Perspectives on gender

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Perspectives on gender



Okay, the thread title is a bit vague, but I couldn't think of anything better.

I read [url={E5F02D4F-2C64-4109-A68A-4DC0A6A0CBA1}]this article about Carol Gilligan[/url] in today's NatPost. Not a great site for articles on feminism, and I'm sure that they only ran this because of the focus on boys, but still interesting.


The Harvard psychology professor became a feminist celebrity almost overnight after writing In a Different Voice, a book that set out the gender-based differences in moral judgment and moral reasoning. Harvard University Press aptly describes the 1982 work as "the little book that started a revolution." The book's suggestion that girls were being silenced by male-dominated society by the time they reached adolescence sparked more than a decade of gender equity acts, girl empowerment campaigns and self-esteem initiatives.

Today, Dr. Gilligan, who was once named Ms magazine's Woman of the Year and whose high profile among feminists helped Harvard land a US$12.5-million gender-studies grant from Jane Fonda, will be delivering the keynote address to launch the International Boys' Schools Coalition conference in New York City.

The conference, which draws boys' educators from around the world, will be exploring a wide range of issues facing boys in schools today, particularly some of the significant findings about how boys learn and how the education system can help boost their achievement.

[url=]Har... Faculty Profile of Dr. Carol Gilligan[/url]

[url=]Home page for her course on theories of gender in psychology and culture[/url]

Some of the issues here seem similar to those from Susan Faludi's last book, Stiffed (a good interview with her about that book was done in [url=][i]Mother Jones[/i], here[/url]).

I'm not that informed about trends in feminist thought, but it seems to me that some of the analysis is being expanded to look at males, Specifically, how the same forces that affect women are now increasingly affecting men as well.

[ June 27, 2002: Message edited by: MJ ]


Thanks for posting the link to the Faludi interview. I've always liked her for her practical, no-nonsense approach to difficult issues and her work ethic when it comes to exhaustably researching her subject matter.


You're right! The topic is very vague. I've read all of your links and I don't quite understand where you wanted it to go but I'll start here.


the same forces that affect women are now increasingly affecting men as well.

I sincerely doubt the same forces of sexual, intellectual and political (to name a few) oppression that have sculpted feminism affect men. Actually, it is probably just the opposite. While women are supposed to not care for sex, intellect or politics men are expected to be experts in all three.


i think that, in terms of feminist analyses of male gendering, while it is important to examine the ways in which men and boys are limited and restricted by their conditioning, by their interpellation into culture and society as males, we cannot forget the fact that they still are members of a privileged class as males. it is not, i believe, accurate to say that men and boys are subject to the same forces that we might identify as the sources of women's oppression. that, of course, does not make the study of masculinity, and its politicization completely distinct from, or irrelevant to the feminist project(s); i think we just cannot be reductive in our analyses and theorizing. also, we have to be cautious about inadvertedly aligning with anti-feminist, pro-masculinity men's movements that have been proliferating in the usa and canada (the promise keepers is one example; i think that the book "spreading misandry: the teaching of contempt for men in popular culture" is another - note: i may have that subtitle slightly wrong). i think it is key to remember the relations of privelege and oppression that continue to undercut our gendering as men and women, and not to be simplistic or reductive or reactionary in our claims about the relationships between masculinity and femininity, between men and women, and between oppression and other experiences of limitation, restriction, or repression.


Welcome to Babble, anna_c!

I agree with you and skadie, but at the same time I believe it is always a good time to ask how men come into being. I've been obsessing most of my life about the processes of construction and history of my own gender and only recently realized that it is equally important to look into the creation of men. Schooling, sports, emotional economy, body languages: practices to watch closely. What are the rites of passage for someone on his(?) way to become a man? What are the weaker points at which one can negotiate? What is considered non-negotiable?

One thing that I remembered just now. Many feminist friends that I have that have kids keep telling me that they always find themselves policing their sons into the right gender, steering gently their choices of toys and such towards more male-gendered or neutral ones. Many of them feel the social price of non-conformity would be too high for their sons.

[ July 15, 2002: Message edited by: Trespasser ]



Many of them feel the social price of non-conformity would be too high for their sons.

