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Lecture 3

WGS200Y5 Lecture 3: WGS200 Readings

5 Pages

Women and Gender Studies
Course Code
Joan Simalchik

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Week 3 Chapter 11: Introduction to Beyond the Natural Body – Nelly Oudshoorn - During second wave of feminism, female biologist knew that nature does not determine what we mean when we use terms like women, body and femininity. - The opinion that social inequality between men and women was primarirly based on biological sex differences. - So, biology rather than society sets constrains on behavior and abilities of women and it is women’s destiny and feminists have to accept it. - Anatomical, endocrinological or immunological facts are anything but self evident. - Our perception and interpretation of the body is mediated through language and in society, biomedical sciences function as a major provider of this language. - Was scientists not discovering the reality? – The scientific acts are not objectively given but collectively created. - Scientists construct reality rather than discovering it. Sex and the body: - Medical texts from ancient Greeks described male and female bodies as similar. - Similarities were assessed based on male bodies which constructed women’s organs as similar but inferior constructed for patriarchal purposes. - One sex model - the female body was understood as a male turned inside herself. (lesser version of male’s body) - Scientific and biomedical knowledge constructed the body as natural - The ovary did not have a name of its own, and was described as female testicle, referring to male organ. - The anatomical atlas had a sex less skeleton drawings of bones in epitome. - Man as a measure of all things and woman does not exist as an ontologically distinct catergory. - In the 18C criticism scientists focused on bodily differences familiar to our modern day interpretation of the male/female body. - Sex not confined to bodily organ but spread throughout the body - Anatomists paid special attention to those parts of the skeleton that would become socially significant amongst which was the skull. - Skeleton sexualized women’s skull used to prove women intellectually inferior - Cellular physiology focused on by scientists as a way to construct women as passive. Female body became medical sight for creating difference between male and female constructing the former as biologically inferior. - By the 19C, the medical gaze shifted from bones to cells. - Difference localized to a single organ the uterus then to the ovaries. - By late 19THcentury, it extended this sexualization to every body part: Bones, blood vessels, cells, hair, brain. Only the eye seem to have no sex. - Female and male bodies were now opposite bodies with different organs, functions and feelings. - Following this, female body became par excellence and emphasized woman’s unique sexual character. - Then, the attention shifted from organs to ovaries. Thought to be the essence of femininity. - Thus, the ovaries were perceived as organs of crises. This resulted in widespread of surgical removal of ovaries. - This procedure for the treatment of menstrual irregularities and various neuroses. - Then, in 20 Century, essence of femininity became located in sex hormones. - Many types of behaviors, roles, functions and characteristics considered to be typically male or female in western culture ascribed to hormones. - Female body has become the body completely controlled by hormones - This was coined in 1905, after two decades, the pharmaceutical companies began the mass production of harmones. - Women around the world now are taking hormonal pills and use it to explain our bodies. - Feminist scientists suggest that cultural stereotype about male/female play an important role in shaping scientific theories. Chapter 12: The Egg and the Sperm – Emily Martin - Stereotypes imply that female biological processes are less worthy than their male counterparts. - Menstruation is described to produce egg and fertilized in order for reproduction. However, there is more negative constructs around it. - According to medical text, It is seen as a representative of dying, dead cells that ceases to have any function. Essentially seen as a failure. - Male reproductive is evaluated differently. Sperms are thought to be better because millions of it are produced everyday. - The question is how come male sperm not seen as wasteful. - The scientific language used constructs sperm as lively, vigorous, penetrating the egg and constructs the egg as static waiting to be penetrated. - Eggs are seen to be existing from the time of birth and sitting in shelf, slowly degenerating while sperms are produced. - The female process has a vivid description like “ripening of eggs” while sperms is seen as a hero. - The egg needs to be rescued by the sperm or else it will die. - Women’s eggs are seen as wasteful – oogenesis – where most of the eggs are degenerated. - Sperms are produced in trillions of amount but the over production is not seen as wasteful. - The scientific language shows sperm to be masculine and strong while egg to be feminine and passive – not actively doing anything. - Terms like corona – crown for egg and “survivor” for sperm is used. - Picture it as a fairy tale – eggs is the sleeping beauty waiting for the kiss and sperm as a prince. Thinking Beyond: - Important to think beyond the biological. - Biology provides another model that can be applied to egg and sperm. - Cybernetic model: Flexible adaptation to change within a whole, evolution over time and changing response to environment. - The model has a potential to shift our negative imagery to positive regarding female reproductive system. - However, it is hardly neutral and has imposition of social control. - Shifts to psychosocial and environment brought with emphasis on social control. - Scientists used Darwin’s origin of species to explain this - Origin stood for description of the natural world with competition and it could be reimported as social science – social Darwinism. - These approaches make the stereotypical images more powerful and they feel natural. - Stereotypical image – cellular bride (female fatale) and a cellular groom (her victim) make a cellular baby. - Women however struggle more as their activities are restricted to protect the fetus, fetal surgery, resciding of abortion rights etc. - This approach influenced by eugenics invested in racial and classed ideologies that shaped how particular women and men se
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