Nowadays, a regular feature in the culture wars pantomime is right-wing campaigners such as Jordan Peterson or Eric Zemmour rejecting the notion popular in 'progressive' circles that sex or gender are social constructs (that is, artefacts not dependent on biology). 

If we are talking of history, I am uncertain on the issue. But no one appears to challenge either side about the future - in particular the possibilities that gene editing or engineering are likely to open up. To begin with, neither Peterson and Zemmour nor anyone else can be sure the crude (and dangerous) sex change operations of today will not be replaced by something far more sophisticated. Dangerous to be sure, but danger rarely deters humans from exploiting technical possibilities, whether for ideological or commercial purposes.

Sadly, even Paul Mason, for all his attention to the future, has failed to take up the gene editing challenge on this level. He holds to the traditional Marxist theme of 'human nature' altering with society and technology, but does not address the way genetic technologies might take such a process to an altogether new - and more deliberate - level. Moreover, there is no reason to assume socialist humanism would result; buccaneering capitalists might be delighted to offer us choices of custom-designed sexes or genders provided we can afford to pay the market price for them. What have Peterson, Zemmour and their ilk - or Judith Butler - to say about that kind of socially constructed biology?

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