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Krishnakanth H 1269 T.Nageswara Rao Feminist Theories: An Introduction COM.LIT 131 Overview on gender and sexuality Introduction:

Pink is for girls and blue is for boys is a concept that has evolved through parental expectations. Parents impose such conditions on their children due to which the roles of men and women are developed. The basic assumption shared by all feminists is that women suffer certain injustices on account of their sex. Feminists stress the importance of gender divisions in society and it portrays these divisions as working to the overall advantage of men. Although feminists are united with their common desire for sexual justice and their concern for womens welfare, there is a range spectrum of feminist views. Here Im mentioning my views read from some sources about the formation role of genders and sexes from childhood and how these roles or expectations determine life chances in society. The definition of gender and sex will be looked at from different feminist perspectives followed by studies. The word Gender is not commonly confused with sex which is incorrect. Dr. Robert Stoller an American Psychoanalyst defined as sex is a biological composition that differentiates between men and women, i.e. Genitalia (internal and external). People have different experiences in their lives and hence everyone takes it in a different way. Therefore, there is no one best way to define feminism. Gender refers to the factors like psychology, physiology, anatomy, society,

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and culture of a person. These are the factors one thinks about while describing any other person as masculine or feminine. Gender and sex are not only the aspect by which people see us, but it is also the way we understand ourselves. Here one example how the girls treated from childhood apart from boys. Boys are given footballs, computer games, cars, trucks, and are encouraged by their fathers for dummy fight. This encourages men to be masculine, violent and physically powerful. Men strength has got nothing to do with male dominance as with the evolution and innovation in technology most of the work in the modern era does not require physical strength. In many places to be considered a proper man or proper woman, you need to act one hundred per cent heterosexual, and stay in line with gender stereotypes. The precise attributes appropriate to each gender will vary from one society to another, or in the same society over time. However, social, historical and anthropological studies reveal a remarkable consistency in the extent to which each of those attributes listed recurs with greater or lesser emphasis in the gender stereotypes of a range of different societies. For example, the exclusion of women from public life or from particular social or work roles is more evident in strict Islamic societies or traditional Judaeo-Christian societies than in modern secular societies. However, in the latter societies such gender stereotyping still persists in that certain roles remain associated strongly with men

On the other hand advertising has played a negative role in portraying women low status. Advertisements generally portray women's innocence with a sex. A plenty of models can also be seen over massive billboards and magazines cover pages. Men are not usually shown as semi nude, obscene in the advertisements unlike females.

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Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, factors .Sexuality is a central aspect of being human throughout life. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. Sexuality is influenced by some gender norms. For example, in Turkey, primary education of eight years is compulsory by law, Many girls are not sent to school by their parents because of the fear that education in a mixed sex setting will increase the possibility of potential sexual encounters of girls with boys, as well as the chance that their daughters will reject early or arranged marriages if they were educated.

In many contexts women are expected to be innocent and passive and may also be economically dependent or at risk of violence, so they may not have the possibility of asking for safer sex or to explore their own desires. In contrast, men are expected to know about and take control in sex. Sex workers are often penalised by law, and harassed by police, so they are not in a strong position to seek information about safer sex and negotiate safety with clients. Breaking the rules of gender and sexuality can also endanger ones survival. For example in Nigeria the women can be penalised by whipping, imprisonment or stoning if they violate gender laws in sharia..

Sex outside of marriage is treated as adultery. In some countries, such as Pakistan, a woman can be charged with adultery even if she was raped. Several women have since been charged, and some have been stoned to death. Mostly poor were targeted and rarely elite were punished. Promotion and protection of sexual rights are fundamental not only to achieving sexual health goals, but also access to quality sexual and reproductive health services, information and education in relation to sexuality.

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The Social Construction of Gender:

Generally speaking, gender is assigned at birth according to physical sex. Medical professionals look at the babys genitals and announce that the baby is a boy or a girl. We were taught and learnt by parents and society to which emotions were supposed to display, which activities were supposed to enjoy. There is a lot differences showed by men and women. It should be practice and followed .But for some of us it feels wrong enough that we cant just fit. For transgender individuals, its different. Their living style and behavior is totally different. So this description raises a number of questions .The most obvious way we can see that gender roles and stereotypes are culturally and socially dependent

We can see clear examples of how gender stereotypes and roles have changed over time. The definition of an atypical gender role is no longer what it used to be several centuries, or even decades ago. Most obviously, we can see how womens roles in society have changed over time. Women can now participate in the political and economic sphere. It used to be believed in Europe that women were not capable of being educated because of their small brain size and their delicate constitution. We can also see the changing opinion of gender-typing in occupations. In the mid 20th century, clerical work used to be carried out by men, and was wellrespected work; it was when such work became associated with women that it lost its previous status. Working women are almost taken for granted in contemporary Western societies, while in extremely traditional societies such as Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, women may be expected to remain in the domestic sphere and obey their husbands.

