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> A Gender Agenda
girltrouble
post Oct 4 2009, 09:26 PM
Post #41


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angie_21
post Oct 4 2009, 08:16 PM
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I think my parents had a good idea, which instead of insulating me from all gender concepts (oh, they tried to make me wear dresses, even if I refused! lol) was to be very moderate about it, staying away from the most harmful stereotypes about boys being smarter and girls not liking sports, or needing to be pretty or thin. More importantly, instead of teaching me one way or the other, they always encouraged me to think for myself, and evaluate why things happened the way they did. They did make sure I knew that being a girl should never, ever hold me back, and they encouraged any interests I had, masculine or feminine. Questioning gender stereotypes, on my own terms, followed pretty naturally from there.

It does interest me though, watching my friends raising small toddlers, how hugely important gender is in their world right now, although not in the ways you'd expect. I wonder if the fact that people are waiting until the baby is born to learn if its a boy or a girl, has anythign to do with trying not impose gender on the baby too early, for instance. No one can buy lots of stereotyped clothes for a baby shower if they don't know which stereotype to buy for!
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jsmith
post Oct 4 2009, 07:46 PM
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QUOTE(culturehandy @ Oct 4 2009, 04:23 PM) *


from a theoretical perspective, raising a child as genderless sound absolutely fabulous, but how possible is this to do when almost everyone else around you generally goes with cultural and societal beliefs when it comes to gender.


Y'all are right about this... I guess one would just have to hope that her child is hard-headed enough to ignore the attempts at indoctrination by people who aren't her parents (school, peers, extended family, etc).


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Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are serviley crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God, because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blind faith. — Thomas Jefferson
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stargazer
post Oct 4 2009, 05:54 PM
Post #44


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QUOTE(angie_21 @ Oct 4 2009, 04:14 PM) *
If something is biologically not real, but believed by so many people, it becomes "real" in a very different, but equally powerful sense.


Dude, you just blew my mind. blink.gif Seriously though, this topic is almost similar to the talk about reality vs. socially constructed realities in the philosophy thread. Whoa.


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culturehandy
post Oct 4 2009, 04:23 PM
Post #45


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angie, that's exactly what I'm thinking of when it comes to sex vs gender. I was an anthropology major, and I wonder how much of this gender business is so heavily engrained in the cultural psyche, that even if one wanted to deviate from the cultural norm, how much could they actually do it? Not only because of their own engrained beliefs, but also the beliefs of others around them.

from a theoretical perspective, raising a child as genderless sound absolutely fabulous, but how possible is this to do when almost everyone else around you generally goes with cultural and societal beliefs when it comes to gender.


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angie_21
post Oct 4 2009, 04:14 PM
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In my anthropology classes, I was taught to use the word "sex" for biological distinctions, and "gender" for sociocultural constructs that are loosely based on sex. Even with biology it can be hard to define real categories of male and female sex (as the Caster Semenya case has made us all aware), but with culture and gender its even harder because things change from century to century, and decade to decade.

Up until the 20th century in "Western" culture, women were considered to be passionate, sexual temptresses with little self control, while men were honorable and pious. Somewhere along the line that changed, and for the last hundred years people seem to believe that real women should be chaste and calm, while men are hot-tempered sex-fiends. What made people suddenly change these ideas? I can't imagine women and men suddenly biologically changed from one polar opposite to another.

I can't imagine how difficult it would be for a child to be brought up gender-neutral in our sex-bsessed culture. From day one, boys are bombarded with shame when they act feminine, and girls are still, despite the attempts of feminism, chastised for being unladylike. It's probably the strongest indoctrination our culture will ever enforce on us (other than the growing pressur eof consumerism, but I digress...) and to be raised the first 5 years of your life outside of that paradigm, and suddenly be thrown into it and teased mericlessly by your peers for being "weird" and different, would be tough. Like it or not, humans depend very strongly on these cultural constructs to understand the world they live in, and we're still teaching our children to be pretty mean when people don't fit in.

Wow, CH, I love your comments on that article! So true!

But in regards to the whole thing about nature and mammal biology - A lot of our ideas regarding animal sex and reproductve roles are also really strongly influenced by the gender ideas of the scientists studying them. People choose to see what makes sense to them. It took a long time for biologists to notice, for instance, how sexually promiscuous female chimps are. It isn't always empahsized how very agressive female mammals can be, both physically and socially. Also, there's a wide range of gender and sex roles even in nature. I think it's orangutans (maybe also gorillas?) but non-dominant males never reach sexual maturity, they stay in a kind of semi-adolescent phase unless they are strong or lucky enough to become a dominant male, in which case they can biologically progress to sexual maturity way later in life, long after adolescence. There's so much more that goes on in the world that people are only starting to see now that we realize that things aren't as black and white as they seem, and that culture can actually influence biology instead things only happening the other way around!

