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Women and Gender Studies
Course Code

of 13
Def : 1 .Sex Hormones -from october 27 lecture and readings (in particular
the Oudshoorn articles)
Definition: Sex hormones are conceptualized as chemical messengers of
masculinity and femininity and are also considered to be the primary
causal agent of sex behavior. These hormones are also taken to make
sexual behavior, desire, identity and gender. Prior to this, sex was
thought to be located in the reproductive organs.
Critical Significance: Methodological moves- Determinism and
Reductionism? the implication of sex hormones controlling our behavior
is two-fold. On one hand, it means that humans lack any form of agency
in how they choose to interact, suggesting that our sexual behavior is
hardwired. On the other hand, this theory is reductionistic because it
reduces human action to a subhuman factor.
The use of sex hormones as chemical messenger of gendered roles does
not support polarization of the sexes. This is because hormones
fluctuate and are not stable. This finding gave way to organization
theory which posits that sex is fixed prenatally. This theory largely
came to be because there was fear that fluidity of sex hormones would
give way for many behaviours and actions that did not fit the dominant
Eurocentric, heteronormative, gender polarizing view of humans to be
legitimized. Claims such as homosexuality, women behaving aggressively
etc. Organization theorists are neuro-sexists because in their gender
polarization men are said to be logical and women are said to be
Two Examples:
1. The emergence of hormone therapy. With sex now being located in
chemical components, sex became an entity that can be measured,
quantified and manipulated, as stated by Nelly Oudshoorn. Because of
this man intervention techniques became present Eg. Male sex hormone
treatment to cub geriatric conditions that were said to be a result of
the ?absence of adequate male hormone? (p.277, green book)
2. The film ?the Sexual brain? ? viewed oct.27 . this film is an
example of how organization theory has been taken up by scientists as
the cause of our sexual identity. The film engages in
hetero-dimorphist views that locate sex difference only in the size of
the certain areas of the brain between men and women.
Sex hormonesThese are chemical messengers that dictate what makes a
person masculine or feminine - if you have testosterone you are male, and
estrogen makes you female. In this model, reproductive organs are not
important - hormones dictate everything. They are structural and permanent.
This is an organizational theory which gives a biological and sociobiological
argument to explain sex difference. The argument is that when androgens or
estrogen reach the animal brain in the prenatal period that will determine an
animal's behaviour with respect to masculinity or femininity. For example,
referencing the Sunday article on p 296 of the green book, more androgen in
rats usually means they will exhibit mounting behaviour (classified as male) as
opposed to lordosis (classified as female, when they lie down and raise their
rumps to indicate they are ready to be mounted).
This is problematic because it gives testosterone "top billing" - it is totally
privileged under this model. I can't remember which article it came from, but
one of them suggested that if a baby's brain has a "testosterone bath" in the
womb, that baby becomes male. If there is a lack of testosterone, "nothing
happens" and the baby is female. (This is androcentric.)
We had a bunch of examples for this: the PMS greeting cards with the dragon
woman at the door; the article "Why We Choose" (this was one of the critique
articles) where it explains that women can only have a fulfulling sexual
experience if testosterone is involved (which means women can't have a
fulfulling experience on their own, or with other women); and p 28 in the
yellow book "From Sin to Sickness" where it explains how men must have
testosterone and women must have estrogen or else they are abnormal. This
constructs hormones as inevitable and promotes prejudices such as
homophobia or racism (with respect to the fact that different races/ethnic
groups have different kinds of gender roles).
2. Brain sex :This is the idea that there are male brains and female brains and
leads directly into neurosexism. Neurosexism is basically the regular ol'
sexism we know and love... now they're just using neurology to back up sexist
claims. For example, there's an article called "Brain Blame" which explains
that men specifically are aggressive because their brains take over. This offers
no explanation as to why women are sometimes aggressive -- aggressivity is
entirely attributed to "maleness" -- male brains and therefore males are
aggressive, female brains and females are not. You see the word "hardwired"
thrown around a lot here, so this whole idea is both deterministic (the biology
of your brain dictates everything) and reductionist (it ignores environmental
and social factors and reduces all explanations to how your brain is
This polarizes the sexes by setting ideal forms for them; it creates gendered
norms and reinforces gender roles. It also creates a societal hierarchy with
respect to gender roles and norms. If you look back at your lecture notes on
neurosexism (from November 3) the prof gave us a whole series of examples
of thinkers who claimed that women just couldn't handle science and
academia because their female brains were too weak, and furthermore, that if
they engaged in masculine ideas like, you know... thinking hard... they would
get derangements like "not wanting to do housework." This is a gendering
activity as well, because as soon as you say that women just can't handle
sciences and academia they are excluded from those circles and relegated to
the home and nursery.
3. Bonobo society- Bonobos are our closest relatives from an evolutionary
perspective. They live in a female-dominated society; they are non-aggressive
and develop hierarchies through sex instead of violence. Homosexuality
among both males and females is completely normal. Bonobo society
challenges preconceived notions about violent male supremacy within primate
societies. The article on bonobo sex and society was kind of using naturalism
against people who point at species like emperor penguins as an example of
"natural" heterosexual monogamy -- bonobos are natural too! It also
contextualizes them by briefly discussing how several other primate species
form relationships instead of privileging bonobo society over other primate
societies or anthropomorphizing them in order to suggest that human should
live like bonobos. Another article to pull in here is Animal Rainbows by
Roughgarten, where she details many different configurations among animal
Def : 3 Bonobo Society
Definition: Bonobos are genetically the closest species to human beings,
however their sexual relations and practices greatly differ. Sexual relations is
a frequent aspect of daily life, they engage in casual sexual relations with
multiple partners of all sexes.
Bonobo society is aggressive and female dominated.
Critical Significance: completely contradicts biological determinism that
human behaviour with animal behaviour therefore naturalizing it. Bonobos
share 98% of the
genetic makeup that human beings have, closest genetically to humans yet
their behaviour