Admittedly, I’ve been really into catching up on Meg-John Barker‘s collected works in the past few months (see previous reviews of Queer: A Graphic History and How to Understand Your Gender). What I particularly like about these texts is how clearly and succinctly they’re written, which makes them accessible for a wide audience.
Gender: A Graphic Guide — written by Barker, illustrated by Jules Scheele, and published this past January — is essentially a hyper-condensed Gender Studies course written in plain language, heavily illustrated, and aimed at a general audience. Barker and Scheele weave a cogent, enjoyable narrative of “how humanity understands gender and what makes it so complicated” while acknowledging complexities, disagreements, and problematic elements within the evolution of our understanding of gender over time.
There were several points in this book when I yelled “YESSS!” out loud, alone in my apartment.
This book is particularly valuable for visual learners, as every single page is illustrated in a style somewhere between an infographic and a comic book. It also includes a number of delightful nerd- and pop-culture references throughout.
As with Barker’s other books, the approach in Gender: A Graphic Guide is intersectional. One cannot understand gender separate from the contexts of race, socioeconomic class, and culture. Our history is riddled with unfortunate examples of groups advocating for “women’s rights” or “queer rights” from a purely white, Western, able-bodied, middle- and upper-class perspective, leaving behind the needs and concerns of anyone who doesn’t fit that mold. Our activism needs to be decolonized every bit as much as the concept of gender itself.
I also deeply appreciated the authors’ acknowledgement of the connections between capitalism and gender inequity:
So if you’re interested in our culture’s understanding of gender and how it came to be, and the ways in which the concept of gender is currently evolving and blooming, this book is a fascinating read. It’s part history, part sociological analysis, and it’ll give you plenty of food for thought as you look at your own experience with gender.
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