DE #3 Extra gender reading: 1 percent on the Burn Chart

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This article called " One Percent on the Burn Chart: Gender, Genitals, and Hermaphrodites With Attitude" discusses the argument of how gender and sexuality are construed or understood as cultural not natural. Within this article the authors Valentine and Wilchins examine ways in which bodies are challenged. They first discuss what trans and intersex bodies mean for feminist anthropologists, secondly they discuss what it means to understand cultural constructions of the body. They also define what intersexuality is. This is very helpful when reading the article. The authors also bring in the idea behind the 1 percent on the burn chart. The two authors then bring about 3 stories from 3 different people that either represent themselves as transgender or intersex, or gender oppressed. All three of them prefer to be called hir but two of them also inform the author they can be referred to as she/he.

I want to first examine the ways in which the authors explain their understanding of gender and sexuality and how it is understood as cultural not natural. Valentine and Wilchins suggest " As anthropologists over the past century- particularly from within the field of feminist anthropology- have developed understandings of gender and sexuality as cultural , not natural, categories of experience, they have also increasingly understood "the body" itself as a cultural construct" (215). The idea of embodiment, sexuality and gender come into context in terms of identity markers such as man, lesbian, or even transexual. This produces a coherence between gender, sexual practices and somatic makeup.
Next, the concept of bodies being challenged refers to the idea of discussing "what kinds of bodies challenge the cultural grids of intelligibly gendered, sexual and embodied identity categories and how these categories can contribute to a feminist and anthropological rethinking of what it means to say that the body is "culturally constructed" (215).
Next, i want to move into discussing the two issues Valentine and Wlichins suggest that adheres to the concept of challenging bodies. First, they explain the issue of what a trans and intersex body might mean for feminist anthropological understandings of gendered and sexual bodies.They conclude that the understandings may focus on the issues of power and difference. Are there certain bodies that fit this category of different? How can these bodies gain power? Second, they explain the issue and/or question of "what does it mean to understand the "cultural construction of the body" by studying bodies that are othered by categories such as transexual, hermaphrodite, or intersex, and how might one extend such an analysis?"(216). In this instance i think the authors are suggesting how we as a culture can understand the "cultural construction of the body",how these bodies are looked upon in society through cultural beliefs. What is constructed as "othered" body? In terms of thinking about intersexuality the authors explain this term as " a physical condition that refers to people whose genitals are not clearly male or female" (216). And that there are multiple manifestations of intersexuality... (216).

Next, i want to confront the idea behind the "One Percent on the Burn Chart".
The idea come from a conversation the author had with a registered nurse, who is all too familiar with transgender experiences. Wilchins explains that the nurse indicated to her that "in assessing skin burns, the genital area counts as only 1 percent of the surface area of the body. But - 1 percent or not- genitals carry an enormous amount of cultural weight in the meanings that are attached to them" (215). Wilchins argues that "genitals constitute as almost 100 percent of what we, as both cultural members and as producers of cultural knowledge, come to understand and assume about the body's sex and gender"( 215). This means that most people within our society hold genitals to be a huge part of how one identifies and when certain people are cannot be identified by their genitals it becomes a dominant issue within our culture. Why has genitals become so evident within our culture? Who decides that genitals constitute what a person's gender is?

Lastly, i want to conclude with the three people the author meets up with in discussing the issues of the othered bodies. The first person is Max and is intersex. In this context the author uses pronouns such as hir and she/he to refer to max. Max got surgery when he was as little as 1 years old and was assigned to be a girl. The second person is Morgan and is gendered as a woman according to the author's opinion of hir, She/he. Morgan's father was told by a doctor that morgan's large clitoris would have to be down sizes to avoid erections that may be painful if she/he would be wearing trousers. Morgan is careful to avoid mentioning hir gender, what hir genitals look like as well as hir partners gender.The thrid person is named Rikki Anne and does not identify as either intersex or as anything at all, except for gender oppressed. The author informs the reader the Rikki has been very influential in writing this paper. Rikki has had sex re-assignment surgery.
The author has discussions with these three people about the meanings of bodies. Valentine explains that trans and intersex bodies raise questions for him as an anthropologist. "The ways in which people physically reconstruct bodies comes to mind, but it also raises questions as to how we, as anthropologists and producers of cultural knowledge, make sense of them. The author also mentions the idea of power. Valentine suggests the issue of power in terms of not only agency, but also in the policing of these bodies by cultural apparatuses. what question comes to mind is how these people are being police, by who and why?


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I am curious to read this article to see how Valentine and Wilchin discuss the constructions of gender and sexuality.

What comes to mind offhand are the ways in which the construction of gender, sex and sexuality are actively maintained by institutions such as the medical industrial complex (MIC).

The MIC assigns sex at birth, if not earlier, through an ultra-sound. Medical interpretations of ones genitalia--which Valentine and Wilchins suggest accounts for 1% of the body--inform assignment of sex. If a person is intersex, meaning their genitalia is ambiguous and not classifiable as male or female, they are operated on so their body fits the definitions of a sexual binary. This destabilizes the perceived "naturalness" of sex, juxtaposing it to the construction of gender, as intersex bodies are altered to conform to male and female.

Critiques by intersex activists question why these surgeries are carried out before the intersex folk are able to consent. This critique presents the questions: For whom are these surgeries performed? Should we take the MIC's word, and assume that this surgery automatically makes life 'better' for intersex folk by reconstituting their body such that it physically resembles those of male and female sexed bodies? How do we define 'better' in this context? What are the anxieties normatively sexed bodies and gender-conforming individuals have around ambiguities in ones gender and sex? Could this surgery be a means of assuaging anxiety around the construction of sex as always inherently binary? What would it look like to recognize that sex is more than male and female? Further, what would it look like to acknowledge sexed definitions of male and female as multiple rather than singular? By this, I mean to present that the binary of male and female is more complicated than social constructions allow. Even BEFORE one takes into consideration that not all bodies match definitions of male and female.

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