The Hijacking of Gender: A Feminist Take on Transgenderism
By T M Murray –
Gender used to be a cool concept. Baadddass feminists like Simone de Beauvoir used it to distinguish what’s between your legs (sex) from what’s between your ears (gender). You were born with the former. The latter you were taught. What was put between your ears got there by means of patriarchal cultural indoctrination.
When women tried to work their way into roles or positions that were the preserve of men, propagandists of patriarchy resorted to ‘nature’ to reinforce the patriarchal system. This tactic worked because the cultural landscape was so saturated with stereotypes that they did seem almost ‘natural’. A theory of biological determinism was wheeled in to explain why patriarchy is not a political issue but biological necessity. Sociobiologists like E.O. Wilson insisted that patriarchy persists because genes anchor culture.
This approach was nothing new. Freud had rooted patriarchal culture in the penis and vagina (mostly the almighty penis). Christian traditionalists had always attached patriarchal social arrangements to reproductive functions as given in “Creation”, defining women’s social roles as mother and wife accordingly. Eve’s transgression and punishment by God further reinforced the female’s subservient relationship to her husband. To this St. Paul added a dash of New Testament authority, stating that women should “submit themselves to their husband” as to the Lord. The sacred institution of marriage was a human invention, but it sustained “God’s” intentions.
Some stubborn feminists refused to go along with this kind of “naturalisation” of patriarchy and its concomitant biological determinism, instead seeing the explanation for male domination in social, cultural, theological, academic and economic institutions. Existentialists like De Beauvoir were loathe to accept explanations for human behaviour that claimed it is determined by some fixed ‘essence’. Both she and her lifelong companion, Jean-Paul Sartre, insisted that character is formed by an individual in response to his circumstances, through his free choices. We find ourselves thrown here, in situ, confronted with our own free will, and our choices must be made against a background of facts that we cannot change, such as the biological sex into which we have been born. But what we ‘make’ of this is up to us. While it is clear that only women can bear children, the implications of this are quite undetermined and the current social division of labour is only one of a variety of possible social arrangements available to us.
Just like ye ole feminists of yore, gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals once transgressed the gender stereotypes their culture had taught them. According to normative and widespread heterosexist gender myths, these queer folks were labelled “butch”, “sissies”, “dykes” and “fairies” — epithets intended to stigmatise anyone who refused to perform and dress according to the sexist and heterosexist gender roles they had been taught. Thus did ‘fags’ and ‘dykes’ choose to reclaim these derogatory monikers, owning them and wielding them as a mirror held up to the intolerance of cultural mythmakers in the face of dissent.
By turning gender norms into a form of theatre, drag performers showed that one could adopt and mimic gender roles irrespective of one’s genitalia, thus exposing the fact that gender is not natural but a conventional form of role play which can be put on or taken off (pace Judith Butler). Queers were incarnations of gender’s failure to stick to real people. All of this was progressive, because it laid bare the sexually conservative fiction that all men share heterosexual personality attributes different to all women, and vice-versa.
Hot on the heels of feminists, queers began to point out that, chief amongst the social myths about the ways that ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ as such feel is the notion that they all feel attracted to the opposite sex. Much of gender is constructed around heterosexism and heterosexual ‘role play’. Culturally normative male or female social roles (i.e. gender) become ritualised as part of a Western Christian cultural fetishisation and eroticisation of sexual difference. Exaggerating differences between men and women, mystifying the opposite sex, and making sex acts taboo only heightens the excitement of penetrating the mysteries of the ‘other’ and overcoming barriers to sexual fulfilment. Presupposing humanity’s innate heterosexuality facilitated the bifurcation of humans into two opposite, mutually attracted types. Just as feminists had rejected a definition ‘woman’ that represented her as opposite to the male ideal, so homosexuals refused to see themselves as defective or disordered heterosexuals.
