Notes Towards a Femontology, from a Woman with a Penis.

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The Two Categories of Gender Impressions

The Gender Impressions, as I have stated before, are the only reality of gender. They are the only Thing-of-gender we actually encounter, though of course they are not identifiable with Pure Gender in-itself. Rather, the Gender Impressions are the index of the impossible encounter with Pure Gender. If you ever think you have your gender in your hands, what you are actually grasping is a contingent, historical, individual Gender Impression.

Such is the form of the Gender Impressions. But what of their content? Despite their limitless diversity, the Gender Impressions can be divided into two primary categories: the Bodily Gender Impressions, and the Non-Bodily Gender Impressions.

Bodily Gender Impressions are synonymous with “gender activity.” This is not to say that gender itself is acting, but rather that the gendering subject is in a state of performative activity. All activity by the gendering subject, in an attempt to reach at Pure Gender, is a Bodily Gender Impression. The clothes you wear; the gestures and expressions you make; the names, pronouns, and labels you adopt; these are all forms of gender activity qua Bodily Gender Impressions. In lay terms, this is what most people mean by “Gender Expression” or “Gender Identity” (though, as we know, these terms are not theoretically sound.)

Non-Bodily Gender Impressions must be the opposite of “gender activity,” i.e. “gender passivity.” Following the logic of Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre, there must be some passivity that makes possible any activity at all. That is, passivity is defined here not as an absence of activity, but rather as a certain receptivity to activity, which receptivity makes possible the encounter with Pure Gender qua The Transition. Without the Non-Bodily Gender Impressions, there could be no Bodily Gender Impressions. Let us dive a little deeper into this relationship.

Without a necessary passivity, activity is infinite. That is, it must be checked. Without this check (passivity, receptivity) the Bodily Gender Impressions would remain in an infinite, non-temporal state. It is the Non-Bodily Gender Impressions that lock the Bodily Gender Impressions into temporal finitude.

At the same time, without activity to check, passivity would be completely intangible. The Non-Bodily Gender Impressions never manifest as themselves, but only as a reciprocal relationship BETWEEN Bodily Gender Impressions. If the Non-Bodily Gender Impressions grant temporal finitude to the Bodily Gender Impressions, then in turn the Bodily Gender Impressions grant a space for the emergence of the Non-Bodily Gender Impressions.

Think of a fence. Without the empty space between pickets, it would cease to be a fence. However, without the pickets themselves, the empty spaces themselves would be nothing at all. In this analogy, the Bodily Gender Impressions are the pickets, the Non-Bodily Gender Impressions are the empty spaces.

Why does this matter, though? Is this not simply a way of describing the structure of any dialectic between activity and passivity? The importance of the Non-Bodily Gender Impressions is that they establish a continuity between Bodily Gender Impressions, not just for the gendering subject, but between gendering subjects. In other words, the Non-Bodily Gender Impressions make possible the social, relational, empathetic dimension of gender. 

There is a social aspect of The Gender Impressions, i.e. our experience of gender is always social. This is not to say that all gendering subjects share in the same experience (the nature of Pure Gender precludes this), but rather to say that there is a point of continuity between Bodily Gender Impressions by virtue of the Non-Bodily Gender Impressions. The latter not only make possible the encounter with Pure Gender qua The Transition, but also make possible encounters with other gendering subjects. Femininity as a point of relation between gendering subjects is a Non-Bodily Gender Impression, although an individual’s feminine aspect/identity is a Bodily Gender Impression. The former cannot be grasped (in space) without the latter; the latter cannot be experienced (in time) without the former.

Let us summarize the distinction between the two categories of Gender Impressions, which in fact must not be thought of as two separate entities, but as a dialectical relationship.

Bodily Gender Impressions: Active, individual, spatially finite but temporally infinite. E.g. the feminine aspect of an individual gendering subject.

Non-Bodily Gender Impressions: Passive, reciprocal, social, empathetic, temporally finite but spatially infinitesimal. E.g. femininity as a unifying category.

All Gender Impressions necessarily involve both of these terms. When I say “I am a woman,” I am of course referring to my individual experience of Pure Gender; in this way the statement is a Bodily Gender Impression. But the very term “woman” only gains its meaning in relation to other Bodily Gender Impressions, both my own and those of other gendering subjects; in this way the statement is a Non-Bodily Gender Impression. Every Gender Impression must have a spatial (bodily) and temporal (non-bodily) aspect, each of which determines the other.

Again: why does this matter at all? The central question of this blog is “What is a woman, without a penis?” In other words, if sex is an impossibility, and sexual organs can never be the point of relation between individual gendering subjects, what is that point of relation? Are all gendering subjects completely isolated, with no connection to one another? Obviously not. But how can we square these two ideas? The answer lies in the Non-Bodily Gender Impressions, i.e. gender empathy. One woman is not connected to another woman because of any individual trait, but because she has the capacity to connect with other women via a process of gender empathy. The category of women is therefore never historically determined or exclusive, but actively self-determining and inclusive. The same is true for all gender, whether categorized or non-categorized.

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