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Unformatted text preview: The Science Question The Science Question And Social Construction Gender assignments
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWa1_P65qZ8 Nature versus culture
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kv98UmX9BX8 Gender assignment
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mC1mOpGnRQY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNI9i1Kz86E Construction of Sex and Gender : Impact of Science Construction of Sex and Gender : Impact of Science science as truth Science as culture
Science as power Modern science has a history and a context Western Europe between the 18th and the 19th century.
Context: capitalism and colonial expansion Modern science is influenced by the cultural norms and the racial prejudice born in 18 and 19th century colonial Europe There is no value free science/ Science is embedded in power relationships (Grewal and Kaplan p1) Why is a construct even by scientific standards?
Why is a construct even by scientific standards? Oudshoorn shows how up to the 18 century biomedecine was stressing the similarities among men and women rather differences (p7 in Grewal)
Reading: parts of the female body was chosen to prove the intellectual inferiority of women (the scull) Others were chosen to prove the essence of femininity of that body (the ovaries)
As a consequence we can talk about a naturalization of femininity in the context of 19th century Europe
Other examples: The egg (passivity) and the sperm (activity) Martin p 1013 in Grewal Other influential scientific Other influential scientific doctrines Besides biology other theories influenced modern thinking about sex, gender and race Darwin and Natural Selection Darwin and Natural Selection Social Darwinism: deriving from Darwin’s theory of evolution Darwin explains the origins and evolution of the humankind by a system of biological stratification in which only the most powerful and useful (fittest) has a chance to survive Malthus theory of population
Malthus theory of population population growth as a threat to economic growth Consequences: all kinds of intervention on women’s bodies , especially dark skinned bodies Eugenics Eugenics A strong doctrine that used scientific research to support the preservation of purity and assumed superiority of the white race
Nazi Germany is the most wellknown example of Eugenics put into practice. Disch’s introduction suggests that these “scientific” doctrines are still shaping contemporary policies and have a tremendous influence on racial and gendered constructions of masculinity and femininity Ex: The war on the poor, Homophobia, the war on drugs, the war on terror, the HIV/AIDS epidemics, the immigration laws are all understood by Disch and other social scientists to be contemporary forms of Eugenics, Darwinism and Malthusianism Impact on gender/and race Impact on gender/and race Malthusianism Eugenics Darwin Population policies of birth control in the third world and poor health care for the underprivileged in the first world
Plastic surgery as a way to enhance the body image and conform to the beauty standards of defined by white stylists for white women Women as the weaker component Scientific truths/power Scientific truths/power The readings of this section also help us to see how biology and medicine have been used by governments and other interest groups to further the goals of those who are in power? Ex: racial inequalities that are born in the specific context of slavery and colonialism have been justified in Nazi Germany, in Western Europe and the U.S, by biological research performed on the Jews, homosexuals, black women and other nonwhite people Oudshoorn
Changing location for designating the essence of femininity in the woman’s body
Skull, Ovaries, Gynecology 19th , sex hormones, endocrinology, 20th century Impact on gender: in our century the focus on hormones influenced a conception of male and female differences as rooted in biology questions to consider How did this focus facilitate the rise of specialized interventions on the woman’s body ? How are language and metaphor used in each version of science and medicine to distinguish between male and female roles? What are some possible consequences for women of this use of descriptive language? For men? Do you agree with the author that there is an exaggerated focus on women’s hormones ?
What is the relationship between this focus and profit making ? Martin Negative depiction of women’s body functions, cycle ,organs Ex: menstruation as “debris” waste, death, passivity of the egg (p10) versus the “magnitude” “maturity” “amazing characteristics “of the process of sperms production (p11) To think about : the importance of language and metaphors in constructing males and females as different, ranked in a hierarchical order
Think about how these ideas travel from biology to culture, society, or from culture to biology and from biology to business and profit
Can we think about the making of profit as a gendered process?
