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Global Gender and Sex Week 1

Unit Overview and defining sex and gender terms

Lucy Nicholas

on 21 February 2017

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Transcript of Global Gender and Sex Week 1

Not just for the sake of it....
The Unit and the Assessment
Global Gender and Sex Week 1
Taking a global perspective on sex, gender and sexuality (interrogating possible 'ethnocentricity')

Analysing problems and issues and their roots in order to consider solutions

There will be a quiz in the lecture in week 4. This is non-negotiable and will cover the concept of the first 3 weeks.
"Sociology is just talking about stuff isn't it?"
'Across a broad range of issues, people grappling with practical dilemmas need to understand large-scale social processes. Women in organizations facing the 'glass ceiling', teachers troubled about over-surveillance of their work, activists dealing with domestic violence, knowledge workers grappling with marginality, all are stronger if they have reliable knowledge about how the problems arose and why they are intractable...

We need social science because social processes shape human destinies. If we are to take control of our future, we need to understand society as much as we need to understand the atmosphere, the earth, and men's and women's bodies" (Connell 2011, p.9)
Where does all of this leave 'Sexuality'???
"I am suggesting that what we define as 'sexuality' is an historical construction, which brings together a host of different biological and mental possibilities, and cultural forms - gender identity, bodily differences, reproductive capacities, needs, desires, fantasies, erotic practices, institutions and values - which need not be linked together and in other cultures have not been." (Weeks 2003, p.7)

The "invention" of sexuality
The identity category of 'sexuality' (at least in Anglo discourse) collected these characteristics (e.g. erotic practices, partner choice, desire) and they became a central aspect of
what you are

not all cultures share or have historically shared this congruence between acts and an identity of 'sexuality', e.g. boy-love in ancient Greece
Gender and Biological Determinism
Biological Determinism:

he idea that social organisation is determined by biology

the idea that something has essential properties

Binarism / dichomotomy:
the idea that gender is made up of two, oppositional genders

Gender and Heterosexuality
Thanks to Dr Deb Dempsey and the 'Advancing Sexualities Short Course' http://www.sexualitystudies.net/short-course for ideas and materials
The unit: Ground rules

mutual respect (no laptops, phones or chatting from you, no patronising by me!

Questions / comments on content welcome in lectures

Lets make it a mutual learning space of enquiry!

Attendance is obligatory

Preparation is obligatory, minimum required reading for tutes
Biological Sex
Caster Semenya: too fast to be a woman?


"gender test"; "fully female"; "doubts about her gender"; "suspicion"

Ongoing dedication to
gender and
sex. Why?

1. Seeming realness and fixity of 2 biological sexes and of genders which follow them
2. The gender system reflects and upholds power relationships and status quos.
Two Sexes?

Myra Hird, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Judith Butler

Sex is
, i.e. we impose cultural ideas about gender on to our understandings of biological sex

hormones, chromosomes, genitals, reproductive organs...

Intersex 'threatens our social categories' (Dreger)

Sex is also not as
as we might think....

Compulsory heterosexuality (we will return to this in week 5): e.g. Gender assignment for intersex babies is decided according to the ability to engage in penetrative sex

sex-gender-desire continuum
’ (Butler 1990, p.17)

The causality is difficult to posit, it may be easier to think of sex, gender and sexuality as
mutually- or co-constitutive
Diagnosing Difference: Sex and Power
Pathologising: diagnosing as sick those who do not fit in the culturally constructed binary model

Misgendering: imposing categories onto individuals contrary to their self identity

(Ansara & Hegarty 2012) in Psychology and Sexuality

‘to treat gender, the “symptom”, as the problem is to misrecognize its genesis’ (Gatens 1994: 150).
The Sex / Gender Divide (nature vs. nurture, essentialism vs. social constructionism)???

First used by Ann Oakley in Sex, Gender and Society in 1972 ('second wave' of feminism)
Diagnosing causes and social origins and processes helps us to question:

does it have to be this way?
is it this way everywhere in the world?
who benefits?
how else could it be?
how could it get there?
"recent research on sperm activity has found that contrary to the image of sperm as forceful seekers of eggs, the forward thrust of sperm is actually extremely weak" (Hird 2004a: 38).
1. Unit Overview
2. Terms and concepts (and confusion!) for the study of gender and sexuality

cisgenderism =‘Cis is the Latin prefix for “on the same side.” It compliments trans, the prefix for “across” or “over.” “Cisgender” replaces the terms “nontransgender” or “bio man/bio woman” to refer to individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity’ (Schilt & Westbrook 2009: 461).
What a mess! What can we actually conclude about the NATURE of sex and gender?
Sex and gender are both understood to have
varying combinations, levels and inter-relations of biological, social and cultural influences.

What is interesting to sociologists is HOW and
WHY they come to be understood in the
dominant ways that they are.

The same goes for sexuality...
'Essential' Sex?Throwing Like a Girl?
There are patterns and there are sex differences, but
where from

understandings of seemingly
fixed bodies, e.g. muscle mass, the 'sexed' brain...

"encultured brain and body", biocultural, neuro- and
bio- plasticity, muscle memory

men in Brazil 'throw like girls'

e.g. the 'active' (masculine) sperm vs. the passive (feminine) egg

‘culture shapes how biological scientists describe what they discover about the natural world’ (Martin 1991, p.485)

This is a
heterosexual fairytale
interpretation of the complexity of nature
Sex, Gender and Power
"insofar as we learn to live out our existence in acordance with the definition that patriarchal culture assigns to us, we are physically inhibited, confined, positioned and objectified" (Iris Marion Young, 1980, 'Throwing Like a Girl')
This week's reading
Emily Martin, 'The Sperm and the Egg'
Jeffrey Weeks, 'The Invention of Sexuality'
(both in
reading pack

Also, try to read the listed chapter from Fausto Sterling 'Sex/Gender: Biology in a Social World' (ebook in lib)

This listed in unit outline, and all further reading listed in 'learning materials' week by week on Blackboard
More information on ‘Welcome to Country’ and ‘Acknowledgement of Country’


Gary Foley
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