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Monday, July 16, 2012

Conceptual Understanding- The biology debate-gender/sex

It is referred otherwise as equality – difference debate .
Equality in the sense both men and women are biologically equal as they are socially equal
Difference in the sense both men and women are different biologically as they are different socially
It has been discussed by philosophers ,theologies ,literature,art etc in different ways
What exactly is sexual difference
What is male female difference
Was Plato a sexist?  The answer yes, Plato was a sexist, it is appropriate to begin with a definition of what a sexist is.  The dictionary definition of what a sexist is: "one who has a bias or discriminates against women".
A female watchdog is as good as male watch dog ,
Aristotle- Biology
Aristotle is said to have declared that females contribute nothing substantial to generation; that they have fewer teeth than males; that they are less spirited than males; and that woman are analogous to eunuchs
While Aristotle reduced women's roles in society, and promoted the idea that women should receive less food and nourishment than males, he also criticised the results: a woman, he thought, was then more  compassionate more opinionated, more apt to scold and to strike. He accused women of being more prone to despondency, more void of shame or self-respect, more false of speech, more deceptive, and of having a better memory
Discourse on Inequality
Shakespeare Hamlet and Othello
Frialty thy name is women
On the other hand
Vindication of the Rights of women-Mary Wollstonecraft
Sexual Contract -Carole Pateman
Second Sex-Simon de Bouveoir
Feminine Mystique-Betty Freedan
A Room of One’s own-Virgenia Wolfe
Gender Trouble-Judith Butler
The Debate
Are men and women different? Sexually and socially
Are they're different anatomically?
Are they different in any other ways?
Do their hormonal differences influence their behaviors and attitudes?
Do they process information differently?
Feminists and gay theorists often say "no" to these questions. They maintain that the differences between men and women are mostly the result of socialization in male-dominated societies, and that it is patriarchal oppression that has relegated women to feminine gender roles. Biology is said to have little to do with abilities or sex roles in our society.
Some feminist writers actually believe that the idea of "two sexes" (male and female) is a myth. Dr. Anne Fausto- Sterling, writing in "The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female Are Not Enough," says that western culture is defying nature by maintaining a "two-party sexual system," for "biologically speaking, there are many gradations running from female to male; and depending on how one calls the shots, one can argue that along the spectrum lie at least five sexes--and perhaps even more."
Not content with denying the reality of two sexes, a subgroup within the gay rights movement--the "transgendered" --is attempting to normalize crossdressing and transsexualism (where the person has a sex change from male to female, or female to male). Some of these transsexuals actually prefer to live as "she-males" - having the physical characteristics of both men and women.
The biology debate-Sex and the difference
For centuries justification for different social roles of sexes has been biological difference
Biological capacity for childbirth and breastfeeding and lesser physical strength of women decided social role in home,occuoying with domestic chores,bringing up children,housewifisation,domesticisation,and even unfit to participate in public sphere
Women less reasonable than men more ruled by emotions and incapable of decion making.
Misogyny is the hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women or girls. According to feminist theory, misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women. Misogyny has been characterised as a prominent feature of various religions. In addition, many influential Western philosophers have been described as misogynistic.
According to sociologist Allan G. Johnson, "misogyny is a cultural attitude of hatred for females because they are female." Johnson argues that:
"Misogyny .... is a central part of sexist prejudice and ideology and, as such, is an important basis for the oppression of females in male-dominated societies. Misogyny is manifested in many different ways, from jokes to pornography to violence to the self-contempt women may be taught to feel toward their own bodies.
Aristotle has also been accused of being a misogynist; He has written that women were inferior to men. For example, to cite Cynthia Freeland's catalogue: "Aristotle says that the courage of a man lies in commanding, a woman's lies in obeying; that "matter yearns for form, as the female for the male and the ugly for the beautiful;" that women have fewer teeth than men; that a female is an incomplete male or "as it were, a deformity": which contributes only matter and not form to the generation of offspring; that in general "a woman is perhaps an inferior being"; that female characters in a tragedy will be inappropriate if they are too brave or too clever"
Marcus Tullius Cicero reports that Greek philosophers considered misogyny to be caused by gynophobia, a fear of women.
Ancient Greek
In Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice, Jack Holland sees evidence of misogyny in the mythology of the ancient world. In Greek mythology according to Hesiod, the human race had already existed before the creation of women — a peaceful, autonomous existence as a companion to the gods. When Prometheus decides to steal the secret of fire from the gods, Zeus becomes infuriated and decides to punish humankind with an "evil thing for their delight" — Pandora, the first woman, who carried a jar (usually described — incorrectly — as a box) she was told to never open. Epimetheus (the brother of Prometheus) is overwhelmed by her beauty, disregards Prometheus' warnings about her, and marries her. Pandora cannot resist peeking into the jar, and by opening it all evil is unleashed into the world — labour, sickness, old age, and death


