SOC 101 Lecture Notes - Female Genital Mutilation, Poet Shirt, Genital Modification And Mutilation
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Sex and Gender
Sex: a determination of male or female on the basis of a set of socially agreed upon biological
o Refers to physical bodies.
o Divides human population into binary construction, mutually exclusive categories
o Implies that these groups are diametrical opposites
Gender: social distinction between masculine and feminine. Socially constructed characteristics
associated with girls and boys, called masculinity and femininity
o Binary opposition between masculine and feminine
Biological discoveries are also laden with gender, as scientists describe the role of the egg and sperm
in markedly feminine and masculine ways.
o Part of contemporary feminist work is to convince biologists that their social assumptions
shape scientific accounts of the natural world. Sex and gender are not distinct but intertwined
Intersexed individuals: individuals born with ambiguous genitalia.
o Don't fit either category of male or female and further problematize the sex/gender
o Previously referred to as hermaphrodites
o Tend to have some combination of male and female genitalia and/or chromosomes
Ideas about appropriate gender vary across cultures and time
o 17th century France, masculinity was wearing frilly shirts, makeup and a wig. That is not the
case in today's society
Gender relations: organising principles that shape and order interactions between, as well as the
relative social importance of, women and men.
o In most of the world, that which is associated with masculinity and men is more highly valued
than that which is associated with femininity and women.
Gender intersects with race, class and sexuality.
o Experiences shaped by location in various social hierarchies. As a result, there are dominant
constructions of masculinity and femininity when in reality there are multiple masculinities
Transgender: an umbrella term for a range of people who don't fit in to normative constructions of
sex and gender
o People who live as the gender they identify themselves as being, with or without sexual
o Include transsexuals, transvestites (including drag kings and queens), intersexed individuals
and those who don't define themselves as either male or female.
Transsexualism: diagnostic term in the early 70s, meaning that it appeared as a pathology or
something in need of treatment.
Transsexual: a person who undergoes sex reassignment, which may include surgeries.
o More precise category
o Terms post-operative, pre-operative and non operative refer to whether an individual has
undergone or is waiting to undergo sex reassignment surgery
o Transvestites engage in cross dressing but do not necessarily identify as another gender.
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o Trans studies: exploring the experiences of trans people, whether trans is part of the LGBT
community, exploring existence of a range of genders, whether people who do not undergo
sex surgery can be called transgender, tension between trans theory and queer theory
Dominant Forms of Masculinity and Femininity
Hegemonic masculinity: normative ideal of dominant masculinity
What men are supposed to strive to achieve
Most socially endorsed form of masculinity
Notion of hegemony comes from Antonio Gramsci, a western Marxist theorist. Term implies a large
measure of consent, and requires participation
In North America, it is associated with traits of aggressiveness, strength, drive, ambition.
Constructed as the opposite of everything that is feminine
Also associated with whiteness, heterosexuality and the middle class
Requires men to be successful, capable and reliable; a man in power, with power and of power.
Helps maintain power that some men have over other men and women
Tied to heterosexuality; precursor for defining masculinity is western societies. Homophobia is a
central organising principle of our cultural definition of manhood
o Homophobia is more than an irrational fear of gay men. Also a fear that men will unmask
other men, emasculate them and reveal to the world that they do not measure up to ideal
constructs of masculinity
Fear of being unmasked leads to shame and silence. Men then become complicit in the
subordination of other men and women; occurs when there is a failure to intervene in sexist or
racist jokes, laughing at gay bashing jokes, ignoring a woman being harassed on the street etc. Men's
fear of being discovered as "not man enough" results in perpetuation of gendered behaviour and
Emphasised femininity: normative ideal of femininity, based on compliance with women's
subordination to men.
Oriented to obliging men's interests and desires
Most culturally valued form of femininity
Understood as the ideal that women should try to achieve
Characterised by supportiveness, enthusiasm, sexual attractiveness
Female Genital Cutting or Female Genital Mutilation
Which term you use locates your position on the matter
o Generally approach the debate from a cultural standpoint
o Why is it practised, benefits, consequences
o Represent's violation of a woman's rights
o Those who take this approach tend to be from the west, and constitutes an example of Said's
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