Is Gender A Social Construct Essay

7769 words - 32 pages

"IS GENDER A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT OR A BIOLOGICAL IMPERATIVE

"IS GENDER A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT OR A BIOLOGICAL IMPERATIVE?"

Paper by Babette Francis

Presented at the SEVENTH AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF FAMILY STUDIES CONFERENCE

������������ Family Futures: Issues in Research and Policy: Sydney 24 - 26 July

�������� The nature vs. nurture debate on whether it is biology or environment that
������� causes human beings to choose certain roles and lifestyles is a perennial
������� controversy in sociobiology, but since the seventies the debate has been
������� extended to whether nurture, i.e. culture, can override biology and be a
������� determinant of sex ...view middle of the document...

������� Liberal feminists of the 60s or what Christina Hoff Sommers author of "Who
������� Stole Feminism" (2) refers to as "equity feminists", believed that women
������� should have as much freedom and opportunity as men and that discriminatory
������� laws should be eliminated. However, within a decade, liberal feminism was
������� overtaken by the far more radical "gender feminism", which, building on
������� Marxist ideology, requires the elimination not only of economic classes but of
������� sex classes, i.e. the division of humans into male and female.

������� Hence the substitution of the word "gender" for sex . "Gender" is primarily a
������� grammatical term, which may be determined by a distinguishing characteristic,
������� i.e. sex, but gender can also be arbitrary like the gender of some nouns in
������� Spanish and French - table in Spanish is feminine (la mesa), in French it is
������� masculine (le table) .This malleable view of gender and the expansion from
������� two sexes to five genders was most clearly expressed in the writings of
������� Mexican Marta Llama at the Regional Conference and Non-Government
������� Organisations Forum (prelude to the UN's 1995 Beijing Conference on
������� Women) at Mar del Plata, Argentina, in September 1994. According to Sra
������� Llama:

������� "Biology shows that outwardly human beings can be divided into two
������� sexes; nevertheless, there are more combinations that result from the
������� five physiological areas which, in general and very simple terms,
������� determine what is called the biological sex of a person: genes, hormones,
������� gonads, internal reproductive organs and external reproductive organs.
������� These areas control the five types of biological processes in a
������� continuum.... a quick but somewhat insufficient classification of these
������� combinations obliges us to recognize at least five biological sexes:

������� men (persons who have two testicles)

������� women (persons who have two ovaries)

������� hermaphrodites or herms (in which there are at the same time one testicle
������� and one ovary)

������� masculine hermaphrodites or merms (persons who have testicles, but
������� present other feminine sexual characteristics)

������� feminine hermaphrodites or ferms (persons with ovaries but with
������� masculine sexual characteristics).

������� "This classification functions only if we take into account the internal
������� sexual organs and the "secondary" sexual characteristics as a unity, but if
������� we imagine the multiple possibilities that could result from a combination
������� of the five physiological areas that we already mentioned, we see that our
������� dichotomy man/woman, more than a biological reality, is a symbolic and
������� cultural reality" (3)

������� According to Sra Llama man/woman,...

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