In some cases, yes, in others, no.

For instance, I don't dress Amir in pink flowery girly-clothes. On the other hand, I got a hand-me-down tricycle that was yellow and hot pink, and he liked it just fine. I'm okay with giving him "girlish" toys like tea party sets, baby dolls, etc. I even painted a couple of his fingernails when he saw me painting mine and thought it was so neat and wanted some nail polish too. I have no problem with him role-playing female roles like being "the mommy" when we play house. Basically, the only thing I don't do is dress him in really feminine clothing, because in our society, men's and women's clothing are still different, and especially when younger, girl's clothing is exaggeratedly "girly". I see no point in dressing him in stuff like that. I'm not about to screw around with his life (which he has to live inside his body, internalizing societal reaction to himself) just to make some abstract political point about gender.

audra trower wi...

I suspect if you had a daughter, you wouldn't dress her in itchy lace either, Michelle [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]


Itchy lace...sounds intriguing!


Ever hear of John Money? From the Hopkins institute. That guy may go down in history as a seriously fucked up mad scientist for his work in gender studies: nature vs. nurture.

His study into identical male twins raised as different genders with different genitalia is one helluva an example of scientific arrogance and crazed ambition.


The John/Joan story is a bit more complicated than that.

The kid was a biological male until his second or third year, when he was castrated in an accident. It was then that Money took over, asked the parents if they would agree to bring up the kid as a girl, with some later additional surgery if I recall.

Money was not a feminist by any stretch of imagination, and his theories of psychosexual development had had their own, non-feminist ideological background. He was also a nasty authoritarian (but many powerful scientists are like that anyway).

jeff house

To me it seems incredibly naive to think that if somehow my genitals were ripped out ( and PERISH THE THOUGHT), I would become female.

Aren't there Y chromosomes strewn all over the place? And don't they generate hormones and stuff?

[ July 16, 2002: Message edited by: jeff house ]


Some people always ask the right question at the right time...

Glands are said to produce hormones. But there's a history to both glands and hormones that we're often unaware of, and I have just finished a fabulous book by the molecular biologist Anne Fausto-Sterling [i]Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality[/i] that I would recommend to anybody remotely interested in politics of sexual biology. I have to share some bits.


Why, then, have hormones always been strongly associated with the idea of sex when, in fact, "sex hormones" apparently affect organs throughout the entire body and are not specific to either gender? The brain, lungs, bones, blood vessels, intestine, and liver (to give a partial list) all use estrogen to maintain proper growth and development. [...] One of the claims I make in this chapter and the next is that relentlessly, over this century, scientists have integrated the signs of gender - grom genitalia, to the anatomy of gonads and brains, then to our very body chemistry - more thoroughly than ever into our bodies. In the case of the body's chemistry, researchers accopmlished this feat by defining as sex hormones what are, in effect, multi-site chemical growth regulators, thus rendering their far-reaching, non-sexual roles in both male and female development nearly invisible.


During the early days of sex hormone research, investogators showed remarkable restraint. They did not name or define. Referring only to the 'male hormone' and the 'female hormone', or occasionally their tissue of origin (as in 'the ovarian hormone'), they patiently awaited further clarification. By 1929, a number of contender names for the female hormone had been floated. The words [i]ovarin[/i], [i]oophorin[/i], [i]biovar[/i], [i]protovar[/i], [i]folliculin[/i], [i]feminin[/i], [i]gynacin[/i] and [i]luteovar[/i] all referred to site of origin. In contrast, [i]sistomensin[/i] (making the menses subside}, [i]agomensin[/i] (stimulating the menses), [i]estrus hormone[/i], and [i]menoformon[/i] (causing the menses) all referred to proposed or demonstrated biological actions. Some researchers preferred Greek constructs, hence the words [i]thelykin[/i] (thelys = the feminine: kineo = I set going), [i]theelin[/i], [i]theeol[/i], and for the male hormone, [i]androkynin[/i]. [...]

