At this point we need some terminology to describe some common concepts. The central questions we will persue work against what is known as biological determinism.
The idea of “gender” arose out of social construction theory. In GWSS gender is distinguished from sex. Sex is a category that is assigned at birth based on a doctor’s assessment of our genetalia. In modern Western society there are only two categories assigned (male and female) This is not always true in all parts of the world or at all times! GENDER is how we learn to behave based on the sex category into which we were placed. So if we were categorized as female we are gendered feminine and raised to be a woman. It is important to note that these three words (female, feminine, woman) in GWSS likewise (male, masculine, man) …
So how are we gendered differently and what meaning does that have for us in the world???
Transcript of "WGST 202 Day 4 Gender"
Theory and Gender
Dr. Sara Diaz
WGST 202: Gender, Difference, and Power
Liberal Feminist Theory
• Based on principles of Classical Liberalism
• Individual rights, freedom, choice, and privacy
• Explains oppression of women in terms of
unequal access to existing political, economic,
and social institutions.
• Seeks legal equality in existing institutions
• Emphasis on reform through legislation and
Radical Feminist Theory
• Focused on patriarchal control of women’s
bodies, sexuality, and reproduction.
• emphasis on women's health care
• Emphasizes supposed fundamental differences
between women and men
• Seeks liberation through eradication of
• Reform won't work: Revolution must occur
• Oppression of women comes from patriarchy
• Draws on theories of Marx and on theories
developed by radical feminists
• Focus on economic exploitation but also
draws on insights of psychoanalytic theory
(such as Freud)
• Focus on differences between men and
• Not reform, but more focused on global
restructuring of production
• Emphasizes the fluidity of social categories,
depending on historical time, place, and cultural
• Is often grounded in "discourse" or language.
• How does language construct social world?
• Is opposed to modernism (positivism)
• Deconstructs categories
• What is a “woman”?
• Feminist postmodernists are often accused of
• Emphasize how systems of privilege and
oppression work together
• Race, gender, class, national citizenship, sexuality
among other identities all function together and
so must be analyzed together (intersectional)
• Women can exploit other women
• Difference as positive
• Pragmatism: Use what works
• Resistant to nationalism while still anti-colonial
• Questions Western “paternalism” – White
men/women saving brown women from brown
• Emphasizes women’s agency and resistance
• impact of global capitalism on women’s lives
• transnational women’s organizing
• Difference as positive
• “Strategic” coalitional politics
Biological Determinism &
Organizes people into groups based on
what we assume to be basic biological
Further, it assumes those differences
explain characteristics of large groups
of people and justifies life outcomes.
Examples of Biological Determinism
• Women are nurturing because they bear
children, therefore they should stay home and
• Women are more emotional than men and
therefore not well suited for jobs that need
rational decision making.
• EG President, example of premenstrual syndrome
• Men are better at math and science and
therefore should go into fields like engineering,
Social Construction Theory:
Social Construction Theory asks us to examine our
assumptions about what can be attributed to
biology and to think about how social contexts
shape and interpret biological differences.
Social Construction Theory:
• Does NOT deny that biological differences
exist, but urges us to think critically about
how we interpret those socially.
• Argues that a lot of social phenomena occur
because of the social interpretation of
assumed differences rather than any
determination actually made by biology.
Definition of Gender
Gender is a social construction that
establishes our definitions of self, our
relations with others, and our life
chances...Moreover, is not just an individual
attribute. Instead, it is part of the social
structure of society and thus has an
--Margaret Anderson, Thinking about Women, p. 30
Sex vs Gender
Binary Sex/Gender System
Sex Category Male Female
Gender Man/Boy Woman/Girl
Gender Expression Masculine Feminine
Impact of Gender
• There are different rules for the behavior
of males and female in all aspects of our
• Because we live in a society that places
higher value on men (among other social
categories) these rules result in differential
access to power and resources.
• Because of this much of feminist
theorizing deals with power.
Daily Response Question
According to Lorber how does gender
work to maintain systems of power?
• Using the types of feminism described
earlier how might you categorize
•What doors are unlocked, closed
according gender? If you are
categorized male? Female?
• Public Bathrooms
•How do we do gender?
• Is it possible to change the way you
•What are the consequences?
•How does gender get inscribed on the
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