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Lecture 2

SOC265H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Feral Child, Ovulation, Gender Studies

Course Code
Bonnie Fox

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Lecture 2
- In the 1970s when gender studies was developing, the idea of a distinction
between “sex” and “gender”. Sex was strictly anatomical and biological,
gender is about everything else- personality, orientation to the world,
behavior, etc- and it is socially created, i.e. gender is developed through
- Bodies are not just given; they are social processes and creations. Your
behavior shapes your body.
- Nature does NOT just give us two sexes- every year some people are born
between the two and have ambiguous genetalia- they are called intersexed.
Doctors then come and alter it surgically so they look like one or the other.
- Male and Female bodies: The Sexed Body as a Biological ‘Given’ or as
Entangled with & Shaped by the Social?
o Thomas Laquer, Making Sex- on the history of our assumptions about
the sexed (m/f) body
(1) The One-Sex model
Women as inferior men; essentially the same model-
women were the same things as men, but inferior
(Aristotle, Greeks) but women’s reproductive organs
are inside and upside down, thus being inferior. There
were no separate words for the different organs,
everything was the same- the process of sex (arousal,
erection, orgasm) was the same
Gender as ‘given’ by nature & sex as social or
o Greek slaves were treated the same, both men
and women. Their sex was seen as irrelevant
because they did the same work; as if they were
o Greek myth about the man who wanted to know
if women enjoy sex as much as men do, so he just
changed himself into a women biologically. Thus
suggesting the Greeks thought that sex could be
changed socially, but gender is natural
Patriarchal society
o The fact that women can have babies and men
cannot was irrelevant to the Greeks- it didn’t
matter. Men and women were the same, just
women were a little bit less
o The Greeks knew that some girls were raped and
became pregnant, and realized that they weren’t
having orgasm, but they still persisted that
because men and women were the same, both
had to achieve orgasm to have a pregnancy
(2) The Two-Sex Model (19th century)
Women and men are different, however different
gender inequality
Sex as ‘given’ by nature and gender as social or
A response to revolutionary ideas challenging
inequality (late 18th century)
Higher education for post-pubescent women will
damage their bodies- their hormones will be out of sync
and their bodies will be harmed
(3) How models (or stories) of sex are shaped by assumptions
about gender, and reflect and support unequal social
o Today’s medical stories about male/female bodies: told through the
‘lens’ of gender (reflecting stereotypes of gender as inequality)
o ***In terms of the chromosomal pair, males have XY and females have
(1) Anne Fausto-Sterling on the story of how fetuses become
male- an ‘achievement’, but she says the basic model of the
body starts out as female- masculinity is something that forces
itself on the male body that changes it- at birth, masculinity
become a social _____
(2) Emily Martin on the story of (very gendered) behavior by
the egg and sperm in reproduction- if you look at the way the
egg and the sperm are discussed, it makes it sound like the egg
is completely passive and the sperm is doing all the action and
work- sexism! The process that produces sperm is written
about as remarkable and amazing, but when written about
ovulation, it’s totally negative about how we’re born with a
certain amount of eggs and then we start decaying after birth.
Also, menstruation is written as a failure. Very vivid imagery.
o C. The social creation of two sexes
(1) Intersexuals: 1 or 2 in every 2,000 infants
(2) Sharon Preves on intersexuals’ experiences
- Biological-Determinist Arguments
o A. An argument: Biology (genes, hormones, brain structure) causes
psychological and behavioral differences in individuals and individual
psychological traits produce social inequality (social organization)
Argument: There are biological differences between men and
women and that causes differences in behavior, and those
differences make for a gender unequal society- ex: men are
more aggressive than women because they have more
testosterone and because they are more aggressive than
women, it is not surprising that we live in a male dominated
society. Ex: because women can bare children, they are
naturally more inclined to be more nurturing, caring, tender,
etc. so they are assigned certain roles in the family which leads
to specific domestic responsibilities
(1) A reductionist argument on individual behavior: behavior
reduced to physiological elements- ex: a society of gender
inequality is natural- we will always have the men on top a
little bit, it’s natural- it’s like saying you reduce a story or a
novel to the letters on one page
(2) Poor sociologically: Humans are the products are society
o The case of “feral children”: physiological equipment is necessary but
not sufficient for human behavior- without human and societal
contact, humans are not normal. They do not speak normally, behave
normally, speak, think, or interact normally.
o (3) Social organization cannot be explained by, or reduced to, people
psychological traits
o (40 The evidence on men’s aggressiveness & testosterone- Robert
o prof says: testosterone does not cause aggression, it is necessary for it
to happen, but it does not cause it. Women have testosterone too.
Biology does not have an effect that is all its own- they two are always