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Lecture 4

Week 4- Wed Oct 2 Social Constructionism .docx

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Social Science
SOSC 1502
Amar Wahab

Week 4: Wednesday October 2 Social Constructionism Readings: Grewal & Kaplan, Introductory Essay to Part One (G&K, p.1) • People produce ideas and methods for science based on their sense of what is need and important for their society • Categories science create are seen as truths that cant be changed • Feminists are interested in the ways women and men have become identified, described and categorized by science in any given location and time period • Sex difference: history of how categories of male and female are created and used by the sciences • How gender is intertwined with and often dependent on other categories, such as racial and class difference • Science is usually limited to western perspective • Traditional or alternative are viewed as Chinese or native, whereas western science is believed to be modern and legitimate • Question how dominant ways of thinking about science and medicine have created the ideas about differences between men and women that we live with today • Nature vs culture Nature stands for the untouched and unchaining natural world, while culture stands for the • chaining ways of human beings across time and space Martin, The Egg and the Sperm (G&K) • All major scientific textbooks depict male and female reproductive organs as systems for the production of valuable substances (egg and sperm) • Menstruation must be considered failure to produce child • Process of making sperm involves precisely what menstruation does not: production of something deemed valuable • The male who continuously produces fresh germs cells, and the female who has stockpiled germ cells by birth and is faced with the degradation • Texts have deemed females in a negative light The texts celebrate sperm production because it is continuos from puberty to senescence, while • they portray egg production as inferior because it is finished at birth • Female to seem unproductive and wasteful • Why arent males wasteful when they waste trillions of sperm? • Creating feminine and masculine attributes for the sperm and the egg • The egg must need the sperms help to survive (female dependent on a male) • Egg will die within hours unless rescued by the sperm • Cybernetic imagery • 1950s medicine began to recline the psychosocial environment of the patient: the patients family and psychodynamics • Patients began to be seen not as isolated, individual bodies but as psychosocial entities located in ecological system: management of the patents psychology was a new entree to patient conthol • 19 century the social and natural increase of the poor inspired darwin origin of species • The amounts to the implanting of social firm basis for reimporting exactly that same imagery as natural explanations of social phenomena • Endowing egg and sperm with international action, a key aspect of personhood in our culture, lays the foundation for the point of viability being pushed back to the moment of fertilization Lead to greater acceptance of technological development and new forms of scrutiny ad • manipulation for the benefit of these inner persons: court ordered restrictions in a peregrinate womens activities in order to protect her fetus, fetal surgery, amniocentesis and rescinding of abolition rights • Feminist challenge to wake up sleeping metaphors in science, involving egg and sperm • Waking up such metaphors by becoming aware of their implications will rob them of their power to naturalize our social conventions about gender Fausto-Sterling, The Biological Connection (G&K) • Science is knowledge based on truth, fact obtained by systematic study and precise observation • 19 and 20 century scientists made strong statement about the social and political roles of women • Feminists have to used scientific arguments to bolster their cause • Research about sex differences frequently contains gross procedural errors • Perhaps the most widespread methodological problem is pinning the results of a study on gender when differences could be explained by other variables • Fail so regularly when it comes to research on sex differences Conventional science • • In analyzing male and female differences these scientist peer through the prism of everyday culture, using colours so separated to highlight their questions, design their experiments and interpret results • Hidden agendas bear strong resemblance to border social agendas • Historians of science have become increasingly aware that even in the most objective of fields a scientist may fail to see something because currently accepted theory cannot account for the observation • We ought to expect that individual researches will articulate exactly where they stand, what they think and what they feel deep down abut the complex of person and social issues that relate to their area of research Then let the reader be aware of their argument, figure out who the starting questions of the date • • One cannot see ones ow n blind spots so one must acknowledge the probate of their presence and provide others with enough information to identify and illuminate them Gould, Women’s Brains (G&K) • Anthropometry (measure of human body) was dominated by human sciences for much of 19 th century and remained popular until intelligence testing replaced skull measurement as a favored device for making invidious comparisons among races, classes and sexes • Craniometry (measurement of the skull)commanded the most attention and respect • Women had smaller brains the male so must be of lesser intelligence • Broca (created theory ^^) may reinforce a common prejudice in male society, but also scientific truth • Brocas argument relied on larger brains of male and increase in male superiority through time • Larger brain could be because of difference in height, but said its mainly due to intelligence (which test was supposed to be testing so like wut) • Topinard explained increasing discrepancy through time as a result of differing evolutionary pressures upon dominant men and passive women Man who fights needs more brain power (thus more brain) than a female who just cares for • children • 1879 gustave le bon: womens brains like apes or undeveloped children/ savages • Brain weight decreases with age and women studied were older then men • Brain weight increases with high and men were almost half a foot taller then avg. Women • Cause of death also affects brain weight • Women actually have slightly bigger brains • One may affirm the validity of biological distinctions but argue that the data have been misinterpreted by prejudice men with a stake in the outcome and the disadvantaged groups are truly superior Oudshoorn, Nelly. Sex and the Body (G&K 6-9). • Early medical texts in particular challenge our day perceptions of male and female bodies • Until late 18th century female/male bodies were described through similarities • Women had same genitals except theirs were inside the body • One sex body (men are female bodies turned inside out) • Sex is only skin deep, limited to differences in the outline of the body and the organs of reproduction (Vesalius) All other organs were interchangeable between the sexes • • Man is the measurthof all things and woman does not exist as an ontologically distinct category • Only in the 18 century that biomedical discourse first included a concept of sex that is familiar to present day • Middle of 18 century anatomists increasingly focused n bodily differences between the sexes and argued that sex was not restricted to the reproductive organs • The essence of sex is not confined to a single organ but extends, through more of less perceptible nuances into every part • Female skull was used to identify how women were inferior to men • History of medicine in this period contains many illustrations similar reflections of the social role of women in the representation of the human body • Anatomists mended nature to fit emerging ideas of masculinity and femininity • By the late 19 century medical scientists had extended this sexualization to every imaginable part of the body: bones, blood vessels, cells, hair and brain • Only eye had no sex • The female and male body now became conceptualized in terms of opposite bodies with incommensurably different organs, functions and feelings Until mid 19 century scientists considered the uterus as the seat of femininity • th • Mid 19 century, medical attention began to shift from uterus to ovaries (essence of femininity itself) • Early in the 20 century the essence of femininity came to be located in chemical substances: sex hormones • Female and male sex hormones as chemical messengers of femininity and masculinity • Body seems to be completely controlled by hormones • Cultural stereotypes about sexes create cultural notions Film: Race, the power of an illusion (part one) ***MANDATORY Library sessions during tutorial times for Tutorials 1-
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