Using the word [i]estrus[/i] (meaning "gadfly", "crazy", "wild", "insane") as the root on which biochemists built female hormone names happened over drinks "in a place of refreshment near University College", when the endocrinologist A. S. Parkes and friends coined the term [i]estrin[/i] (Parkes 1966b).

(In 1936, The Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry of the Americal Medical Association, realizing that [i]theelin[/i] has already been copyrighted, adopted [i]estrogen[/i] as a generic term. Some years later, suggestions still kept coming.)


[Parkes later wrote that]the terms [i]androgenic[/i] and [i]estrogenic[/i] had been introduced "to promote clear thinking and precision in expression... but it is now evident that [the terms] are inadequate." The word [i]estrogenic[/i], he argued, should apply only and literally to substances that produce changes in the estrus cycle. Noting that the ability of estrogen to feminize bird plumage, for example, could hardly be called estrogenic, in the literal meaning of the word, Parkes proposed that [i]gynoecogenic[/i] be "used as a general term to describe activity which results in the production of the attributes of femaleness." But this proposal came too late. The nonparallel nomenclature - [i]androgens[/i] for the male hormone group, [i]estrogens[/i] for the collection of female hormones - took hold. Eventually, terms with the root [i]thelys[/i], which denoted not the reproductive cycle but the more general conception of the feminine, dropped from common usage, and thus the ideal of female hormones became inextricably linked to idea of female reproduction.

There's bunch of other stuff but the post is getting too darn long.

[ July 16, 2002: Message edited by: Trespasser ]


Adding to the above post ^^ (a bit late, I know)

But you don't actually know for sure what your genetic "sex" is until you get it checked out. Tons of people are walking around with XXY, XYY, XXX, and so on, and they don't know it because our system of gender/sex is so rigidly binary.

If someone wants to call me on the source of that info or what have you, I might bother to look for it. I know I have it around here somewhere...
*takes a survey glance at the mounds of papers strewn about the room* *sigh*



But you don't actually know for sure what your genetic "sex" is until you get it checked out. Tons of people are walking around with XXY, XYY, XXX, and so on, and they don't know it because our system of gender/sex is so rigidly binary.

Exactly. In fact, just a few months back, we had a fascinating and very personal perspective on this from Myria, a woman who was born "intersexed." She hasn't been around much of late, unfortunately.

You can read her posts by going [url= and scrolling down.

And I don't know why I'm acting as babble historian today, 'cept that we're just back from the big street festival outside, and I'm feelin' neighbourly. [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]


hey 'lance.

you should maybe check out Emi Koyama. She's my hero. She even has her own slogan- "Putting the emi back in feminism". [url=]emi[/url]


The XYY, in point of fact, is called Klinefelter's. (Left to stand in order to not disrupt the flow of the thread, but also because I acknowledged my own boneheadedness below. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img] )

[ July 22, 2002: Message edited by: DrConway ]


Apologies, Doc: Klinefelter Syndrome is XXY. It tends to manifest in problems of fertility and some degree of breast development in about half of cases. XYY was the "hyper-male" syndrome that was briefly believed to be linked to higher rates of violent and criminal behaviour. Another syndrom that shows up much more rarely than either of those is Turner's, where females lack the second X chromosome.


I could have sworn supermale syndrome (XYY) was also Klinefelter's. Oh well. Shows what I get for not checking with my biology textbook. [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]


[url=]The Intersex Society of North America[/url].



Feminism has shown us that what we think of as feminine is actually defined by cultural messages and political agendas. The same holds true for men and for what constitutes masculinity. Being a feminist opens your eyes to the ways men, like women, are imprisoned in cultural stereotypes.

(From the Faludi interview in the first post.)

OK, I agree with the first part. What is feminine is more defined by politics and culture than by nature and instinct. And I agree with the fact that men are defined by cultural expectations of them too. I also agree that a man's experience is relevant to feminism.

I don't think however, we can really compare experiences (Well, I suppose I am comparing, but I think you know what I mean.)

Males were not brought up to believe they were the inferior sex. Reflecting on my past, I can see so many times when it was detrimental to be a female. Many times as a child I wished I was a boy so I could do more and get the extra special consideration I saw the males receive.