In his book The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender, professor Bernard Faure of Columbia University argued generally that "Buddhism is paradoxically neither as sexist nor as egalitarian as is usually thought." He remarked, "Many feminist scholars have emphasized the misogynistic (or at least androcentric) nature of Buddhism." He emphasised that Buddhism morally exalts its male monks while the mothers and wives of the monks also have important roles.
Jack Holland also sees evidence of misogyny in the Old Testament story of the Fall of Man from the Book of Genesis. In Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice, he characterizes the Fall of Man as "a myth that blames woman for the ills and sufferings of mankind." (See also Original Sin.)
The Torah is a syncretism of various Judaic traditions. This accounts for various inconsistencies in the Old Testament. One such is the two accounts of the creation of humankind in Genesis. Man and woman are created at the same time according to the first account but the second account has man created first and then woman created from his rib. Rabbis trying to rectify this literary oversight provided an explanation in an extrabiblical account of the creation which stated that before Yahweh created Eve, he created Lilith as Adam’s first wife
Katharine M. Rogers in The Troublesome Helpmate alleges Christianity to be misogynistic, listing what she says are specific examples from the New Testament letters of the Christian apostle Paul of Tarsus. She argues that the legacy of Christian misogyny was consolidated by the so-called "Fathers" of the Church, like Tertullian, who thought a woman was not only "the gateway of the devil" but also "a temple built over a sewer
The fourth chapter (or sura) of the Qur'an is called Women (An-Nisa). The 34th verse is a key verse in feminist criticism of Islam. The verse reads: "Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great."
Taj Hashmi discusses misogyny in relation to Muslim culture, and Bangladesh specifically, in the book Popular Islam and Misogyny: A Case Study of Bangladesh.
[T]hanks to the subjective interpretations of the Quran (almost exclusively by men), the preponderance of the misogynic mullahs and the regressive Shariah law in most “Muslim” countries, Islam is synonymously known as a promoter of misogyny in its worst form. Although there is no way of defending the so-called “great” traditions of Islam as libertarian and egalitarian with regard to women, we may draw a line between the Quranic texts and the corpus of avowedly misogynic writing and spoken words by the mullah having very little or no relevance to the Quran.
In a Washington Post article, Asra Q. Nomani discussed An-Nisa, 34 and stated that "Domestic violence is prevalent today in non-Muslim communities as well, but the apparent religious sanction in Islam makes the challenge especially difficult." She further wrote that although "Islamic historians agree that the prophet Muhammad never hit a woman, it is also clear that Muslim communities face a domestic violence problem." Nomani notes that in his book No god but God, University of Southern California professor Reza Aslan wrote that "misogynistic interpretation" has dogged An-Nisa, 34 because Koranic commentary "has been the exclusive domain of Muslim men.
Scholars William M. Reynolds and Julie A. Webber have written that Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the Sikh faith tradition, was a "fighter for women's rights" that was "in no way misogynistic" in contrast to some of his contemporaries

