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HREQ 1900 Lecture Notes - Absolute Difference, Heteronormativity, Heterosexuality

Human Rights and Equity Studies
Course Code
HREQ 1900
Nadiah Habib

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Lecture # 3: Cultural Construction of Females & Males
The Fabulous Story of Baby “X” --
One of the first defining aspects of our identities is our sex: Is it a boy or a girl? And with
this defining moment the Sex/gender system begins to manifest itself on our bodies,
minds, psychology, etc. and with it comes the social investment in the assumed binary
relationship between boys/girls; ladies/gentlemen; man/woman; males/females.
This relationship is premised on absolute difference. At the same time, this assumed
absolute difference, disciplines not only our behaviour, but also how others behave
toward us and our place in the social world.
Physical sex, gender identity, and gender roles should in any given person align to either
all-male or all-female norms, and in this system heterosexuality is considered to be the
only ‘normal’ sexual orientation. We live in a “heteronormative” world.
Sex Gender Sexual Orientation
Male anatomy Masculine Affective & erotic desires
for females
Female anatomy Feminine Affective & erotic desires
for males
Heteronormativity is the reinforcement of certain viewpoints by many social institutions
and social policies. These viewpoints include the idea that human beings fall into two
distinct and complementary categories: male and female, that sexual and marital relations
are normal only when between people of different sexes, and that each sex has certain
‘natural’ roles in life. Thus physical sex, gender identity, and gender roles should in any
given person align to either all-male or all-female norms, and heterosexuality is
considered to be the only normal sexual orientation. The norms this term describes or
criticizes might be overt, covert, or implied. Those who identify and criticize
heteronormativity say that it distorts discourse by stigmatizing deviant concepts of both
sexuality and gender and makes certain types of self-expression more difficult.
Already set up from birth we continue to shore up those identities from birth on.
it is imagined that there is a “natural” [a term we must always be wary of]
correspondence between sex and gender, wherein sex is a given biological fact and
gender is the corresponding cultural manifestation of our biological sex.
Sex = biology [either male/female]
Gender = culture [either masculine or feminine]
Because it is cultural we can understand that gender is socially constructed
But we have a more difficult time understanding that Sex may also be socially