I'm reading a textbook on race and racism, and it's almost exactly the same question. If something is biologically not real, but believed by so many people, it becomes "real" in a very different, but equally powerful sense.
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jsmith
post Oct 4 2009, 01:24 PM
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QUOTE(mumblestutter @ Oct 1 2009, 09:09 PM) *
jsmith, you mentioned a continuum of gender. have you ever read about alfred kinsey?


Nope, can't say that I have. What are his ideas?


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Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are serviley crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God, because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blind faith. — Thomas Jefferson
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stargazer
post Oct 4 2009, 12:07 PM
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Good thread, CH! smile.gif

I'm working with a predominantly male population, both staff and clients. It is interesting and frustrating at times. There is a strong adherence to traditional gender roles. I will definitely use the thread to vent or seek feedback from others.

I think the thing with gender roles is the expectations people have of one another. Myself included. I still find myself reacting from a more traditional place at times with men and women. I find myself continually reflecting on my reactions and origins of such "beliefs" of men and women. Alot of this information is social constructed by the media and marketing that it seeps into my everyday language and responses in conversation. I guess that would be my take for the influence of our environment. As for the biology speak, I think I've had this experience in the talk of phermones with males who hold a higher amount of testosterone. Like, I find myself reacting differently to these select men. So, I've been surprised myself by my own behavior and wonder about the whole biology thing.


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justF
post Oct 2 2009, 07:37 PM
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Interesting topic, so even though its my first post (I did introduce my self in the introductions forum a while back) can I add my two cents? Coincidentally, we are covering gender issues in my biopsychology course this week, and after reading a stack of textbook chapters, I can weigh in on the biology/gender questions.

First of all, mammalian brains of males and females are different, in more than one way. Researchers have not yet determined what the purpose of these differences are, but it has been suggested that behavioral differences between males and females may be attributed to the brain differences. Also, of course the amount of specific hormones in males and females are different, with males having more androgen and females having more estrogen. It has been proven that hormones do affect behaviours.

Differences in behaviours have been seen between males and females since birth (even prenatal), but the question is, how many of these behaviours are really the effect of the biological differences? People start applying sexual stereotypes on babies as soon as they are born, and children grow up modeling the behaviours of those around them. Short of raising a child in a completely gender neutral environment, I am not sure if the nature/nurture question will ever really be answered when it comes to gender.

In my own family, I try not to impose any gender stereotypes on my children, but i have definitely noticed a difference in the behaviour of my daughter vs my son. She plays with toys differently, likes to model the behaviours of others more, and she loves shoes.

My children are growing up thinking that anything is ok when it comes to gender (I hope). Today my six year old son had an absolute ball playing with the pink princess castle that my daughter just got for her birthday.

Thanks for letting me join in....
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culturehandy
post Oct 2 2009, 07:51 AM
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I thought about the masculine vs feminine, especially with regards to foraging societies. Even in terms of evolution, does the issue of sexual dimorphism have anything to do with gender.

If you look at many other members of the animal kingdom, female animals raise their young and often do the child rearing, I know this isn't the case in all, but a majority of the time. It's similar with humans. Child rearing and raising, even to this day, are something that is falls primarily on the shoulders of women (again, not all the time, but using generalizations). In the animal kingdom, more often than not, males are the most aggressive of creatures, (mind you, we've all seen the consequences of a pissed off female bear protecting her cubs), what I'm getting at is how much does biology contribute to the idea of "gender". hence, the nature vs nurture.


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koffeewitch
post Oct 2 2009, 06:29 AM
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I love this thread! I've been thinking about inherent/biological aspects. I've already agreed that gender is cultural, but there are cultural traditions surrounding biological phenomena, like menstruation. And childbirth. I do wonder if we women's ability with language is now rooted in our brains because women usually did the raising/nurturing of their children (teaching children to talk/warning them of dangers). Did culture affect biology? Did thousands of years of sex-segregated tasks give us any inherent abilities for those tasks?

When I was in my early twenties I think I was afraid to talk about ANY link of gender to biology. I felt I had been shoved into a pink box for so long; I only wanted to free myself of it. In my late twenties I found myself with an unwanted pregnancy too far advanced for a legal abortion. I never wanted children. I hated children. I was furious and desperate and trapped. Then in my second trimester something happened. I felt some overwhelming, overpowering, insane love and protection for this baby I was carrying. I've since learned this is a common experience. (Childless busties will just have to take my word on this one. I would never have believed it either). Anyway, this desire did NOT come from anywhere in my personality. This was my first experience as a biological animal. As a mammalian creature. So now I'm a bit more open to the role biology can play into our personalities. I bet the peri and post-menapausal women out there could tell us some stories, too.

