Questions From Martin and Wilchins

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Here are some questions that occurred to me from these two pieces:

1. How do the examples of descriptive language Martin provides stand up in comparison to what you remember or don't remember from your health education? Did you experience similar language and metaphor?

2. What do you think the purpose is for scientific writers to describe the egg and sperm with such personifying language?

3. Martin ends her article with the words, "Waking such metaphors up, by making ourselves more aware of their implications, is one way of robbing them of their power to naturalize our social conventions about gender (40)." Do you agree? Does our discussion help prevent the naturalization of gender conventions? If so, by how much?

4. How are the arguments made by Martin and Wilchins similar? How are they different?

5. Why is it, as Wilchins claims, that people are far more interested in our sexual differences rather than our similarities?

6. How could the process of fertilization be described so that the role of the egg is not portrayed as lesser while still using compelling language? Is it even possible to keep the story interesting while removing the gender roles?

7. After reading these arguments, have your viewpoints on the meaning of sex changed? If, as Wichins wrote on page 93, "The two sexes... were invented as a new foundation for gender," do we need sex as a separate idea from gender?

4 Comments

These are great questions!
For question 5, I think the answer is pretty simple when you think about it. Of course there are many similarities between the sexes, but they are irrelevant to the reproductive process. The similarities between them is not what makes the process work. Their differences create the opposition. It's very important that these processes are different, otherwise they wouldn't work. You can't have one without the other when it comes down to it, and that's because they're different, no matter which role plays the key or the hole. That's beside the point. It's when people begin to think too politically about it that stirs controversy. They have an equal amount of importance, and that's what some people seem to forget.

I agree with charchar, so many great questions!
@charchar In their definition of Sex, Wilchins suggests that it is not only about reproduction. They write (which I have included in my class summary blog entry):

Sex is not just about reproduction and the interesting property of some bodies to produce offspring when they are rubbed together at the right time. On the contrary, Sex is the primary property of all human bodies, including those that cannot now or never will participate in procreation, such as infants, adolescents, transsexuals, the very old, women past menopause, sterile and infertile people, vasectomized men, hysterectomized women, the seriously infirm, and some intersexuals (Wilchins, 85).
When we focus on sexed bodies outside of reproduction, why do differences (between real men and real women) still seem to matter so much?

For question 7, my view point on the term "sex" has changed. It seemed to me that the current terminology available to us for items like "sex" and "race" are insufficient. As Wilchins explained, "race" meaning the socially meanings that we associate with a group of people based predominately on skin color, means something comepletely different than "race", simply meaning skin color. In the same way, "sex", meaning the socially constructed meanings that we associate with a group of people based predominately on their primary sex characteristics (particularly their genitals) has a distinct meaning from "sex" in a purely biological sense. It seems almost as if we need two seperate terms for race, and two seperate terms for sex (as "gender" is insufficient to perfectly capture the first meaninng of "sex") if we want to be able to carefully articulate our meanings efficiently.

For question 2, I'm pretty sure that personifying images are used because they work well in terms of getting students to visualize and remember information. Foreign concepts, and abstract theories often require concrete examples to help students understand. I assume that is why we are provided with so many examples in this class of the issues we are discussing (in addition to being required to go out and find our own). Because concrete examples help, personifying a foreign concept (like biological reproduction) can be a benefit for students in terms of learning and visualization.

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