Popular understanding reflects the view that ‘sex’ refers to biology, while ‘gender’ refers to culture. Identify and critically analyse at least three implications that stem from this understanding. Refer to at least 3 articles in the Unit reader from week 1-6. Introduction:
The concepts of ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ incur separate meanings and interpretations by different theorists and feminists. The origins of the central idea of ‘gender’ was initiated by two key sexologists, John Money and Robert Stoller. Through the contributions from both theorists, this essay will examine the ways in which the sex/gender distinction was crucial in diminishing the binary logic that had been long claimed, as it separated the two concepts and allowed for them to be viewed as individual phenomenons, where transsexual persons could now be included. To demonstrate this, I will present the implications in which arise due to a lack of distinction between the two concepts and the expectations and fixed identities that follow through with socio-cultural norms. Implications discussed will include inequality between man and woman, direct subordination of women and expected gender roles, as well as traits, to with take. History:
Money’s research was based on hermaphroditism, where he employed the notion of gender as a human feature in order to examine how an individual with no obvious male or female parts could develop an identity as a girl/woman, boy/man. Although his work was later discredited, it gave women and early feminists in the 1950’s the chance to oppose the idea that their subordination in society was due to the ‘natural state of things’, rather than a stigma that had been attached through socio-cultural stereotypes (Germon, 2009). Money did not advocate for the idea that the body and the mind where two separate phenomenon, instead he had “long championed the idea that sex was but one element of gender rather than its opposite” (Germon, 2009: 86). Similarly, Stoller sought out to examine the ‘transsexual phenomenon’, however was the first to make a clear distinction between sex and gender, where sex served as a referent of the body and gender to the mind. Essentially, it was the ground breaking research from both sexologists that led to society, at the time, to understand ‘sex’ as the inevitable differences between male and female (Curthoys, 2000), and gender as an artefact produced under patriarchal social arrangements (Millet, 1971, as cited in Germon, 2009). Implications with sex:
Prior to these distinctions being made and brought to social attention, biology was assumed to be the destiny for males and females, that is, their chromosomal makeup (including sex organs and physicality) determined their social position and sexual orientation. ‘Gender’ stayed attached to this idea through being used to characterise individuals as ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’. Circulating ideas at the time suggested that women were passive due to their bodily status, since their biological state implied that they were passive beings that were good for energy conservation, which included being politically powerless, not suitable for active or busy lifestyles, only those that focussed on child rearing and housekeeping. By conceptualising ‘sex’ through an understanding of biology, women were direct victims of scientific biases, where they were presupposed as being incapable of exercising reason, and so therefore did not meet the requirements to vote – also, they did not need to, as they were represented by their husbands. More practically, women were reduced to the parts of their bodies that deemed them ultimately fit for reproduction and child rearing. Men on the other hand, were katabolic which gave them the correct embodiment to be resourceful, energetic individuals whom were fit for social and political activities. On this biological basis, men and women were placed into fixed agendas of behaviour, as well as acting as a way to validate the political and...
References: Curthoys, A. (2000). Gender Studies in Australia: A history. Australian Feminist Studies, 15 (31), 19-38.
Germon, J. (2009). Feminist Encounter with Gender. In Gender: A genealogy of an idea, pp. 85-108. New York: Palgrave.
Henry, A. (2004). Finding ourselves in the Past: Feminist generations and the development of second-wave feminism. In Not My Mother’s Sister: Generational conflict and third wave feminism, pp. 52-87. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
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