What you had seen was a giant black stone, the size of a football field, moving. It floated across the room. The shape of its back and its eyes and mouth were just as odd. They had changed the stone into a humanoid figure, then a figure with wings and a head with two horns and a pair of legs. When the body disappeared, the giant stone became a man – the first person to exist.
The man was named Gwen Wilson – it was the most important invention ever. It was named after her, but the name also symbolised her gender for much of the time after she invented her thing. It was the creation of a woman as well as a man. Gwen Wilson and her fellow inventors became the first sex of the human species. The woman came to be known by her surname and became known as Emma. But Emma had a male alter ego in other incarnations. For the first half of the twentieth century, no other female existed.
And how did the human gender change through time? Where did Gwen and Emma get their ideas for the male gender? These are things that the great philosopher Kant explored in his work of thought called the Phenomenology of Mind. What is mind? What is this thing called reality? Kant argued that what we called ‘reality’ is actually ‘a collection of phenomena, in which there is also a mind at work’. I think he might have been talking about gender. Mind is the consciousness, and also the nature of this collection. These were two ways our minds interacted at different times throughout our history.
There have been a few incarnations over the centuries of this figure of Gwen Wilson. The earliest is generally believed to be in the 1930s. Then in the 1960s we get a different version. The last one is believed to be Gwen as recently as the 1980s. Perhaps we have to look at the world through one or other of these lensed perspectives. I don’t think you can call her a woman. She is a woman because of what she was. She was a woman because she is a woman in the world. She is the first person to be a “woman” for an entire century or more. Now, that is not a simple process. It takes a while for a whole culture to change over an entire millennium and century. The cultural changes are huge and will continue to be a factor. We don’t have to look at two very distinct points in history to see how the human gender changed
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