I've hogged this thread enough. I was hoping someone would jump in and disagree with us by now to get a different perspective going. I would welcome such a discussion with open arms (HINT HINT).


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mumblestutter
post Oct 1 2009, 09:09 PM
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nice thread! this may or may not be totally coherent b/c i may or may not be more than half a sleep right now, but here goes. gender is totally a cultural thing. activities and preferences that are associated with being masculine or feminine arbitrary. things that are considered "masculine" or "feminine" can change over time, or be assigned to different gender categories by different cultural groups.

the simplest example i can think of here is the "pink is for girls, blue is for boys" convention. there's no reason why a person should have innate attraction to these colors based on their sex. children are rewarded positively for modeling "gender appropriate" behavior and so often comply with convention. even children of gender neutral parents will receive positive feedback for modeling gendered behavior at school and around friends.

the "pink/blue" dichotomy did not emerge until the mid 20th century. before then powdered blue was the color for little girls and red was the color for little boys! pretty much the opposite as it is now. you can see this in early disney heroines like alice & sleeping beauty with their powder blue gowns.

i'm fascinated (and dismayed!) by the extent commercial enterprise now informs our personal concepts of gender. i think there may have been more rationality to gender concepts in the past, but now with television & mass media, people over wide distances can see the same definition of gender roles.

when it first hit the market, marlboro was a brand marketed as feminine & for women. later the company took a U-turn and decided to market their product at men creating the familiar marlboro man/cowboy killer imagery. there's NO reason why a cigarette should be feminine or masculine, but the campaign worked, resurrected a fading company, and created a lasting image of a "masculine" product.

jsmith, you mentioned a continuum of gender. have you ever read about alfred kinsey?

also, this american life produced a fascinating show where they interview two transgender children and their parents. it's fascinating to hear the children describe struggling with gender-identity at such a young age, as well as how their communities and parents react.

so, sorry for being a gigantic nerd. :) i love this topic & really did pare down what i had to say.
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jsmith
post Oct 1 2009, 07:56 PM
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I don't think it comes down to nature v. nurture. I don't think anything comes down to that. It's always a combination of the two, not one or the other. I think some behaviors/attributes that are allegedly peculiar to one gender or the other are biologically based. SOME. But I think that most attributes that our society deems "masculine" or "feminine" are simply social constructs with no good basis in reason.
I agree with the poster who suggested we all fit on a continuum ranging from black to white, with gray in between. I know that I've thought about my own attributes, to which gender they allegedly belong, and why I choose to embrace or obliterate these attributes. There are things about me which are distinctly "feminine", and things which are distinctly "masculine" (as defined by society). I don't behave in a certain way simply because society says it's what is appropriate for a woman, or actively try to go against social mores. I do what I'm comfortable with, and to hell with everything else.
If I ever have kids, I'll make sure to raise them without impressing gender stereotypes on them. I think parents who do this are doing the future a great favor.


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Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are serviley crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God, because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blind faith. — Thomas Jefferson
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koffeewitch
post Oct 1 2009, 01:06 PM
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QUOTE(bob4both @ Oct 1 2009, 01:23 PM) *
Very interesting thread! I'm mulling all this over and don't know exactly WHAT to think, but something deep down doesn't agree with the general premise of the conversation. But when I slow down & I dissect the comments they make more (agreeable) sense to me. I can't quite put my finger on it, though.

When I digest all this & find the words to add to this conversation, y'all will probably hate me! But keep it going; I'm intrigued by this thread.

b4b (and lurkers) you are in NO WAY required to agree with us. I would love for someone to jump on here and make a case for biology just to get us thinking in a different direction. Feminists aren't made from cookie cutters; we can agree to disagree (apologies for the lame cliche).


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bob4both
post Oct 1 2009, 12:23 PM
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Very interesting thread! I'm mulling all this over and don't know exactly WHAT to think, but something deep down doesn't agree with the general premise of the conversation. But when I slow down & I dissect the comments they make more (agreeable) sense to me. I can't quite put my finger on it, though.

When I digest all this & find the words to add to this conversation, y'all will probably hate me! But keep it going; I'm intrigued by this thread.


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culturehandy
post Oct 1 2009, 07:00 AM
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How much gender is a social contrsuct is something I've thought about a fair bit. In my studies, I've seen it is, but how much does biology play a role in what is "masculine" or "feminine"? Perhaps we've just ignored what is intrinsic about humans and it seems only natural for us to go with society...

