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An Introduction to Sex, Gender, Sexual Orientation, and How These Categories Shape Our Lives Dr. Amy E. Story Assistant Professor of Philosophy Director.

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Presentation on theme: "An Introduction to Sex, Gender, Sexual Orientation, and How These Categories Shape Our Lives Dr. Amy E. Story Assistant Professor of Philosophy Director."— Presentation transcript:

1 An Introduction to Sex, Gender, Sexual Orientation, and How These Categories Shape Our Lives Dr. Amy E. Story Assistant Professor of Philosophy Director of the Honors Program Baldwin-Wallace College

2 What are the first things we notice about people when we initially encounter them?

3 Why does it tend to bother us when we can’t immediately tell someone’s gender (…or are we trying to determine their sex?)?

4 Gender as a “script” for life Gender as something that we “do” or “perform” ◦Gender identity vs gender expression VS Sex as a group of biological components that tend to work together (hormones, chromosomes, sex organs)

5 The relationship between sex and gender is complex Biology is NOT destiny Gender does not simply express an underlying biological foundation Evolutionary pressures related to reproduction probably DO influence some general gendered tendencies

6 What are the “scripts” for gender? MasculinityFemininity What behaviors, skills, and attitudes do we associate with masculinity in our culture? What behaviors, skills, and attitudes do we associate with femininity in our culture?

7 Where do these gender “scripts” come from?

8 Aristotle ( BCE) “It is the best for all tame animals to be ruled by human beings. For this is how they are kept alive. In the same way, the relationship between the male and the female is by nature such that the male is higher, the female lower, that the male rules and the female is ruled.” Politica, ed. Loeb Classical Library, 1254 b

9 Immanuel Kant ( ) “Laborious learning or painful pondering, even if a woman should greatly succeed in it, destroys the merits that are proper to her sex, and because of their rarity they can make of her an object of cold admiration; but at the same time they will weaken the charms with which she exercises her great power over the other sex. […] The beautiful understanding selects for its objects everything closely related to the finer feeling, and relinquishes to the diligent, fundamental, and deep understanding abstract speculations or branches of knowledge useful but dry.” Of the Distinction of the Beautiful and Sublime in the Interrelations of the Two Sexes, 1764

10 Arthur Schopenhauer ( ) “Hence it will be found that the fundamental fault of the female character is that it has no sense of justice. This is mainly due to the fact, already mentioned, that women are defective in the powers of reasoning and deliberation; but it is also traceable to the position which Nature has assigned to them as the weaker sex. They are dependent, not upon strength, but upon craft; and hence their instinctive capacity for cunning, and their ineradicable tendency to say what is not true.” “On Women”, 1851

11 Pat Robertson (1930-present) “I know this is painful for the ladies to hear, but if you get married, you have accepted the headship of a man, your husband. Christ is the head of the household and the husband is the head of the wife, and that's the way it is, period." (700 Club, 1992) "(T)he feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti- family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” (Fundraising letter, 1992)

12 Understanding Gender = Understanding Gender Oppression The ideas that we have inherited from history about gender still play important roles in our lives In order to really understand how gender and also sexual orientation work in our society, we have to understand something about gender oppression

13 Oppression The pervasive and systematic mistreatment of people on the basis of their membership, or perceived membership, in certain groups. Helpful concepts from Marilyn Frye, “Oppression,” 1983 Birdcage Double-bind

14 Birdcage In small groups, come up with a list of a few “wires” that women face on a regular basis. What might be an example of a “wire” in the way of people in other oppressed groups, for instance: a. Someone living in poverty? b. An illegal immigrant living in the US?

15 The Other Side of Oppression = Unearned Privilege Like having the wind at your back…

16 Peggy McIntosh: “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege” 1991 White privilege is only one kind of privilege, but it serves here as a good example for what it means to receive unearned privileges that others are denied.

17 White Privilege I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

18 Unearned Privilege In small groups, come up with one statement that completes each of the following sentences (it doesn’t matter if they apply to you): ◦Because I am able-bodied, I can… ◦Because I am heterosexual, I can… ◦Because I am male, I can… ◦Because I live in a wealthy nation, I can…

19 Summing up Gender… Gender is generally understood as a way of identifying how one feels internally and behaves externally on a continuum of masculine and feminine. Masculine Androgynous Feminine Historically, women and the feminine ways of being associated with women, have been undervalued compared to men and masculine ways of being. Women have been oppressed and men have been privileged by their gender.

20 Sexual Orientation The basics: ◦Describes an individual’s emotional and sexual attraction to others of the same or different sex (i.e., homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual) ◦Is not necessarily based on one’s biological sex OR one’s gender identity or gender expression

21 Connecting Gender and Sexual Orientation If gender has historically been understood in a binary way and as an expression of one’s “natural” biological sex, heterosexuality has been understood along side gender as the “natural” form of sexual orientation Reactions to non-hetersexual orientations are grounded in the history of gender- based oppression (ie, sexism)

22 Homophobia Is Rooted in Sexism How are gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people breaking the gender “rules”? Why is it more acceptable for women to “experiment” sexually with other women than it is for men to do so with other men? Homophobia and sexual violence Suzanne Pharr, Homophobia: a Weapon of Sexism, 1997

23 Identity Formation and Power: Sexual Identity in Latin America Homophobia is Rooted in Sexism: ◦Sexual Identity and Sexual Position  Penetrator vs penetrated Sexual Identity and Class Study in Puerto Rico (Sager, Schlimmer, and Hellmann, 2001) ◦Socioeconomic status and sexual identity among men who have sex with men  Low SES = straight identity  Mid SES = bisexual identity  High SES = gay identity

24 Our World Today: Rethinking Sex, Gender, and Sexual Orientations People throughout time have sought ways of identifying their gendered and sexual lives that break out of the simple binary of male/female and masculine/feminine. It is only relatively recently, though, that we have started to develop a vocabulary and the social awareness needed to think and talk beyond simple binary categories.

25 New Gender Categories: Queer An umbrella term for LGBT communities ◦Gender-queer Reclaimed from being a slur beginning in the 1980’s Regional variation in the use of this term ◦Applications beyond LGBT communities

26 Examples of New Gender Categories (Sexual Fluidity Project) Bigender: To identify as both genders and/or to have a tendency to move between masculine and feminine gender-typed behavior depending on context, expressing a distinctly male persona and a distinctly female persona, two separate genders in one body. Gender Bender: An individual who “bends,” changes, mixes, or combines society’s gender conventions by expressing elements of masculinity and femininity together Androgynous: A person who may appear as and exhibit traits traditionally associated as both male and female, or as neither male nor female, or as in between male and female. Pangender: A person whose gender identity is comprised of many gender expressions.

27 Examples of New Sexual Orientation Categories (Sexual Fluidity Project) Androsexual: Anyone who has sexual feelings towards a man. Gynosexual: Anyone who has sexual feelings towards a woman. Androgynosexual: A person who has sexual attraction towards both men and women, particularly those with an androgynous appearance. Polyamorous: Refers to having honest, usually non-possessive, relationships with multiple partners

28 New Vocabulary, New Possibilities Labels matter Allow for self- naming


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