Think about how these ideas contribute to the construction of gender and how their changing nature displace the debate about gender to new realms Ringrose Ringrose Ringrose: “Gender and Byzantine Culture” discusses the interconnections of ideas about bodies, gender, and culture. We can see both essentialism and social construction in this essay. The Byzantine theory of men’s “warm,” “perfect balance” in opposition to women’s “cool” essence establishes men and women as physiologically different in irreconcilable, essentialist ways.
social construction of both sex and gender in the byzantine culture. Sex as well as gender are changeable due to cultural circumstance, as the existence of the “warm” eunuchs illustrates. Social construction theory pros and cons
Social construction theory pros and cons
Vance Pros stresses the social, cultural and historical forces helps us see gender identities and hierarchies as constructed : having different meanings to different people being influenced by the above forces helps us overcome essentialism founded in biological arguments or cultural essentialism enables us to see that sexual and gender identifications may have varying meanings Enables us to overcome the issues of gender dichotomies and binaries based on men ’s superiority and women’s inferiority Critics Social construction trivializes sexual identity, more precisely lesbian and gay identity ( Vance p30) If all is socially constructed then how do we understand sexual difference , sexual orientation, and the issues of identity
Dilemma for feminism How do we defend the right of women as a category without falling into binary thinking? Dilemma for Gays and Lesbians How to defend the right of difference without falling into the trap of essentialism? Summary of Chapters Summary of Chapters Grewal and Kaplan claim (p4) that
Women’s bodies, sexuality and physical differences are defined by western medicine and sciences not as assets but as problems which necessitate the intervention of the state, and the medical profession This intervention is called biopolitics by Michel Foucault
Biopolitics is linked to biopower The use for biology understood by him as individual bodies or collective bodies (population) to regulate, control, classify, categorize, marginalize, dominate…. What to keep in mind What to keep in mind The readings in this section enable us to shift the discussion of gender differences to a discussion about cultural representations, of men and women’s roles and differences, in various historical and cultural contexts
how language and metaphor shape the construction of gender even within sciences ?
In addition, the readings show that ideas about sex and gender vary over time and vary among societies This means that those differences are not essential and natural but rather the product of history, society, economic and cultural forces Scott/ Uses of Gender
Scott/ Uses of Gender Scott (p 19 in BOX): Scott outlines the methodological and disciplinary uses of the term “gender.” This excerpt outlines three uses of “gender” 1) Gender becoming synonymous of women 2) gender studies as a field of knowledge/ the study of men and women 3) gender as a flag of cultural constructions of masculinity and femininity. 4) gender as an analytical category/ how to understand the world around us from the very lens of gender differentiations and constructions Changing ideas about sex and Gender
Changing ideas about sex and Gender The readings in this section enable us to shift the discussion of gender differences to a discussion about cultural representations, of men and women’s roles and differences, in various historical and cultural contexts
how language and metaphor shape the construction of gender even within sciences ?
In addition, the readings show that ideas about sex and gender vary over time and vary among societies This means that those differences are not essential and natural but rather the product of history, society, economic and cultural forces Key concepts Key concepts Essentialism belief that features have a natural base, or an essence, and therefore are fixed and stable Cultural essentialism : belief in the superiority of certain cultures and the inferiority of others Patriarchy a social organization based on men’s values and interests granting them domination and control over women Naturalizing thinking that differences and features are the product of a natural state of being an essence Sex biological differences among men and women Gender the use of biological differences to produce social hierarchies and differential status for men and women What makes it a construct? What makes it a construct? If men and women’s differences were natural how do we understand that ideas about sex and sexual differences have varied overtime and vary among different societies, and within the same society (see Charlotte Furth’s text on China, p21 in Grewal) : YinYan, and gender inversion (p26)
Take also the example of the onesex model discussed by Oudshoorn
The 15th century biologists constructed a perception of men and women’s bodies in terms of connections and similarities rather than differences : Patriarchy as a common features Even though the ideas varies over time and place, they still reflect patriarchal views each time the male sex is the norm and the model through which we read women ’s biology and place in society Remember Martin’s assertion that “dead metaphors” “are not so much dead as sleeping [and] hidden … and all the more powerful for it.” Ask yourself how essentialism and constructivism play out in public discourse. The oppressed Muslim woman, the drug trafficker Latino, the submissive Asian women, The criminal black man and the homosexual deviant Think about how these stereotypes essentialize differences and maintain social hierarchies not only between people and gendered bodies but also between Nations. Think of how these stereotypes are not mere words with no effects! But are the very means by which certain groups create boundaries, differences and perpetuate their power and domination How many of you have learnt about other groups through traveling abroad for instance? How many of you have learned about other groups through the media and TV images? How to understand social constructions ?
