Tag Archives: identity

How Are We Responsible For Our Gender?

People who decide to transition[1] from one sex to another[2] face the issue of proving their gender through medical “evidence”, as seen by, among other challenges, their struggles to change their designated sex on their birth certificate (Spade 16-17). That is, society makes people responsible for proving their identity. This imposition causes an adherence to a binary system of sex and gender, and as a result, the system disregards anyone outside of it. But as an identity, something intangible that is not determined by the medical world alone, gender is dependent on one’s self. Spade responds to therapy for transitioning as follows: “Ultimately the person you have to answer to is yourself” (19). It is the people themselves to whom their gender is responsible, especially for those outside the binary system. And if the system will not acknowledge the identities of those people, they should have no responsibility to prove their gender to said system. One speaker in the film Diagnosing Gender asserted that people who questions their gender and explore their identity are the normal ones. Under this claim, people’s responsibility to gender is not to what society imposes, but to discovering themselves, even, and especially, if it challenges the normative.


[1] I do not specify transgender people because they are not only people who transition and face struggles related to transitioning.

[2] Note the use of “another” rather than “the other” or another binary phrase.

Works Cited:
Spade, Dean. “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender.” Berkeley Women’s Law Journal (2003): 15-37. Print.

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Ad Critique: ‘Targeting’ ‘Different’ Identities

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In this advertisement, a gay couple is featured and they are presumably getting married. While Target took a positive step and many companies do not market non-hetero normative love, this advertisement is still problematic. It markets same sex love as alien and rare. The copy reads ‘be yourself together, build a Target Wedding Gift Registry as unique as the two of you’. This word choice ‘unique’ and the gay couple featured works dialectically, and correspondingly suggests that there is something particularly ‘unique’ about the gay couple. In reality, all couples are likely unique. The copy would likely read differently if a heterosexual engaged white couple were featured. This process of deeming something unique can be positive but it can also be‘othering’ and perpetuate marginalization. There must be balance between glorifying diversity and difference while maintaining respect and inclusion of different groups.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/26/target-same-sex-registry-ad-gay-marriage_n_1706599.html

Ad Critique Post – DiGiorno Pizza Commercial

The DiGiorno commercial ties very well with the main ideas discussed in Beauvior’s text titled The Second Sex: Introduction and Lorber’s text titled The Social Construction of Gender. In this commercial both genders are stereotyped into traditional gender roles as the men are seen relaxing outside while viewing sports and the woman is seen heading into her home with two large grocery bags. The men decide to order a pizza – but the main male character decides to call his spouse instead to demand her to make him a pizza the way he likes it. She replies, “you know I hate when you do this” as if this is an everyday occurrence between the two of them. He then demands her to make the pizza quickly.  This commercial resembles how Beauvior discusses gender: “man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him” (Beauvior 33). Her existence is dependent on serving men instead of being independent to do the task she enjoys. Lober’s belief that gender “creates the social difference that define woman and man” because people “learn what is expected…thus simultaneously construct and maintain the gender order” (Lorber 115). This construction is seen as the woman is expected to make the pizza for the men as she always does. After making the pizza the woman retaliates by turning the sprinkler on the three men. The men have no reaction and continue to watch sports, as if they are oblivious to her existence. Their actions demonstrate that men are seen as the supreme and the woman is only significant in service to men. Therefore, the woman is only defined according to the men’s terms.

Judith Lorber, “The Social Construction of Gender”, 1990.

De Beauvoir, Simone. “The Second Sex: Introduction.”, 2003.

Big question: What is power?

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines power as “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events” (incidentally, the example phrase the dictionary provides is “the idea that men should have power over women”). However, I think this definition is incomplete. Power is not only the ability to control the external, but also ability to establish the internal. Reading David Colapinto’s “As Nature Made Him,” I was struck by the actions Brenda undertook to make her self-perceived male gender harmonize with how the world saw her. I think most of Brenda’s childhood behavioral issues were a product of her fruitlessly attempting to establish her power. Wittingly or not, Dr. Money, Brenda’s parents, and most everyone around her took away her power by forcing her to be a girl. I think this is perhaps why some parents choose to raise their children as “genderless”—they do not want society taking away their children’s power to establish who they are by imposing upon them preconceived notion of what gender is.

Colapinto, John. As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. New York: HarperCollins, 2000. Print.

Big Question: What is discrimination?

As a child, I was taught that discrimination is the unfair treatment of an individual because of that person’s race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any other similar category. For example, I learned that blacks were enslaved because they were seen as inferior to whites due to their skin color. Now as a young adult living on my own, I have developed a more meaningful sense of what discrimination is: it occurs when someone is not afforded certain opportunities because of a characteristic that either that person cannot control (such as race or ethnicity), or is defining to that person (such as sexual orientation or gender). According to Bell Hooks, “as with other forms of group oppression, sexism is perpetuated by institutional and social structure; by the individuals who dominate, exploit, or oppress…” (127). Implicit in this quotation is that individuals are discriminated against because of aspects of themselves integral to their identity. Discrimination therefore forces individuals to, “behave in ways that make them act in complicity with the status quo” (127). Just as it was discriminatory to impose laws upon blacks because of their race, it is discriminatory, for example, to prohibit intersex couples from getting married because one or both of the individuals identify with a gender that does not match their anatomy (Fausto-Sterling 112-13). When society neglects to provide rights to individuals because of how they choose to identify themselves, society discriminates.

Fausto-Sterling, Anne. “Should There Be Only Two Sexes?” Sexing the Body. New York: Basic Books, 2000. 78-114. Print.

Hooks, Bell. “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity Between Women.” Feminist Review 23 (1986): 125-38. JSTOR. Web. 05 Sept. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1394725&gt;.

Big Question: How does biological sex function in society?

We’ve studied and settled on the idea of gender as a cultural construct, within whose system society forces us to choose an identity of male or female. The role that biological sex plays in social roles is less clear. As it’s usually tied to gender, sex identity seems fairly straightforward–perhaps not as an identity at all, but a fact.

Even cases of intersex persons being forced to choose a sex seems to be tied to gender. The confusion of sex identity plays a role, but for the most part, sex as a category seems to be considered most as it pertains to gender–i.e., if the child doesn’t know their sex, how can they know what gender to perform?

The biology of sex comes up particularly, however, in “gender testing” in sports. (A side note: should it be called “sex testing” because it pertains to physical characteristics?). That testing testing is meant to measure physical advantage based primarily on testosterone levels; because of the potential of physical advantage, in sports, sex is an important category. Physical attributes dictate how the world of athletics work. In a hypothetical gender-neutral society, individuals with more testosterone would still excel at sports, regardless of gender identity. I’m interested in this because it suggests an area where cultural facts could be based almost entirely on physical, natural characteristics.

Do you agree? Are there other categories in society where having a normative sex identity–having more or less testosterone, for instance–plays a significant role, apart from its ties to gender? At least off the top of my head, I can’t think of other situations in which biological sex, not gender, manifests itself culturally. That is, in sports, the actual physical qualities of sex seem more relevant a category than elsewhere. What do you think?