18th and 19th century philosophers

Otto Weininger freely admits his misogyny in his book Sex and Character, in which he characterizes the "woman" part of each individual as being essentially "nothing," and having no real existence, having no effective consciousness or rationality.
Arthur Schopenhauer has been accused of misogyny for his essay "On Women" (Über die Weiber), in which he expressed his opposition to what he called "Teutonico-Christian stupidity" on female affairs. He claimed that "woman is by nature meant to obey." He also noted that "Men are by nature merely indifferent to one another; but women are by nature enemies."
Friedrich Nietzsche stated that every higher form of civilization implied stricter controls on women (Beyond Good and Evil, 7:238). He is known to have said "Women are less than shallow," and "Are you going to women? Do not forget the whip!" Whether or not this amounts to misogyny, whether his polemic against women is meant to be taken literally, and the exact nature of his opinions of women, are controversial.
Charlotte Witt wrote that Kant's and Aristotle's writings contained overt statements of sexism and racism. She found derogatory remarks about women in Kant's Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime
Hegel's view of women has been said to be misogynist. Passages from Hegel's Elements of the Philosophy of Right are frequently used to illustrate Hegel's supposed misogyny: "Women are capable of education, but they are not made for activities which demand a universal faculty such as the more advanced sciences, philosophy and certain forms of artistic production... Women regulate their actions not by the demands of universality, but by arbitrary inclinations and opinions." G.W.F Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, quoted in Alanen, Lilli and Witt, Charlotte, Feminist reflections on the history of philosophy'
In the modrn life this sort of crude differentiation is almost worthless,there are attempts to provide empirical evidence to support innate biological difference between men and women
Biological difference is a fact
To say that men and women are the "same" is to deny physical reality. Child psychologist Dr. James Dobson relates a humorous story about men and women in his best-seller, Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives.
Science makes plain that males and females are different from the moment of conception. As Amram Scheinfeld notes in Your Heredity and Environment, these differences between men and women are evident in the chromosomes which carry inherited traits from the father and mother. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes within each cell; twenty-two of these are alike in both males and females. But, says Scheinfeld, "...when we come to the twenty-third pair, the sexes are not the same. . . every woman has in her cells two of what we call the X chromosome. But a man has just one X---its mate being the much smaller Y."
It is the presence of this influential Y chromosome, says Scheinfeld, "that sets the machinery of sex development in motion and results in all the genetic differences that there are between a man and a woman." (6) Right down to the cellular level, males and females are different.
Sex differentiation takes place immediately as the male or female begins to develop within the womb. The sex hormones --primarily estrogen and testosterone--have a significant impact on the behavior of males and females. Why do boys typically like to play with trucks and girls like to play with dolls? Feminists usually claim this is the result of socialization, but there is growing scientific evidence that boys and girls are greatly influenced by their respective hormones.
In an ABC special, "Boys and Girls are Different," television host John Stossel described several studies conducted by universities on what appear to be innate differences between males and females
Males and females are not only markedly different in the hormones that drive them, but they are also different in the way they think. The brains of men and women are actually wired differently.
George Mason University professor Robert Nadeau, the author of S/he Brain: Science, Sexual Politics, and the Feminist Movement, describes significant differences between male and female brains. In an essay on this subject in The World & I, (November 1, 1997), Nadeau observes:
"The human brain, like the human body, is sexed, and differences in the sex-specific human brain condition a wide range of behaviors that we typically associate with maleness or femaleness."
The difference between the male and female brain is not evidence of superiority or inferiority, but of specialization. Michael Levin, writing in Feminism and Freedom, notes that, in general, males have better spatial and math skills than females. While feminists often claim that these differences are due to social expectations--and if girls were encouraged to be mathematicians, they would have the same ability as boys--there is evidence that these differences are inherited and appear in childhood, actually increasing during puberty. On the other hand, girls tend to be more vocal than boys, are better at hearing higher frequencies, and do better than boys in reading and vocabulary tests.
Males have a vastly superior ability to visualize a threedimensional object than do women. This gives the male his often-observed superior abilities in math and geometrical reasoning. In addition, males are better skilled in gross motor movements than are girls.
The Gender debate-Gender and Equality
Faced with this high emphasis on scientific evidence for exclusion of women from larger areas of social participation
Feminist  began to question link b/w different physiological characteristics and natural differentiation in social roles for men and women
Feminists began to formulate ways of overcoming arguments favouring natural differentiation
In response to all of this biological and anti-feminist theorizing on the part of some of the most respected scientists of the nineteenth century, by the early twentieth century, many feminists were beginning to focus on the question of biological difference as well.
The focus on biological sex and social gender has been emphasized by many feminists
This has been upheld by Beauvoir The Second sex 1949, she asserts that one is not born a  woman ,but one becomes a woman which means womnen’s inferior position is not natural or biological fact but created by society.
Sandra Lipsitz Bem, Ph.D.,Cornell University,
Consider but three examples.
1.    As a biological species, human beings require food and water on a daily basis, which once meant that it was part of universal human nature to live as survivalists. But now human beings have invented agricultural techniques for producing food, and storage and refrigeration techniques for preserving food, which means that it is no longer part of universal human nature to live as survivalists.
2.    As a biological species, human beings are susceptible to infection from many bacteria, which once meant that it was part of universal human nature to die routinely from infection. But now human beings have invented antibiotics to fight infection, which means that it is no longer part of universal human nature to die routinely from infection.
3.    As a biological species, human beings do not have wings, which once meant that it was part of universal human nature to be unable to fly. But now human beings have invented airplanes, which means that it is no longer part of universal human nature to be unable to fly.

