On the Millennium Trilogy

Lisbeth Salander as a Gender Outlaw

By Misty K. Hook, Ph.D.

When I used to teach Gender Issues, I’d begin the semester by asking students what our lives would be like without gender. I’ve never had a class that wasn’t stumped by this question, because the answer is so overwhelming. Gender is everywhere; it’s foundational. Gender dictates what we call people–pronouns, our given names, how we refer to others, and even insults–what we wear, how we speak, what careers are considered appropriate, the sports we play, the toys and games we enjoy, how we choose our leaders, what we value, the food we eat, how we play and compete, and even where we go (e.g., the “ladies room”). Even more seriously, gender tells us when we can do things (like differing times for field use in women and men’s athletics), if we can belong to certain clubs (for example, “gentlemen’s clubs” or the Augusta National Golf Club where women are not welcomed), whether we can work certain jobs (like construction for men or Hooters server for women), and even if we get discounts (“Ladies Night”). But most of all, gender dictates how we act. Contrary to popular belief, though, these behaviors aren’t biological imperatives. Many people want to believe that women are biologically destined to act one way while men are genetically “preprogrammed” to act another way. Perhaps it would be easier if this were the case, but it isn’t.

I want to clarify that sex is not the same thing as gender. A lot of people confuse the terms and use  …

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