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Posts Tagged ‘intersex’

One of first things I learned in my very first gender studies class was the distinction between sex and gender. I feel like it was useful at the time, but that the narratives about biology vs culture have changed in the last 10 years. For example, if we assume that sex is purely biological, where does that leave trans and intersex people? If you feel strongly that you are male or female, it’s not just choosing pink or blue and that’s it–there are so many ways to do gender (boi, hard femme, soft butch, androgyne) that the personal performance of what society expects vs what we want to do begins to make the assignment of fashions, mannerisms and interests seem ridiculous. Enjoying contact sports might be “aggressive” or “athletic” but there’s no reason to assign those attributes to a gender, and, ultimately, to praise what society deems masculine and ridicule what society deems feminine. And if gender expression is dangerously conflated with ideas of biological sex, wouldn’t using self-identity for gender help dismantle the biological-cultural complex? It seems very simple and yet very radical, and I am really interested in seeing how this new idea develops in sociology.

Family Inequality

Or, the sex/gender distinction which is not one?

sexgendermaze

(This post includes research from my excellent graduate assistant, Lucia Lykke.)

Recently I was corrected by another sociologist: “Phil – ‘female’ and ‘male’ refer to one’s sex, not gender.”

Feminists — including feminist sociologists — have made important progress by drawing the conceptual distinction between sex and gender, with sex the biological and gender the social categories. From this, maybe, we could recognize that gendered behavior was not simply an expression of sex categories — related to the term “sex roles” — but a socially-constructed set of practices layered on top of a crude biological base.

Lucia informs me we can date this to Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex. In 1949 she wrote:

It would appear, then, that every female human being is not necessarily a woman; to be so considered she must share in that mysterious…

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