I suppose a lot has changed since when I was growing up. I wasn't even ALLOWED to take shop class. Girls did home economics, boys did shop. That was the way things were. (I'm refering to the mid-eighties in small town N.S.) Horribly, a male student showed up in my home ec. class after I'd been kicked out of shop! He wanted to be surrounded by girls, and that seemed like a fair reason to allow him into the class. I guess the same (but opposing) reason wasn't considered acceptable for a young woman.

I think the spirit of my story is repeated in many woman's lives, many times over. I'm not convinced that men could say the same.


trespasser, thanks for the words of welcome. fausto-sterling's book is indeed an excellent resource for those interested in the historicity of bodily sex and the medical management of intersexuality.

on the weekend, some friends and i went to see "juwanna mann" at the dollar theatre. for those of you not familiar with this specimen of popular culture, the basic premise was that a male basketball player was kicked out of the league due to his poor sportsmanship [sic] and egotism, and arrogance, and because he was broke due to his extravagant lifestyle (?!) he decided to disguise himself as a woman and play in the women's league. disguised as a woman, he became more patient, cooperative (both on the court and off), more humble, etc. he also gained some valuable insight into some unique features of women's experience (e.g. unwanted sexual advances from the "opposite" sex). as a student of feminist philosophy with an interest in the construction of gender and subjectivity, i found the film very interesting. one of the most contentious assumptions the film made was that jamal, the crossdressing basketball player, would be a far better athlete than his female counterparts.
what do you think about that?


I think I like [url=]Ma vie en rose[/url].

[ July 29, 2002: Message edited by: Trespasser ]


I'm not sure I understand the point of those excerpts about hormones. So, like, sex hormones have other uses. Quite a lot of organs and chemicals in the body are multi-purpose! I'd go so far as to say that multi-functionality is the overwhemling norm, not the exception.

So what is that except trying to tell us? Did Tres miss some crucial segment? The only point I can discern is that we concentrate on the sexual function of estrogen and testosterone and not other functions. Well, that's because sexuality is quite clearly a more thrilling subject than, say, breathing, and more prominent and important in all human cultures. So it is only predictable and obvious that that is how we would look at hormones.

The point to me is that hormones become gendered because sexuality is important to us. Sexuality is important to us because hormones make it important to us, to a very large extent. Attempting to "de-gender" hormones and the body is futile--it is, at least in part, "self-gendered." Hormones have an effect on social structures--only thereafter does culture gender hormones, with good reason.



while it is important to examine the ways in which men and boys are limited and restricted by their conditioning, by their interpellation into culture and society as males, we cannot forget the fact that they still are members of a privileged class as males.


Class is a bigger determination of privilage than gender. In the 80's and 90's it has been shown time and time that women are as equally capable of being capitalist oppresors as are men.

I believe that we have to be very carefull of sterotyping. That includes sterotyping men as oppresors strictly because of their gender at birth. That is not to say that the majority of capitalist oppresors are not men because they are. But that does not make me an oppresor anymore than it makes Ayn Rand a feminist.

I know men who are committed feminists and women who are capitalist pigs who love the status quo so don't sterotype, it is illogical and discriminatory. The class that most people really pay attention to is not gender but wealth and privilage. Access to education is a matter of conditioning and ability to pay. Daughters of rich families have that access and many if not most of them end up helping preserve the status quo because it is in their best interests from a purely self-interested prospective. Like Margaret Thatcher or Debra Gray are going to advance any equalatarian agenda that helps women's issues but Svend Robinson and Jack Layton are members of an oppresor class.

So what do we teach are sons? The big problem I see with the above analysis is that I need to tell my son that it doesn't matter what your believes and values are that you have been raised with. You are now and have always been and will always be an oppresor no matter how many feminists issues you support or belive in, so just live with it.




Class is a bigger determination of privilage than gender.

I understand your point and somewhat agree with you. But men ARE privileged in every economic class when compared with their female counterparts. Please show me an economic class where the men of that economic level are more oppressed than the women of that same economic level. Sure, a woman who earns $100,000 a year could very well oppress a man who earns $20,000 a year as her employee. But compare the oppression of that man making $20,000 a year to a woman in the same economic class as he is, and the story would be quite a bit different, I believe.

