Gender, Sexuality and Health – SOSA 2503, November 26, 2013
Thursday – final assignment due.
Review class 1 week from today, Exam is not cumulative
Everything from last test on. th
Final – Monday, December 9 , @ 7pm
Emma is teaching full course version of this course next year: may have to cut
some things from this ½ of the course. What we found the most important/useful
of the lectures we had in class.
Today’s lecture a preview of a course Emma teaches. Winter next year.
Michelle Foucault: very important in way sociology of health has developed.
Influential in feminism and gender studies. Questioning of idea of the natural
body had a partucualr way of being that is natural and inevitable. Shows us how
our ways of thinking about the body have changed. Ways of thinking aren’t really
Discovery and publication of French hermaphodite, discovered them and uses
them to examine current belief of idea of a true sex. Everyone must be 1 sex or
the other. Historically hermaphodites seen as being 2 sexes, variable, not fixed.
When sex wasn’t clear, father would pick what sex child was, when became adult
the hermaphodite person could choose to switch sexes or remain what they had
Made sex into essential property of bodies,
Rise of the modern state, individuals and populations being administered by the
state, these individuals and populations need to have fixed identity and
characteristics to be administered. Individuals need to have fixed qualities. Must
be assigned true sex whether bodies demonstrate this or not.
True sex came to be seen as part of fixed identity of individuals. Denying true sex
seen as perversion, if persisted in a fluid state, it was seen as perversion and
Foucalt calls into question our taken for granted assumptions about sex and
Feminism and Foucault
- Until his influence tended to critique medical differences in treatment but
didn’t question how these sexes were assigned, this was taken for granted
- Foucault, feminism started to look at how medicine creates and inforces
the 2 opposite sexes
- Aims to destablize categories of male and female
- Think about relationship between biological and social. Biological had
nothing to do with our culture and society - Role of biomedicine in creating and inforcing the ctegoriesa of men and
- Medicine defines and therefore helps to create men and women as
categories in the first place.
Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex
- documents social construction of biological sex.
- Biggest contribution to document shift from 1 sex model to 2 sex model
- 1 sex model: women’s bodies a lot like men’s , but inferior version
- 2 sex model: women’s bodies the opposite of men’s
- Dominant model:
What are the factors involved in this shift?
- because some sort of scientific development that suggested the 2 sexes
were opposite in some way might be 1 guess st
- However, evidence came after the shift. Came from changes in the way
we think about men and women (social and cultural)
- Before shift to 2 sex model, bio seen as reflection of social and
cosmological order of things. Cause of sex. Bio seen as justification for
patriarchal social order.
- Sex comes to be seen as the cause of gender. Developed by
politics,culture social issues of the time, reflect what we see in biology.
- 2 opposite section only in 1700s
- 2 sex model of being opposites called into question by outliers.
Basis of 2 Sex Model
- Both found in each sex, within sexes people produce varying amounts of
- Hormones not best way to distinguish
- Most women menstruate, ovulate, and can get pregnant
- Most men produce sperm and can fertilize ovum but some can’t
- Secondary sex characteristics: most women don’t have beards, but some
- Something wrong with female body builders and all their muscles
- Secondary sex characteristics not best way to tell the difference
- Genitals: intersexed infants, often made into one sex or the other, forcing
them into the 2 sex model
- Males born with micro penises frequently made into females. Size matters
even in new borns
- Medicine creates and enforces supposedly natural ….
- Sex is more basic and is chromosomal, but there are still outliers.
- Cases where chromosomes can’t distinguish - Chromosomes done to determine if women are XXY judged not to be
female enough to compete.
- South African runner “Semenya,” thought she looked masculine, handled
poorly, humiliated woman, system of evaluating sex of athletes involved 6
different professions. Been an attempt to change the way these sex
assignments are done in sports. Gone back to testing testosterone levels.
- No fail safe method for determining in these cases what is male and what
- Only some physical differences count as important. What is important
socially is seen as important medically. Importance changes.
- Physical differences: genitalia
- Creates constraining identities, imagine concepts of gender that have
nothing to do with biological sex.
- Instead of 2 sex model a continuum.
- Gender identity on different axis, free of any connection to biological
- Sex on another separate axis
- Biological organs to interests etc…
- Connections so strongly in our cul