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Lecture One/Two/Three: The Social Construction of Sex.docx

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McMaster University
Dr.Lina Samuel

The Social Construction of Sex, Gender and Sexuality September 9, 2013 – September 16, 2013 Three Inter-related Components/Parts: • Social construction of gender categories based on biological sex • Sexual division of labour whereby specific tasks are allocated on the basis of sex • Social Regulation of sexuality Patriarchy • Patriarchal systems are by no means universal o Vary across geography and history • One variable of gender cannot be easily taken away from another variable • We live in a society that has certain ideals of masculinity or femininity o Subject to these definitions of our desires as males or females o This affects both men and women in great ways • Not every individual man has more power than an individual woman – the sociology of gender studies on a very broad basis • Men as a group tend to hold more power as a collective group of individuals Sex • Sex refers to the condition of being male or female (as identified from a biological standpoint) • Sex Dimorphism: division of society into two categories o Rests upon the notion of a dichotomy o Dichtomy: classification by division into two o In other words, it is based on the assumption that a given phenomenon can be located within one or the other of two mutually exclusive categories How Many Genders? • Gender: refers to femininity or masculinity – these emerge from a more sociocultural standpoint • Androgynous – high/high o You don’t necessarily fit beautifully into one box or another box o Being masculine or feminine is more of a continuum o People can place themselves on this continuum of not fitting the masculine or feminine description o Individuals who rank both highly on the masculine and feminine characteristics • Feminine - o Carry attributes and features that are feminine o Rank high on femininity and low on masculinity • Masculine o Individuals rank high on masculinity and low on femininity • Undifferentiated – low/low o Individuals rank low on femininity and masculinity • There should not be solely two genders – there are four or five genders Types of Genders (Different Societies) • There is empirical support for the postulation of four genders • Bem’s discussion of gender uses only the terms of masculinity and femininity, thereby reinforcing the notion that only two genders exist • Berdache (male prostitute) o A term derived from an archaic Arabic word for “male prostitute” o Men in Aboriginal societies who dressed as women, performed the work of women and engaged in sexual relations with men • Navajo (gifted member of society) o Navajo recognized two additional variants: masculine female-bodied nadleeh and feminine male-bodied nadleeh o American Indian gender variance was defined more by cultural than biological criteria • Mahu (third gender) o A term used in modern-day Hawaii, to designate homosexuals o In traditional villages, the mahu are a third gender o Adopts this social and occupational role voluntarily and publicly takes on attributes associated with women o If at any time, a mahu feels that he no longer has the calling to continue in the role, he can simply cast it off and resume everyday life as a heterosexual man, performing what are viewed in the village as masculine duties • Hijras (transgender spiritual) o Biological Indian men who wear female clothing and adapt to female ways o Undergoing surgical emasculation to remove their penis and testicles defines them as Hijras  This procedure is not legal in India, therefore, many surgeries performed are practiced in secret o Life of a Hijra is very difficult o As a nation, India is very religiously oriented • Xanith (intermediate gender) o Males who enjoy all the rights of men under the law, worship in mosques with other me, have male names and are referred to using the masculin
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