I worked at a bakery where all the men worked shorter hours and got paid several dollars more per hour than the women. Sure, compared to a rich woman, the male employees at the bakery were "oppressed" economically, and probably as employees too. But nowhere near as oppressed as their counterparts at the bakery, us women.

[ July 29, 2002: Message edited by: Michelle ]


(Now, isn't that special, Kropotkin.)

Mandos: the entire two chapters dedicated to the measuring, standardization, naming and 'hermeneutics' of hormones are packed with information, and all I could do is put a snap-shot or two. Couldn't find anything on the web, unfortunately.

(Of course, I disagree with everything you said, but will argue more when I find time.)

[ July 29, 2002: Message edited by: Trespasser ]


Is there any surprise that we disagree? [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

I am not trying to say that the interpretation of hormones is wholly biologically constructed, or that there is no point in trying to reduce their effects on gender as best we can. But blaming the gendering of hormones (or anything else for that matter) on Evil Social Constructs seems rather narrow-minded to me. Is there no room at all to acknowledge that we do have bodies we didn't necessarily ask for, and that these
bodies have an effect on our thinking?


Who is this "we" who [b]has/have[/b] bodies, dearest Mandos? [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]



But men ARE privileged in every economic class when compared with their female counterparts

I thought about that, and you are right Michelle, except I think it implies that, for example, working class males perpetrate the economic oppression of the women in their class.

Women at my place of work, while equal under the law and protected by the same collective aggreement as the men, earn substantially less.

This is because for many years women were not hired at my place of work, and the ones that do work here have comparatively less seniority. So, they have not had opportunity to progress into the skilled trades or semi-skilled, higher paying jobs. Worse, they are first to be laid off.

This isn't because of the men they work with, it's due to the men (and women) of the proffessional class that for years oppressed them by not hireing them.

I would guess that the men you worked with in the bakery had no say over wages, either.

I think because we all tend to marry within our economic class, there is in fact strong support from men for equal pay. We want our partners to earn as much as us so we can both enjoy greater economic prosperity.


Ah, dear skdadl, you are too clever [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img] I see that you are trying to pull me into a discussion of Other Philosophical Issues because you think that I have contradicted myself here. Am I correct? Because if I were to interpret your question literally, you would either be saying that some of us don't have bodies or you would be expecting the answer "human beings"; one interpretation is absurd, the other too obvious.

But there is no contradiction between my views on those Other Issues and my views on nature/nurture. There is more than one kind of dualism--the demand that science be subject to the same sort of hermeneutic thought as anything else (ie, that it is not a Naturally Privileged Perspective) seems to me to be rooted in a form of dualism that I reject, rather than the one that I endorse.



But compare the oppression of that man making $20,000 a year to a woman in the same economic class as he is, and the story would be quite a bit different, I believe.

Yes then the story becomes the ruling elite oppresses all of the family. I believe that the women in the $200,000 class are just as oppressive as the men even if on average the men made $250,000 to the women's $200,000. Mind you I don't have the stats at hand but I thought that as educations and incomes rise the differential in wages decreases. So if you compare a woman doctor with a male colleque with the same experience and education there is little or no difference. But if you compare a male janitor to a female housekeeper the difference is still there in spades. But the question is does that janitor have any power over his life or the life of the housekeeper and if he doesn't how can he be the oppressor.

My point is lets look at the [b]root[/b] causes of systemic gender inequities and not at the outcomes.

As far as socialization is concerned again I will take a somewhat different view. My mother taught me to "be a man" more than my father who was away from home most of the time. The women in most societies are the teachers of the children so why don't we produce more sensitive men and more competitive women.


Ain't it interesting, girls. Feminism will always have to defend its reason to exist. And just when you think that after three decades of discussing the intricacies of class-race-gender relations some men on the left would get the picture - no. There will always be somebody who will get up and -- usually angrily -- claim that there are things more fundamental than feminist perspective, something to which feminism can, SHOULD be reduced. It's a fact of cultural history, it seems.


