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Oyeronke Oyewumi:

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Maia Ossa

on 24 June 2015

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Transcript of Oyeronke Oyewumi:

Oyeronke Oyewumi:
Is gender universal?
Visualizing the Body
Feminism and its "other"
In African studies, the production of knowledge has been a privilege of the West. Western constructions are assumed universal too often.


For Yorùbá people, there were no "women" (defined in strictly gendered terms") before colonization.
Oyewumi challenges certain ideas that are common in Western feminist writings:

Gender categories are universal and timeless
Gender is a fundamental organizing principle in all societies
The existence of an essential, universal category "woman"
The idea that the category "woman" is precultural, fixed in historical time and cultural space, in antithesis to "man"
The concept "
" as it is used is derived from Western experience and history, from distinctions among body, mind and soul, and from ideas about
biological determinism
* and the linkages between the body and the "social".

are variations on the theme of male/female bodies hierarchically ordered, differentially placed in relation to power, and spatially distanced one from the other.
The justifications for the making of these categories have not remained the same. Although the boundaries are shifting and the content of each category may change, the two categories have remained hierarchical and in binary opposition.

Many feminist writers have used cross-cultural data in a way that undermines the notion that differing cultures may construct social categories differently.

If different cultures
necessarily always construct gender as feminism proposes that they
do and must
, then the idea that gender is socially constructed is not sustainable

In cross-cultural gender studies, theorists impose Western categories on non-Western cultures and then project such categories as natural.
The "third gender" example
"discovery" of third gender in non-Western cultures, which are presented as gender categories without explication of their own sociocultural histories and constructions.

Are these social categories seen as gendered in the cultures in question? From whose perspective are they gendered?

*resulting from the fact that in Western societies, sex and gender are the same (physical bodies are always social bodies)
We can't assume the social organization of one culture as universal or the interpretations of the experiences of one culture as explaining another one.

At a general level, the constructedness of gender does suggest its mutability. At the local level, gender is mutable only if it is socially constructed as such.
social constructionism
"Sex is the gender system of the West"

Shelly Errington
Society is seen as an accurate reflection of genetic endowment: those with a superior biology inevitably are those in superior social positions.

The point: centrality and persistence of the
body in the construction of social categories
In your opinion, how is gender (and its relation to the body) created/constructed?
Is the binaric and hierarchical gender division universal?
Full transcript