Feminist Theory
Gender Basics <ul><li>Gender is a way of classifying people into categories.  In that sense, it is similar to race, class,...
Behavior <ul><li>The possibilities for human behavior are limitless.  </li></ul><ul><li>We are born with infinite capaciti...
The Blank Slate <ul><li>So think of human behavior as a blank slate. </li></ul><ul><li>The second we start to act, the sla...
Drawing on the Slate <ul><li>Slates can be drawn upon in two ways: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We can draw upon our own slate th...
The Terror of the Blank Slate <ul><li>Let’s face it, blank slates can be terrifying. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How do you act ...
The Slate Gets Drawn Upon <ul><li>As a kindness, we draw upon each other’s slates, especially our children. </li></ul><ul>...
Gender on the Slate <ul><li>Gender draws at least two shapes on our slate of human behavior. </li></ul>Male/Masc. Female/Fem
Some Observations <ul><li>Note that the shapes do not fill the space.  Lots of human behaviors remain ungendered.  The way...
Gender and Sex <ul><li>The categories are then tied to another category set, biological sex. </li></ul><ul><li>Those who h...
Gender and Sex <ul><li>These two categories are heavily associated with each other, but they are not one and the same.  </...
Chromosomes <ul><li>Chromosomes have no direct influence on behavior. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They only influence behavior i...
Power <ul><li>So hormones and behavior influence each other. </li></ul><ul><li>This is, of course, a massive oversimplific...
Gender and Power <ul><li>More power is accorded to the male sphere, and less to the female sphere.  The rest of human beha...
Gender and Power <ul><li>For women, the dynamics are very different. </li></ul><ul><li>Women are treated as more natural t...
Some Conclusions <ul><li>Gender is a social construction, driven by cultural norms about masculine and feminine behavior. ...
Betty Friedan <ul><li>What is the problem that has no name? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How would we describe this problem? </li...
bell hooks <ul><li>How does hooks take Friedan to task?  What are her criticisms? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the problems ...
Women and Economics <ul><li>What sort of feminist agenda is implied here? </li></ul><ul><li>What does this essay have to s...
DuBois “On Women” <ul><li>Before we move into discussion, here’s a few comedic clips to add to the discussion: </li></ul><...
Discussion <ul><li>My goal today is to have an open forum about gender issues in the contemporary United States.  </li></u...
Gender Forum <ul><li>Let’s start by identifying ways that DuBois’s writings might apply to today’s world. </li></ul><ul><l...
Who Is Your Mother? <ul><li>The big picture: the root of oppression is the loss of memory. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What does...
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Feminist Theory

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A brief overview of feminist social theory.