Intuitively, when looking at the gender attributes it is possible simultaneously to recognize the gender stereotypes as familiar while rejecting them as an oversimplification. For example,

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whereas men in general might not readily express vulnerable emotions through crying and admissions of helplessness, many individual men do express such emotions and show such behaviour. Individual women can be just as competitive and aggressive as men although overall these attributes are associated much less with women than with men. Many studies have attempted to make objective and quantitative measurements of gender differences, through the use of behavioural and cognitive function tests and the use of questionnaires to address attitudes. For most attributes, the degrees of variation within populations of men and of women are so great that the overlap between men and women is too large to produce significant differences between the sexes. Moreover, rarely if ever do any differences observe have predictive is not possible from the measurement of a gender attribute in an individual to predict whether that individual is a man or a woman.

According to social learning theorists, children are also influenced by what they observe in the world around them. This, again, makes countering gender socialisation difficult. For one, children's books have portrayed males and females in deliberately stereotypical ways. For instance males as adventurers and leaders, and females as helpers and followers.

One way to address gender stereotyping in children's books has been to portray females in independent roles and males as non-aggressive and nurturing. Some publishers have attempted an alternative approach by making their characters, for instance, gender neutral animals or genderless imaginary creatures. parents labelled the overwhelming majority of gender neutral characters masculine .Socialising influences like these are still thought to send implicit messages regarding how females and males should act and are expected to act shaping us into feminine and masculine persons. Nancy chodorow criticised that gender is a matter of having feminine and

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masculine personalities that develop in early infancy as responses to prevalent parenting practices. In particular, gendered personalities develop because women tend to be the primary caretakers of small children. Chodorow holds that because mothers (or other prominent females) tend to care for infants, infant male and female psychic development differs. The mother daughter relationship differs from the mother son relationship because mothers are more likely to identify with their daughters than their sons. This unconsciously prompts the mother to encourage her son to psychologically individuate himself from her thereby prompting him to develop well defined and rigid ego boundaries. However, the mother unconsciously discourages the daughter from individuating herself thereby prompting the daughter to develop flexible and blurry ego boundaries. Childhood gender socialisation further builds on and reinforces these unconsciously developed ego boundaries finally producing feminine and masculine persons. This perspective has its roots in Freudian psychoanalytic theory, although Chodorow's approach differs in many ways from Freud's.

Many people think of sexuality as private, individual and biological. It may include these aspects, but it is also a highly political and policy related issue, worldwide. The following are just a few events selected from recent times which illustrate some of the policies and politics around sexuality. In 2005, African women celebrated the official coming into force of the landmark treaty. The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa is the first international human rights instrument to explicitly provide for the right to abortion in cases of rape, incest and health risk. The protocol had been adopted after several years of campaigning by African womens organisations. In Colombia legalised abortion in cases when the mother's life is in danger, the foetus is badly deformed or the pregnancy results from rape. An 11-year old girl, raped by her step father, had the first legal abortion. In spite of the change in law, she had to go to the

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constitutional court to do so, the Catholic Church condemned the abortion, and protestors demonstrated outside the hospital to oppose the procedure. Because sexuality has such implications for policy, and likewise policy for sexuality, it is an issue for activists, for development, for governments, and international institutions. This section has looked at why sexuality and gender are of such importance. The following section moves on to look at why sexual rights are a promising framework to tackle these issues.

Sexual rights offer the potential for an approach that goes beyond identity politics. With identity politics, rights are associated with particular categories of people, such as womens rights or gay rights. Sexual rights can instead be taken to mean that everyone should have the right to personal fulfilment and to freedom from coercion, discrimination and violence around sexuality.

Sometimes sexual rights are still taken to be primarily an issue for particular identity groups, as discussed in chapter six, however rights around sexuality are in fact relevant to all. Separating rights from identities can shift the debate from being about certain groups of people oppressing other groups, to identifying the underlying structures of inequality. For example, a focus on womens rights can be used to bring attention to mens oppression of women through violence. A focus on LGBT rights can bring to attention the advantages heterosexuals have over homosexuals. These issues are all of vital importance. However the cause of these problems lies neither with men nor with heterosexuals. The underlying cause is the structures of power that exist around different forms of gender and sexuality. These could be explained as a stratification of sexuality similar to structures of inequality around class or gender.

Much sexual violence is inflicted in contemporary conflicts such as in Iraq, Sudan, Sierra Leone, and the Congo. Due to lobbying efforts by womens organisations, the Rome Statute of the

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International Criminal Court now recognises and prosecutes sexual violence as war crimes. According to the statute, these crimes include rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation, other forms of grave sexual violence, and persecution on account of gender. Men are also targets of sexual violence in conflict, although probably not as frequently as women. With Abu Ghraib sexual humiliation and torture of Iraqi men by American women and men suddenly became visible the world over as the photo graphs made front -page news , including photos of men being forced to simulate sexual interactions with each other.