Ann Oakley in her book Sex,Gender,and society 1972, “sex is a word that refers to the biological difference b/w male and female,the visible difference in genitalia,the related difference in procreative function.Gender however is a matter of culture it refers to the social classification into masculine and feminine,

At least as important in the development of sexual difference and sexual inequality, however, has been the androcentrism (or male-centeredness) of society's social structures.
The concept of androcentrism was first articulated in the early twentieth century by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who wrote in The Man-Made World or Our Androcentric Culture (1911/1971) that:
all our human scheme of things rests on the same tacit assumption; man being held the human type; woman a sort of accompaniment and subordinate assistant, merely essential to the making of people. She has held always the place of a preposition in relation to man. She has always been considered above him or below him, before him, behind him, beside him, a wholly relative existence--"Sydney's sister," "Pembroke's mother"--but never by any chance Sydney or Pembroke herself....It is no easy matter to deny or reverse a universal assumption....What we see immediately around us, what we are born into and grow up with,...we assume to be the order of nature....Nevertheless,...what we have all this time called "human nature"...was in great part only male nature....Our androcentric culture is so shown to have been, and still to be, a masculine culture in excess, and therefore undesirable. (pp. 20-22).
Without actually using the term itself, Simone de Beauvoir brilliantly elaborated on the concept of androcentrism, and integrated it more completely into a theory of sexual inequality in The Second Sex (1952), which was originally published in France in 1949. According to de Beauvoir, the historical relationship of men and women is not best represented as a relationship between dominant and subordinate, or between high and low status, or even between positive and negative. No, in all male-dominated cultures, man represents both the positive and the neutral, as is indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general; whereas woman represents only the negative, defined by limiting criteria, without reciprocity....It amounts to this: just as for the ancients there was an absolute vertical with reference to which the oblique was defined, so there is an absolute human type, the masculine. Woman has ovaries, a uterus; these peculiarities imprison her in her subjectivity, circumscribe her within the limits of her own nature. It is often said that she thinks with her glands. Man superbly ignores the fact that his anatomy also includes glands, such as the testicles, and that they secrete hormones. He thinks of his body as a direct and normal connection with the world, which he believes he apprehends objectively, whereas he regards the body of woman as a hindrance, a prison, weighed down by everything peculiar to it...Thus humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous being....She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute--she is the Other. (pp. xv-xvi)
To clarify the concept of androcentrism still a bit more, androcentrism is the privileging of males, male experience, and the male perspective. What exactly do  mean by privileging? On the one hand, one could say it's the treating of males as the main characters in the drama of human life around whom all action revolves and through whose eyes all reality is to be interpreted, and the treating of females as the peripheral or marginal characters in the drama of human life whose purpose for being is defined only in relation to the main--or male--character. This would go along with Gilman's idea that women are always defined in relation to men. Alternatively, one could also say that androcentrism is the treating of the male as if he were some kind of universal, objective, or neutral representative of the human species, in contrast to the female who is some kind of a special case--something different, deviant, extra, or other. This would go along with de Beauvoir's idea that man is the human and woman is the other.

Even some feminist have argued biological sex itself is a social construct,that biology is not a natural and universal but like gender a socially mediated phenomenon.
For instance Monique Witting 1996 argued that there is no sex ,there is a sex that is oppressed and sex that oppress.it is oppression that creates sex and not the contrary.

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