Initial Blog Summary

In Kate Bornstein's Gender Outlaw on Men, Women, and the Rest of Us, she says that like addiction, we use gender to avoid or deny ourselves of full self-expression. She also summarizes a set of rules that we as a society often assume when attributing gender. The rules say that there are only two genders, gender is invariant, genitals determine gender, when there are exceptions to two genders they are not to be taken seriously, the only transfers from one gender to another are ceremonial, gender is always attributed, the male/female dichotomy is completely "natural," and membership in a particular gender is "natural." Kate Bornstein also introduces the concepts of fluidity and ambiguity, both properties of gender. Fluidity means that identity is always changing so gender is not rigid and ambiguity is a refusal to follow gender codes.

According to Doing Gender, by Candace West and Don. H. Zimmerman, "doing gender" means participating in activities that are socially guided, perceptual, interactional, and micropolitical which reflect masculinity and femininity according to societal definitions. It means adjusting our behavior and acting accordingly to situations. "Doing gender" does not always mean living up to our masculinity or femininity but instead acting manly or womanly at risk of being assessed for gender. Gender roles change according to what is expected from situation to situation. On the other hand, sex categories carry across situations. For instance, if a woman acts manly in one situation, she is still seen as a female because there are a lot more examples of her femininity than masculinity in her life in general. Male dominance over women is seen as a result of biological determinism, the "conception of sex-linked behaviors and traits as essential properties of individuals" (128). Biological determinism suggests that men were meant to be providers and protectors while women were supposed to raise kids and let the men be the leaders. Gender displays, like gender roles, are not natural; rather, they are socially constructed and optional. Human nature allows us to recognize and learn how to produce theses displays according to what we would like to convey about our own sexual natures. Gender is not a set of traits, is not variable, and is not a role. It is our own sexual natures and we use societal constructs to show what we want to show about these sexual natures. We, as individuals are pressured by society to "do" gender accordingly to dichotomized, socially constructed male and female roles. Gender is a routine, methodical, and recurring accomplishment.

Some questions that I have after reading these two articles are: Are there any languages where gender is not attributed in everyday conversation (no use of he/she, his/her, etc.)? Where do transsexuals fit into the idea of male dominance? Is society getting better or worse as far as equality in conceptions of gender roles go? What percent of people actually fit into society's view of a true man or a true woman?

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