5 - Recovering Administrator Current Culture Wars over Sex...

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Recovering Administrator
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Current Culture Wars over Sex and Gender Enormous scholarly energy across academic disciplines from neuroscience to literary criticism has been expended since about 1970 in efforts 1: to prove that differences between men and women are “hard-wired” in our bodies 2: to disengage gender (behavior that is characterized as masculine or feminine) from sex (the biological foundation of male and female that is supposedly timeless and objective), and to disrupt the very idea of “normality” in the area of sexuality. In this model, sexuality is “socially constructed” or culturally determined.
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Marianne van den Wijngaard, Reinventing the Sexes: The Biomedical Construction of Femininity and Masculinity (Indiana University Press, 1997) Dutch biologist and feminist, has critically examined events in her own specialty of developmental endocrinology since the 1960s, where the number of articles on sexual difference grew from 130 in 1967 to more than 500 in 1984. She describes how, beginning in 1959, organizational theory —the study of how hormones cause the embryonic unisex brain to differentiate into a male or female brain, which in turn accounts for masculine or feminine behavior in the mature animal or human—swept the field and has maintained its hegemony until the present despite the challenges of a new generation of women researchers, and the publication of a considerable body of critical evidence. In Wijngarrd’s view the triumph of organization theory depended less on experimental results than on various aspects of the sociology of the relevant disciplines. Wingaard calls for abandoning a static sex-gender as well as male-female distinction and argues instead for a research program based on a transformative model in which nature (sex), nurture (environment), and gendered behavior of all sorts interact. For her, Simone de Beauvoir’s famous claim that women is not born but made it too timid a dictum: and woman in all their complexity are made, nor born. They are not made independently of their bodies of course—hormones among much other biology, matter—but in dynamic play between them. But more important, Wijngaard suggests, the passion for neatly mapping the social world of masculinity and femininity, of heterosexual and homosexual desire, in all their diversity, and a two-cell grid must be abandoned—if not for rats, then for us humans. Wijngaard’s tale of struggle for nuance/contingency/ and open-mindedness in the scientific laboratory might be matched with a counter narrative from some “straight man” a la Richard Russo trying to get tenure in History. Just as in Wijngaard’s review of reproductive endocrinology, one would find an exponential increase in gender studies intent upon documenting the social construction of everything. As in most subcultures there are zealots, incompetents, and crass opportunists. In this case they provided the NYU physicist Alan Sokol with the opportunity for fame and notoriety with his sham article in Social Text
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5 - Recovering Administrator Current Culture Wars over Sex...

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