Essay On Sex And Gender

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The traditional biological understandings of sex and gender create a binary concept mainly in the Western culture by having two strictly fixed options of male or female. This binary notion of gender and sex was put to the test by both Anne Fausto-Sterling and Oyeronke Oyewumi. Sterling argues that rather than just two separate ends, biological gender occurs across a continuum of possibilities. This spectrum of anatomical deviation by itself should be enough to disregard the simplistic notion of only two genders. Oyewumi acknowledges that there is a binary in a Western culture, but does not agree that this idea is universal. She goes on to say that biological determinism in the west is the "conception that biology provides the rationale for the organization of the social world...thus cultural logic is bio-logic". (Oyewumi 2006:544) The critiques by these two authors will provide an understanding of why gender and sex do not only have a binary definition.
The idea of a binary is imposed when a child is born. By looking between their legs at birth, a child is given a gender label that they will carry throughout life. This idea of sex being a biological aspect that was fixed, natural, and unchanging was criticized by feminists in the 1970's. In alignment with these critiques, Fausto -Sterling's article The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female Are Not Enough, the birth of children who are intersex is addressed. In this case, the standard model (sex/gender distinction) is seen as incorrect with regard to its notion that there are only two sexes, male and female. She argues that the two-sex system dominant in Western society would be misplaced even at the biological level. Instead, it should be expanded beyond the restricted ca...

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...rling and Oyeronke Oyewumi. Fausto-Sterling brings forward the idea that sex and gender should be seen on a scale and not conformed to the binary. This spectrum can then be altered by society projecting what they see as normal onto people. These projections suggest a socially constructed definition of sex and gender, and therefore, can lead to more discussion on how gender and sex are a cycle of social construction and biological determinism. This cycle discussion can continue by looking at Oyewumi's work, when she talks about how society and biology affect each other. If we see that biology does not play a role in defining gender universally, then there has to be other factors that define what it is. These two authors come together in their critiques of the biological binary by acknowledging its presence, but also adding more ways to look at sex and gender.
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