Even then, how much is cultural and how much is biological? it's the age old nature vs. nurture question.

In reading the article, I found this quote interesting;

“Ignoring children's natures simply doesn’t work,” says Susan Pinker, a psychologist and newspaper columnist from Toronto, Canada.

They are letting the child do what they wish, how is that ignoring the child's nature? This pink-blue ideology did not come from the idea of being a child.

Further, she also says; Child-rearing should not be about providing an opportunity to prove an ideological point, but about responding to each child’s needs as an individual

This is *exactly* what the parents are doing, they are allowing the child to be an individual, not an individual with strings attatched.

Then she goes on to discuss one childs loss of his penis during circumsicion. This family is raising Pop to be who they want, not going against what the child is biologically. The parents are open about the fact that pop knows what a penis and a vagina are, so clearly, the child is aware of what they have. They are choosing to do things against a cultural norm, not a biological one.

Koffee, your theory on gender being a continuum is very clever, I like it. what exactly constitutes a man? Or a woman? Is a woman who fixes a car less than a a woman who bakes because she does a "masculine" activity? Or what about those who choose to enter more traditional male feilds? what about men who sew? Does that make them less of men? I think that culture is so obsessed with the idea of gender because it appears that it is tied so much to who we are. Isn't there more to it?


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koffeewitch
post Oct 1 2009, 06:48 AM
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QUOTE(sybarite @ Oct 1 2009, 06:21 AM) *
I am really pleased this thread has been started; this is a fly-by (for now) but this story brings up interesting quetsions about the degree to which gender is constructed IMO. The story is about a Swedish couple who have decided to raise their child gender-neutral.

Wow, I cannot believe how furious the comments at the end of that article are...People go crazy and lose their minds over this issue. I remember another couple who had a boy they were raising in a non-sexist, non-gender specific manner. I was actually extremely impressed. I remember a story of this little boy going to kindergarten with barettes in his hair because he liked barettes. His peers immediately informed him that boys do not wear barettes. His reply was to show the other boys his penis and reply that having a penis and scrotum made you a boy, not what you wore in your hair.
As a parent myself, I try to avoid as many references to gender as possible. In our household Mommy is the one who can fix cars, but she also knits. Daddy likes to bake pies and scones. When I;m knitting (children love to watch knitting for some reason) I tell my kids (true) stories about how cowboys used to knit their own socks at night by the camp fire. (THe lesson here is not only about gender but the importance of self-sufficiencey). It does seem to be true when kids hit about the age of 4-5 they get very interested in identity and ask "what do boys do/what do girls do". The problem in our culture is they are not asking "what do PEOPLE do,what do kids do/what do grown-ups do" etc. And ANY exposure to television, any at all, even one hour per week, even only PBS will give kids EXTREMELY sexist views about gender.
Deschat': I really like theories about more than 2 genders...I think along with 3 genders, we might also consider 6 or 8 or maybe none at all...or maybe we should think of it as a continuum with all of us somewhere in the field of gray. But you're right, we definitely look at it as black/white.
I love the ideas you guys hyave brought up, this has been so interesting already...


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sybarite
post Oct 1 2009, 05:21 AM
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I am really pleased this thread has been started; this is a fly-by (for now) but this story brings up interesting quetsions about the degree to which gender is constructed IMO. The story is about a Swedish couple who have decided to raise their child gender-neutral.
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deschatsrouge
post Sep 30 2009, 01:43 PM
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In our culture I think we associate Gender and biology so closely because our culture only has two genders. Some cultures like Samoa and India have a third gender. I used to date a Transgendered person and in that experience all the social constructs of gender were pointed out to me. Like knitting. Men can have the ability to knit but it's a "woman's" pastime. She explained to me that some times transgendered people take on the roles of their target gender just to appear more similar to it. to me this points out how little biology plays in gender.

Humans can't really live without culture. I think this is the reason we are so apt to accept gender roles. Culture tells us what gender is, but because in our culture gender is tied with biological sex we think in black and white, male and female terms. If I understand correctly transgendered people in other cultures are satisfied sometimes with just taking on gender roles and not altering their anatomy to match their desired biological sex.


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koffeewitch
post Sep 30 2009, 12:32 PM
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I (and I assume many feminists) would agree with you culture, that gender is only a social construct. Are we the minority? Is this one of the reasons women claim not to be feminists...they believe there is some sort of genetic basis to gender that makes our sexist society "natural"? And of course if gender is COMPLETELY a social construction would there be so many people who feel that they were born the wrong sex? When I've listened to transexuals talk about their feelings it always seems to me that they are refering more to gender than biology...can these things (gender and biology) be completely separated? Someone wiser than I, please jump in...


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