Feminist Theory

  1. 1. Feminist Theory
  2. 2. Gender Basics <ul><li>Gender is a way of classifying people into categories. In that sense, it is similar to race, class, and nationality. </li></ul><ul><li>These categories have enormous implications for our life experiences, including our sense of identity, our job and educational opportunities, our sense of empowerment and our relationship with power. </li></ul><ul><li>But first and foremost, it shapes our ideas about what appropriate behavior looks like. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Behavior <ul><li>The possibilities for human behavior are limitless. </li></ul><ul><li>We are born with infinite capacities. Imagine, for instance, all the ways that human beings could adorn their bodies. </li></ul><ul><li>We could walk around naked, we could where togas, we could where jewelry all over our bodies, we could paint or tattoo our bodies, we could wear an infinite combination of clothing. </li></ul><ul><li>In other words, many possibilities for our behavior in the world. </li></ul>
  4. 4. The Blank Slate <ul><li>So think of human behavior as a blank slate. </li></ul><ul><li>The second we start to act, the slate gets drawn upon. It is no longer blank. </li></ul>Blank Slate
  5. 5. Drawing on the Slate <ul><li>Slates can be drawn upon in two ways: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We can draw upon our own slate through our actions, thoughts, and decisions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Others can draw on our slates for us </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The principle of human freedom—highly valued in our culture—suggests that we should draw upon our own slates and not allow others to draw on them for us. </li></ul><ul><li>But the principle of social cohesion—holding a society together—suggests that we should draw on each other’s slates in order to have a sense of shared identity. </li></ul>
  6. 6. The Terror of the Blank Slate <ul><li>Let’s face it, blank slates can be terrifying. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How do you act from day to day if you are a blank slate? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>On what do you base your decisions? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What if you woke up in the morning and there was no pre-drawn pattern telling you what to do, or when, or how? In sociology, we call that normlessness (anomie). </li></ul><ul><li>Now imagine a 10-year-old in that situation. An infant. It would be cruel to tell an invent to invent her own way. </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Slate Gets Drawn Upon <ul><li>As a kindness, we draw upon each other’s slates, especially our children. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We learn something new and useful and we share that with others, drawing upon those slates. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>GENDER is one of the ways that we draw upon the slate. In fact, it is really the primary way that we do so. </li></ul><ul><li>Gender is a way of placing certain behavior under labels like female/feminine and male/masculine. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Gender on the Slate <ul><li>Gender draws at least two shapes on our slate of human behavior. </li></ul>Male/Masc. Female/Fem
  9. 9. Some Observations <ul><li>Note that the shapes do not fill the space. Lots of human behaviors remain ungendered. The way we turn or a doorknob or open a window is likely to show no sign of gender. </li></ul><ul><li>Note that the shapes are not mirror images. Masculine behavior is not simply the inverse of feminine behavior. Nurturance is often coded as feminine, and strength as masculine, yet these are not opposites. </li></ul>Male/Masc. Female/Fem
  10. 10. Gender and Sex <ul><li>The categories are then tied to another category set, biological sex. </li></ul><ul><li>Those who have, or are believed to have, XY chromosomes are called male, while the XX chromosomal set are coded as female. </li></ul><ul><li>Of course, genitals are generally used in lieu of actually knowing each other’s chromosomes. </li></ul><ul><li>Thereafter, we rare exceptions (such as sex), genitals are hidden from view, so the presentation of self is used as the proxy for sex. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This lacks the accuracy of chromosomes, but generally works. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If someone successfully presented themselves to the world as a gender different from that associated with their sex (if one with XY chromosomes presented a female identity), it is generally trusted, depending on the successfulness of the presentation. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The capacity to pass reminds us that gender and sex are different categories. Sex is determined by biology, but gender is determined by culturally produced behaviors. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Gender and Sex <ul><li>These two categories are heavily associated with each other, but they are not one and the same. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In many cases, the two align, but sometimes they do not. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>It is often assumed that gendered behavior is a simple direct consequence of sexual biology. HOWEVER… </li></ul>
  12. 12. Chromosomes <ul><li>Chromosomes have no direct influence on behavior. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They only influence behavior indirectly through hormones. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hormones influence behavior, but they do not determine behavior. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Behavior can actually influence and transform hormone levels. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Testosterone, for instance, which is associated with aggression and masculinity, is present in males and females. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Both men and women are capable of aggression. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Men and women with low testosterone are still capable of acting aggressively. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Men and women with high testosterone do not always act aggressively. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Playing sports and participating in the military have been shown to increase testosterone for both men and women. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Caring for children and participating in higher ed have been shown to decrease testosterone, for both women and men. </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Power <ul><li>So hormones and behavior influence each other. </li></ul><ul><li>This is, of course, a massive oversimplification of how biology works, but I am trying to clear a little space for the sociological approach to gender. </li></ul><ul><li>Biology can tell us nothing about power in society, and yet gender and power are inseparable. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Gender and Power <ul><li>More power is accorded to the male sphere, and less to the female sphere. The rest of human behavior is ambiguously powered, depending on a slew of other issues. </li></ul><ul><li>Although we all operate outside of the categories frequently, the more a male returns to the male sphere of behavior, the more he is able to enjoy male privilege—those powers and benefits accorded to masculine behavior. </li></ul><ul><li>Acting too frequently outside of the male sphere tends to reduce male privilege, but does not eradicate it. </li></ul><ul><li>For male to behave within the female sphere results in a dramatic loss of power. </li></ul>Male/Masc. Female/Fem ?
  15. 15. Gender and Power <ul><li>For women, the dynamics are very different. </li></ul><ul><li>Women are treated as more natural the more they behave within the feminine sphere. </li></ul><ul><li>And yet, they are also accorded less power than men. When women act in masculine ways, they may receive more power, but that power is often coded at illegitimate or unnatural. Female CEOs often report this experience. </li></ul>Male/Masc. Female/Fem ?
  16. 16. Some Conclusions <ul><li>Gender is a social construction, driven by cultural norms about masculine and feminine behavior. </li></ul><ul><li>Norms change over time and they differ across societies. </li></ul><ul><li>Just because something is a social construction doesn’t mean that it isn’t real. Gender is very real. </li></ul><ul><li>But every social construction can be re-constructed. </li></ul><ul><li>It is possible to do things differently. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Betty Friedan <ul><li>What is the problem that has no name? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How would we describe this problem? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What does it look like? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What are its consequences? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What caused this problem? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Has the feminist movement changed the problem? Have other factors changed the problem? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Does this still apply today? </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. bell hooks <ul><li>How does hooks take Friedan to task? What are her criticisms? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the problems that hooks would have us focus on instead? </li></ul><ul><li>What sources does she draw upon to identify these problems? </li></ul><ul><li>Are you persuaded? Why? </li></ul><ul><li>Do hooks’s critiques invalidate Friedan’s argument? </li></ul>
  19. 19. Women and Economics <ul><li>What sort of feminist agenda is implied here? </li></ul><ul><li>What does this essay have to say about men? </li></ul><ul><li>About women? </li></ul><ul><li>Are these claims true for all men and women? </li></ul><ul><li>Do these claims apply today? </li></ul>
  20. 20. DuBois “On Women” <ul><li>Before we move into discussion, here’s a few comedic clips to add to the discussion: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.margaretcho.com/audio_visual/notorious/notorious_cho_clips.htm </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Men’s Periods </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Women’s Magazines </li></ul></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Discussion <ul><li>My goal today is to have an open forum about gender issues in the contemporary United States. </li></ul><ul><li>Our readings for today remind us that we cannot speak of “men” and “women” as blanket categories and ignore the ways that race, class, nationality and other issues influence our experience of gender. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Gender Forum <ul><li>Let’s start by identifying ways that DuBois’s writings might apply to today’s world. </li></ul><ul><li>As we continue the discussion, what would you identify as the main ways that gender is affecting contemporary American life? What are the big issues in gender politics? How do you make decisions about issues of gender? </li></ul>
  23. 23. Who Is Your Mother? <ul><li>The big picture: the root of oppression is the loss of memory. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What does this mean? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How could it be true? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How does it apply in contemporary America? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What would then be necessary to fight oppression? </li></ul></ul>
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