athlete. Excluded on the basis that her naturally high testosterone levels conferred an unfair athletic advantage, Chand argued that existing policies in international sport were scientifically flawed. The purpose of the analysis is to examine whether the case led to a shift in the gender politics of sport, law, and science.

Methodology/Approach: I present a textual analysis of the arbitral award document, drawing on feminist methodology to identify where and how the adjudicating panel’s assessment of the case was gendered.

Findings: The CAS decision defined the right to compete as primarily a matter for science to decide, in the process obscuring the gendered and tilted playing field upon which scientific knowledge production takes place. Furthermore, the right to unconditional recognition as a woman was reduced to science alone.

Social Implications: My analysis reveals that Chand’s victory is a precarious one, with binary and biologized models of sex and gender prevailing when the institutions of sport, law, and science determine the policy boundaries of “fair play” for female athletes.

Originality/Value of Study: This chapter shows how the institutions of sport, law, and science work together to determine gender. As a consequence, even feminist versions of the biology of sex difference risk reifying the authority of science as the dominant knowledge form within the institutional spaces of sport and law.

Part III: Policing Gender: Rules, Regulations, and Laws


Purpose: In this chapter, I critically examine how federal regulation and guidance impact gender policing and transgender inclusion within educational institutions.

Approach: I utilize feminist critical discourse analysis to examine the “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students” and its underlying assumptions related to transgender inclusion and gender policing in institutions of education.

Findings: While the federal regulations and guidance currently in place protect some transgender individuals, they also re-stigmatize some transgender individuals by policing the acceptable ways of being transgender and reinforcing the gender binary.

Social Implications: I suggest other areas within the educational institution to address in order to achieve transgender inclusion.

Value of Paper: This chapter critically examines the logistics and effects of federal regulation on gender and transgender inclusion.


Purpose: To consider the extent to which the legal recognition of non-binary gender has the potential to disrupt the gender binary.

Methodology/Approach: This chapter will employ case study as method, focusing on recent changes to Australian law and policy, which introduce a third gender category. I rely on the work of queer theorists on normativity and recognition as a theoretical framework and on the work of social scientists on transgender people as evidence.

Findings: This chapter finds that while there is much to be celebrated about increasing alternatives to the dominant categories of male and female, the legal recognition of non-binary gender may in fact serve to conceptually purge the dominant gender categories of non-conforming elements while simultaneously masking the ways in which institutions of regulatory power continue to demand conformity with normative standards of gender.

Research Limitations: Since few non-binary individuals in Australia have adopted the X marker the implications laid out in this paper are speculative. The experiences of non-binary individuals present an important avenue for further research.

Practical Implications: I recommend, as an alternative to further gender classifications, that we should seek to minimize the degree to which membership of a particular gender category is used to distribute rights and privileges.

Originality/Value of Paper: This chapter advances the literature on non-binary gender, contributes to existing queer and feminist analyses of the gender binary and extends work on normativity to legal recognition of alternative genders.


Purpose: This chapter illuminates the ways in which the coherent arrangements of prisons contribute to variation in implementation, functioning, and consequences of a purportedly gender neutral policy, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), between women’s and men’s prisons.

Methodology/Approach: Guided by grounded theory, two waves of qualitative interviews with inmates, staff, and volunteers at two Midwest women’s prisons were conducted for a total of 61 interviews. Interviews were supplemented with archival data obtained from state historical archives, news outlets, and the Iowa Department of Corrections, as well as participant observation of prisoner advocacy group meetings and the Iowa Board of Corrections’ meetings, and a content analysis of an online discussion forum for correctional officers.

Findings: We find that the gender subtext of prisons shapes the way the PREA is perceived and implemented. Overall, we argue that due to founding logics that differentially shaped the coherent arrangements of men’s and women’s prisons, blanket policies operate differently in these institutions. The gender subtext of prisons, specifically the structural arrangements and cultural processes within women’s and men’s prisons form different landscapes in which the PREA is perceived, enforced, and responded to.

Practical Implications: Given these findings, we call for gender-informed policy that takes gender subtext into account but that also avoids the trap of statistical discrimination present in some gender responsive policies.


Purpose: The United States became a member of the United Nations’ (UN’s) core anti-racism treaty, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), but has not passed the UN’s core gender equality treaty, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This chapter explores why the United States passed only one of the conventions. It reviews the power, misinterpretation, and compliance theories that explain why only one of the treaties was ratified. In addition, it offers a fourth explanation of the nation’s behavior – that of relative cost.

Findings: This chapter shows that CEDAW’s mandates, which are specific in nature, are costlier with respect to public services, educational resources, and programs to alleviate cultural prejudices, than are the more broadly framed ICERD mandates. This chapter finds this difference as a driving factor for the nation to enter into the race convention and not the women’s rights pact.

Methodologies: Methodologies used in this publication include feminist and legal analyses and the examination of US policies as well as statements made by political figures.

Originality: This chapter makes contributions to legal and feminist scholarship by providing insight into the nation’s adoption of ICERD, and its failure to ratify CEDAW despite its stance that it is a supporter of women’s rights. The implications of this study are that while the power, misinterpretation, and compliance theories are useful to understand the apparent discrepant response to the two treaties, relative cost as defined by the different ways in which the treaties are framed is also useful in explaining the United States’ failure to ratify the gender equality treaty. Though CEDAW is more specific in its identification of equality issues and is costlier than ICERD, the advancement of both gender and racial equality in the United States falls short of international standards.


Purpose: This chapter explores the relationship between international human rights and the domestic practices of nation-states around lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights.

Methodology/approach: Using Sweden and Russia as case studies, this chapter analyzes LGBT human rights recommendations from the cyclical United Nations Universal Periodic Review and how they affect practices within nation-states.

Findings: Sweden embraces recommendations to strengthen LGBT human rights and institutes stronger national LGBT rights policies of its own, while Russia’s compliance with LGBT rights recommendations is low. Further, reports of LGBT victimization show that the severity of attacks on LGBT people is pronounced in Russia.

Social implications: Relying on case studies limits the generalizability of this study, but the implications of these findings suggest that, to strengthen human rights compliance and improve the lives of minority citizens, human rights advocates should take note of domestic ideologies and leverage the institutional environment of the world society to provide information, resources, and pressure to facilitate nation-states’ compliance with international human rights recommendations.

Originality/value: This chapter deepens the discourse on the contested realm of international LGBT rights by highlighting the dynamics between international monitoring mechanisms, domestic discourse, and domestic law.

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Advances in Gender Research
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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