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Doing Gender: West & Zimmerman (1987)

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Wendy Weinhold

on 2 February 2016

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Transcript of Doing Gender: West & Zimmerman (1987)

"Doing Gender" defined:
"Doing gender means creating differences between girls and boys and women and men, differences that are not natural, essential, or biological. Once the differences have been constructed, they are used to reinforce the 'essentialness' of gender" (p. 137).
What does that mean?
"The 'doing' of gender is undertaken by women and men whose competence as members of society is hostage to its production" (p. 126).
-We judge men and women on claims of "naturalness."
"One of the most fundamental divisions of society" (p. 126).
Sex category
Gender is created
Biological Determinism
"Social doings of some sort" (p. 129).
Our gender forms through our everyday interactions--W&Z p. 129
Connects to Chapter 4: Butler's idea of "Gender Performativity" points to repetition in the creation and maintenance of gender (GiC p. 78)

Categorization is "distinctly social" (p. 133). Displays that producuce the "if-can" test: If someone can be seen as belonging to a sex category, then they fit.
Case of Agnes
: Clothing, hair, etc.--Sex categorization depends on presumption of "naturally, normally sexed persons" based on the everyday system where there are two--and only two--sexes (p. 133).
We are taught this is about right and wrong--a morality issue--in that we base our presumptions on ourselves and our identities as essential truths that are applicable to everyone.
What does this mean? Not only do we want to know others' sex categories, we assume they display it for us as decisively as they can (p. 134).
The reaction and result of situational actions shaped by normative expectations of one's sex category.
Case of Agnes
: Accomplishment of being a woman in the face of normative gender behavior.
-Configurations of gendered behavior: "Women can be seen as unfeminine, but that does not make them unfemale" (p. 143).
-Gender as situational: Gender is the product of constantly refined, contextually appropriate, visible/noticeable outcomes.
-"To "do" gender is not always to live up to normative conceptions of femininity or masculinity; it is to engage in behavior
at the risk of gender assessment
(p. 136).
Assignment based on possession of conventional biological criteria for male and female: genitals
Case of Agnes
: Biology distinguishes males from females, but Agnes claimed to be a "female with a penis."
-Authors' assertions: "Female" and "male" are "cultural events" rather than the possession of biological traits
-The assumption of biological criteria leads us to assign sex category without requiring the fundamental evidence for proof
-"We do not think, 'Most persons with penises are men, but some may not be' or 'Most persons who dress as men have penises.' Rather, we take it for granted that sex and sex category are congruent--that knowing the latter, we can deduce the rest" (p. 132).
Doing Gender: West & Zimmerman (1987)
"In the beginning, there was sex and there was gender."
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