What exactly ARE we teaching our little girls?


Then came the fairy tale.

A short time after that, I was reading the story of Cinderella to my own daughter. About halfway through the book, I suddenly realized what I was "teaching" her with this story. The "good girl," Cinderella, was also the one in the story who was beautiful. The "bad girls" - Cinderella's stepsisters - were physically unattractive. But one level deeper, the story became really bizarre. Cinderella was compliant and uncomplaining, and spent much of her mental life in a fantasy world, while the ugly stepsisters were young women who had a goal and a mission and were trying to reach it. In other words, assertive women were ugly, and compliant women were attractive. Assertive women lived in the real world of power and competence, but eventually would lose out; pretty, compliant women lived in a world of fantasy, but if they kept doing what they were told, even if told so by a fantasy fairy godmother, then everything would work out.

And the prize in this competitive psychodrama? A man. And not just a normal man, but a man who was so self-absorbed that he spent an hour or more dancing with Cinderella but afterwards couldn't remember what she looked like and could only identify her by her shoe size!

I remember walking into the living room and saying to my wife, "I think I've just participated in a cultural brainwashing experiment," as I described my observations about the story I'd just read to our daughter.

[ July 29, 2002: Message edited by: vaudree ]


Tres: To whom exactly are you referring, since you are presently disagreeing with at least two people on this thread. I reduce feminism to something else no more than I reduce many other things in the same way. Or expand them. I hope you are primarily referring to Kropotkin, or we will have yet another front opened in this debate [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img] [img]tongue.gif" border="0[/img]



Ain't it interesting, girls. Feminism will always have to defend its reason to exist. And just when you think that after three decades of discussing the intricacies of class-race-gender relations some men on the left would get the picture - no.

I guess it depends on the picture. One of the reasons I posted was this next quote.


Males were not brought up to believe they were the inferior sex. Reflecting on my past, I can see so many times when it was detrimental to be a female. Many times as a child I wished I was a boy so I could do more and get the extra special consideration I saw the males receive.

And many times as a school kid I wished that I could get the privileges that the teachers pet had but I wouldn't suckhole and backstab the way the girl holding the position did. Or in my current office the biggest control freak is a woman and she is good at it and gets a lot of extra consideration. As well as a high school student wondering why the majority of young women would be falling all over each other to date the aggressive loud mouth who trashed women in the locker room. That is also a socializtion tool in our society. I try to teach my son to be respectful and treat all as he would like to be treated and then he says but Dad the girls like the macho guys not the wimps.

Of course gender is a major determiner of many things however I believe that class is a more predominant indicator of what your changes of "success" are in this society.

But to be serious any debate on gender and the class system must also acknowledge that women have free will and many when given the opportunity chose to be the oppressor. Just as many men chose to stand in solidarity against sexism, racism and capitalism.

Like all issues lumping people together, as in men are oppressors, merely on the basis of their gender is self defeating. If men are oppressors no matter what they do and how they act in reality then how can we convince people to act differently.

As well it is my believe that any analysis of our current society must acknowledge that people do not chose their gender and therefore cannot be "blamed" based on characteristics they had no control over. What is important is whether you act as an oppressor and my point is that in my real life experience I have met many rich women who were oppressors especially of other women but also of their " male servants." That is not to say that the majority of people in that oppressor role were not men because they are but just because the majority of any group exhibits certain characteristics doesn't mean that you can then say that because a person belongs to the group they have those characteristics.

And finally to reiterate, sterotyping is a bad analysis tool whether it is used about people based on race, culture, gender or class. These posts were at best a poor attempt at trying to achieve respect and balance in a debate and not find myself vilified because of an accident of birth for this life. Who knows what gender I was in the past or which I will be in the future. I just hope that I continue to grow in the believe that we are all siblings and deserve to share the earth as equals.

[ July 29, 2002: Message edited by: kropotkin1951 ]

[ July 30, 2002: Message edited by: kropotkin1951 ]

writer writer's picture

What, me listen?

remind remind's picture


Originally posted by writer:
[b]What, me listen?[/b]

5 years later, and it still is the same, and they wonder why, eh!!