Lecture #10.docx

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2 Apr 2012
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“This morning-ness” – today’s lecture
Describes how recent these decisions to be against race actually are
Today
Sex as biological category?
o Just as there emerged new ways of forming anti-racist arguments
o There were new ways of arguing against naturalness of male-female split
Transforming Sex, Inventing Gender
o In the early 20thc: the term “sex” covered a range of phenomena
Signified male and female (biological sense)
Traits, attitudes, and behaviors associated with men and women
Erotic acts (sex itself, sexuality)
o Despite pliability of the term (the word sex):
Most experts adhered to biological determinism:
Traits known as masculine and feminine said to spring from the biological
processes that divided male and female
o How sexed bodies came into being (the male and female division):
18thc culture of classification
Victorian male scientist perceived women’s bodies to be ‘feminine’ down to the
last details
o Until quite recently:
Sex-gender-sexuality were often confused or conflated (even within the
sciences)
Not yet understood or defined as separate domains of scientific studies
o Middle of the 20thc
Various experts begin to disentangle ‘sex’ into several separate domains of
study and analysis
That which was formerly called ‘sex’ became three things:
Biological sex”: chromosomes, genes, genitals, hormones and other
physical markers (many of which can be modified)
Gender”: used to discuss masculinity, femininity, and the behaviors
commonly associated with them
Sexuality”: erotic urges, fantasies, behaviors
Readings:
Show us qualities that sexed bodies acquired in the early 20thc
KEY: we see efforts to pin down at molecular level what makes a male
or a female
KEY: concept of hormones
o Definition: chemical messengers that regulate physical
processes in living organisms
o Hormones initially conceptualized as the chemical messengers
of masculinity and femininity (e.g. “what makes a man a man?”)
o Initially thought to originate only in sex glands
o Idea of sex hormones arguably the culmination of a particular
medical vision of the sexed body (the one we’ve been following)
o Sex hormones traveling through one’s blood meant all organs
and functions shaped by sex
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First half of 20thc:
Experts learn how to extract hormones from the organs and urine of
animals (1910s and 1920s)
Experts develop
Lab scientists and clinicians came to realize there are not exclusively
male or female hormones
Males have ‘female’ sex hormones; females have ‘male’ hormones
Example: estrogen production in stallion testes
Also becomes clear hormones produced in other glands (e.g. adrenal;
pituitary)
Ultimately: realized what controls one’s ‘sex’ is relative proportion of
different hormones
Oudshorn:
Introduction of hormones produced revolutionary change in the study
of sex
Early 20thc:
Sex becomes a question of causality: an effect of the mechanism that
regulate the development of an organism into a male or female
Chemically speaking, all organisms both male and female
Stated at its strongest:
Scientists began to claim that it’s impossible to simply classify a person
as fully male or female
The manipulation of hormones could literally alter sex itself
Mid-20thc:
Emergence of contemporary sex change procedures
Sex changes involve essentially two interventions:
o 1) hormonal
o 2) surgical
Surgery before 20thc
o Any modification of sex generally a process of removal
o Example: castration
WWI and WWII: advances in plastic surgery
War is such a significant factor in development of medicine
Tremendous numbers of 20thc “advances” linked to the world wars
First half of 20thc:
Plastic surgery becomes a recognized medical specialty
Procedures popularized in the mainstream press: 1930s-50s
Back to mid-20thc
Both hormones and genitals understood to be newly alterable with
surgery and treatment
Reached popular consciousness in the media spectacle of Christine
Jorgensen
New York Daily News (1952) “ Ex-GI Becomes Blond Beauty: Operations
Transform Bronx Youth”
Christine Jorgensen:
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