Gender stereotypes in most societies include reproductive roles and share attributes relevant to these reproductive roles. However, gender stereotypes are not limited to reproduction and reflect the fact that in humans sexual activity is not exclusively or even primarily a reproductive activity. There appears to be a large element of social learning in the construction of gender stereotypes and identities Michel Foucault, is known primarily for his theories of power and sexuality, explored in works such as Discipline and Punish, History of Sexuality, and others.. The time honoured example of such a dynamic is that of the soldier, for whom military training is not only about eradicating certain elements of one's personhood, but is also concerned with instilling specific habits and aptitudes. Military training, then, manufactures soldiers, and the depth of the effect of such manufacturing on the subject, Foucault indicates, is profound. Similarly, modern political discourses produce certain types of subjects, with distinct characteristics. Power, then, creates possibility, although it does so always with its own motivations. Moreover, the workings of power cannot be reduced to specific individuals or locations. Power works diffusely, utilizing the very subjects that are constructed within its context to perpetuate its goals. The feudal model of power, with its distinct roles and top-down hierarchy, and its emphasis on punishment, makes way for disciplinary power, targeted distinctly

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towards the subject's body, dependent upon constant surveillance, and intended to normalize the subject's being and actions that is, to create a subject according to the norms demanded by the overall power structure.

Within this understanding of power, there is little about the subject that is untouched by it. Sexuality in particular is viewed by Foucault not as an inherently biological drive, but rather as a set of desires and dynamics that are deeply shaped by the modern cultural context. Indeed, in analyzing the shift to modern disciplinary power, Foucault notes a near obsession with control of sexuality. Whether by science or religion or other forces, the subject's sexuality suddenly came under close study. Indeed, the discourses of power served to shape sexual desires themselves; that subjects experience them as innate or central to their individual personalities only demonstrates the scope of those networks of power.

Betty Friedan's (1963) well known work is a case in point of white solipsism. Friedan saw domesticity as the main vehicle of gender oppression and called upon women in general to find jobs outside the home. But she failed to realize that women from less privileged backgrounds, often poor and non white, already worked outside the home to support their families. Friedan's suggestion, then, was applicable only to a particular subgroup of women. But it was mistakenly taken to apply to all women's lives a mistake that was generated by Friedan's failure to take women's racial and class differences into account.

Judith Butler critiques the gender distinction on two grounds. She criticized that gender realism with her normatively argument .she holds that the gender distinction is unintelligible Butler's normatively argument is not straightforwardly directed at the metaphysical perspective of gender realism, but rather at its political counterpart: identity politics.

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This is a form of political mobilization based on membership in some and group membership is thought to be delimited by some common experiences, conditions or features that define the group .Feminist identity politics, then, presupposes gender realism in that feminist politics is said to be mobilized around women as a group where membership in this group is fixed by some condition, experience or feature that women supposedly share and that defines their gender. In their attempt to undercut biologically deterministic ways of defining what it means to be a woman, feminists in avertedly created new socially constructed accounts of supposedly shared femininity. Butler's second claim is that such false gender realist accounts are normative. That is, in their attempt to fix feminism's subject matter, feminists unwittingly defined the term woman in a way that implies there is some correct way to be gendered a woman . That the definition of the term woman is fixed supposedly operates as a policing force which generates and legitimizes certain practices, experiences, etc., and curtails and delegitimizes others. Following this line of thought, one could say that, for instance, Chodorow's view of gender suggests that real women have feminine personalities and that these are the women feminism should be concerned about. If one does not exhibit a distinctly feminine personality, the implication is that one is not really a member of women's category nor does one properly qualify for feminist political representation. For Butler, given that gender is performative, the appropriate response to feminist identity politics involves two things. First, feminists should understand woman as open ended and a term in process, a becoming, a constructing that cannot rightfully be said to originate or end it is open to intervention and re-signification. That is, feminists should not try to define woman at all. Second the category of women ought not to be the foundation of feminist politics. Rather, feminists should focus on providing an account of how power functions and

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shapes our understandings of womanhood not only in the society at large but also within the feminist movement.


The various critiques of the gender distinction have called into question the viability of the category women. Feminism is the movement to end the oppression women as a group face. But how should the category of women be understood if feminists accept the above arguments that gender construction is not uniform, that a sharp distinction between biological sex and social gender is false or not useful, and that various features associated with women play a role in what it is to be a woman, none of which are individually necessary and jointly sufficient. Feminists must be able to address cultural and social differences in gender construction if feminism is to be a genuinely inclusive movement and be careful not to posit commonalities that mask important ways in which women to women differ. These concerns have generated a situation where feminists aim to speak and make political demands in the name of women, at the same time rejecting the idea that there is a unified category of women.

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Feminist Theories: An Introduction

Overview on gender and sexuality