How to understand social constructions ? Since it is a social construct it is not real/ what do you think (True or False)
Since it is a social construct , it does not have serious implications on gender relations(True of False) Since it is a social construct , it could be changed (True or False ) Since it is a construct , it could be challenged (True or False) Sexual politics and/or identity politics : gays and lesbians , transgender , feminism, women’s rights etc, are all ways in which people in a given society have been challenging the construction of boundaries of sex and sexuality, gender and gender hierarchies That people do gender (Lorber in Disch) True or False
Lorber also talks about gender as a social institution, a process, and social stratification Back to the sociological imagination
Back to the sociological imagination Breast cancer or planned parenthood Breast cancer or planned parenthood does it have anything to do with race? “It was just announced that Susan G. Komen for a Cure, America's largest charity to fight breast cancer, will no longer fund a program that provides free or lowcost breast cancer screenings for millions of women who get their health care from Planned Parenthood.1 This is a huge blow. “
“In abruptly pulling nearly $1,000,000 in funding for breast cancer screenings, the Susan G. Komen foundation cited a sham "investigation" into Planned Parenthood launched by Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns, one of the most militant antichoice members of Congress.2” Source: Credo a publication of Working Assets http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/komen/?rc=fb_share1 Sociological Imagination
(Wright Mills 1959 )
(Wright Paying attention to the context
Paying conditions that shape gender relations
Understanding that our social environment, time and space affects our views,
perceptions, ideas, relations … To apply the sociological imagination is to shift the gaze from seeing issues To apply the sociological imagination is to as outcomes of individual choices/faults to seeing then as outcomes of historical, economic, cultural and political factors. Sociological imagination applied to Gender
Sociological imagination applied to Gender 1) Questioning the way in which society constructs masculinity and femininity and how this construction is affecting gender identities and gender relations 2) Looking into the way different societies in different historical periods have dealt with gender relations and gender inequalities Why are these questions Why are these questions Important?
They direct our attention to the social order Ex:
Patriarchy as a social order
Patriarchy/ a male dominated society They direct our attention to the policies They direct our attention to the actors They direct our attention to the institutions Thinking about context opens possibilities for change We can work collectively toward changing policies and transforming institutions, we can hold certain actors responsible for certain policies ex: feminism, civil rights movement, antiwar movements =dissident voices(Disch p14)
Why is it important for gender to think in terms of context? Instead of blaming individual men or women we try to understand under what conditions gender hierarchies are produced and maintained and what are institutions and actors who are behind this production We understand people subjectivities various ways in which they understand their gender, sexuality, and make choices about their own gender and sexual affiliations To conclude To conclude The myth of value free research In all societies scientific research is influenced by the researcher's culture, class, and racial background
Back in the 1960s researchers in psychology found that white kids in the U.S are smarter than black kids ! What sense do you make of that? As far as the U.S context is concerned the culture of “homophobia” and the dominance of heterosexual norms definitely influence the research on homosexuality
Let’s consider some of these results? Assignment Assignment Next week assignment Read Kimmel’s Article in Disch (361) write What is the shift that he makes in the gender debate about boys’ s performances in school? How does his emphasis on masculinity helps finding more appropriate responses ? Bring your paper to class ...
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This note was uploaded on 04/01/2012 for the course SOCIOLOGY 216 taught by Professor Salime during the Spring '12 term at Rutgers.
- Spring '12