Sexism as Genetic Discrimination

The movie Gattaca shows an extreme version of genetic discrimination, where the opportunities available to someone are almost exclusively determined by their DNA. After reading Rare Bird, I argue that sexism is a form of genetic discrimination in its own way. Sarah Ann has limited opportunities available to her just because her lack of a Y chromosome, which was predetermined before her birth. Just as Vincent feigns an identity in order to break through the barriers set in place for him due to his genetics in Gattaca, Sarah Ann has to sneak around the prejudice before her. For example, when she writes a letter to Linnaeus she signs it S. A Billop, “meaning by this not to deceive the famous scholar but simply to keep him from dismissing her offhand,” (79). She also has to work much harder just to become educated, as many people during this time believed that women shouldn’t be educated. Sarah Ann was lucky that her father educated her and her brother “as if they were brothers,” (72). This metaphor indicates that it wasn’t typical for women to be educated at this time. The idea that women shouldn’t be educated and shouldn’t be heard based on their predetermined gender represents a less extreme, yet still problematic, version of genetic discrimination. 

This idea is important because it shows the human desire to create hierarchy based on predetermined factors. Another similar example would be race, as certain races have attempted to dominate others throughout human history. Some examples, such as slavery, are extreme manifestations of this deliberate subordination. This human tendency makes the idea of genetic testing and genetic engineering incredibly frightening, because it would allow for many other different factors to become a basis for discrimination.


A fictional example of this comes from Huxley’s Brave New World, where people are born into certain classes without flexibility. The dystopia depicted in this novel is frighteningly real, as seen by the discrimination based on predetermined factors that already exists and has existed in our world. Vincent and Sarah Ann represent characters who are able to overcome their obstacles, but perhaps society is moving towards a system so accurate and extreme that it can’t be beat. 



~ by smilller12 on February 17, 2014.

2 Responses to “Sexism as Genetic Discrimination”

  1. I find myself thinking this often in class. As we examine fictional societies with extreme examples, it’s important to keep in mind genetically predetermined traits that are already subject to bias in our society. Sex and race are excellent example. Even physical traits such as height and conventional attractiveness could be considered. Sorache brings in an interesting dimension of this genetic-class predetermination. Zaga feels that her Lithuanian appearance, unlike the nobles in the painting, makes her inferior. What makes manipulation in a laboratory different from years of history and conditioning to deem certain traits “superior”? How interconnected are hierarchies with desirable effect of genetic engineering? Great post, really got me thinking.

  2. Your thesis is illuminating. While this is a very complicated and volatile issue, boiling down sex to genetics, which I had never really been cognizant of, extremely simplifies everything. My idea of sex as being out of the sphere of genetic predisposition is indubitably common because of the importance, mythology, politics, and essence that whomever ascribe these things ascribe to sex and gender, which actually makes it even more relevant to genetics, not less, as society sees and makes it.

    So how far can we take the concept? When I ask people whether or not they believe in freewill, I most commonly get the immediate and lone response that our physiology essentially determines everything we do and every choice that we make, and, while I don’t necessarily find that argument filling, the physiology, most influential being genetics, of everyone severely impacts their freewill, ergo somehow deciding the title of my next blog post, “Everything as Genetic Discrimination.” Obviously, I really like what you have touched upon here. And for that matter, did ‘I’ free willingly choose that title and blog thesis?

    Any who, to prevent any faux pas in the future regarding political correctness, I should note the last sentence of the first paragraph, where “their predetermined ‘gender’” is actually their predetermined ‘sex’. Sex is biological, and gender is left to freewill. Or is it?

    By the time genetic testing and genetic engineering fulfills its destiny and permeates the world, surely, the racial and political issues of today and yesterday will be resolved. Or it might even take so long for genetics to jump on the scene that we will all just be a sort of beige color.

    There is little alternative to being predestined to be born into a certain class, as mentioned in the final paragraph, other than socialism and there is not such desirable a thing as absolute egalitarianism etc., but we can get away from basing it on genetics, race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion etc., but I just don’t see it happening. : /

    Adam W. Gill

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