For both feminists and queers of the late twentieth century, the natural was repressed by the social. But at the same time, the “natural” was also produced by cultural and theological assumptions. Ideas about gender are not just outcomes of empirical observations; they are the premises of the ‘research’. Consequently, when individuals do not conform to sexual stereotypes, they are allegedly ‘reversing’ (presumably real, fixed) gender roles, not exposing gender roles as fictions. If individuals, when observed, do not actually conform to the social ideas of gender, then this ought to be taken as evidence that social ideas of gender are flawed. Instead, the gender roles are presupposed a priori, and evidence conflicting with them is interpreted as ‘abnormal’ or deviant, not as an indication that the presupposed ‘norm’ was flawed in the first place. There is a problem of circularity in the whole conceptual frame within which gender is ‘researched’. John Gray’s bestseller Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus is a study in this unscientific methodology.
The new transgender movement is not an extension of past efforts to deconstruct sexist and heterosexist mythology. It does not bring feminists and genderqueer people together in solidarity, as a united front opposing heterosexist mythology and sexual stereotypes. Rather, it divides and conquers this once-powerful countercultural movement, hijacking its language and mimicking its political posture to disguise its opposite intent. The transgender individuals who have led the new counter-queer revolution are actually few; but they are well-positioned establishment figures who have the full backing of the media in promoting their cause – another thing that separates them from their genderqueer predecessors of the 80’s and 90’s.
In the past several years ‘gender’ has been radically re-defined by a reactionary movement that has transformed it from a set of conventions and constraints on what men and women can be or do, to an interior mental state. Chrissie Daz is right in saying that something fundamental has changed in the way in which gender is understood in the twenty first century, with the new transgender warriors representing a major paradigm shift in gender thinking over the last forty years. An idea once wielded by the liberal left against conservative sexist and heterosexist social norms, gender has now been retooled as a weapon in the armoury of a regressive politics that is not only sexist but homophobic. Today’s transgender movement reinforces the myth that ‘men’ and ‘women’ are altogether different species of human beings, not just reproductively, but mentally — with different desires, different needs, different aptitudes, and different minds. Now transgender spokespersons support the traditionally conservative naturalisation of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ as innate psychological states, intrinsic in the human subject from birth and arising from brain chemistry or other hormonal interactions of the body. The progressive idea that there is no uniform way that all boys as such (or all girls as such) necessarily ‘feel’ or ‘think’ has been scrapped.
Instead of railing against a rigid heterosexist gender binary (as their rhetoric would suggest) the new Trans warriors assume that their innate sense of self (‘identity’) is inherently ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ prior to any socialisation. Apparently, the influence of cultural indoctrination is negligible. Gender has been de-politicised, naturalised and medicalised in the same stroke.
Gender is now a concept that appears to do the kind of political work once associated with the civil rights movement. In reality it reverses the logic by which civil rights were achieved. Civil rights activists of the past claimed that discrimination based on biological differences like skin colour or sex failed to acknowledge the equal humanity of all persons as moral agents. Grouping people according to common physical traits neglected their individuality and their character as persons. Groups of individuals were defined by reference to skin colour or genitals, not by human agency, character and behaviour. Thus were persons reduced to their bodies (or parts of their bodies) while the more important and distinctively human attributes of intellect and will (aspects that should ground an appraisal of character) were neglected.
Present day gender rights activists do not demand to be treated as individuals, nor do they see their character as a choice. They emphasise that they belong to a ‘minority’ defined by gender identity, or sameness with others who share their allegedly biological condition. Whereas civil rights activists made biology irrelevant, gender rights activists treat it as all-important. The ‘masculinity’ or ‘femininity’ of their psyche is treated as an innate condition akin to hair colour or skin pigmentation. Since they are ostensibly a category of people defined by reference to this innate biological difference, they should not face discrimination any more than women or black minority ethnic persons. However, whereas women and BME persons of the mid-twentieth century civil rights movement were keen to disassociate themselves from reductionist biological definitions of their identities, urging others not to define them by reference to genitalia or skin colour, today’s transgender activists demand recognition of their allegedly “biological” difference, believing that membership in a biologically distinct group should entitle them to civil rights.
Adopting this biological determinist account of their ‘condition’ (an innate gendered psyche) requires that we first accept conservative premises about gender. As we saw above, one thing that is built into gender is the heterosexuality of ‘men’ and ‘women’. However, if heterosexist gender ideology means that being female includes being an erotic ‘match’ for men, then lesbians might not identify very strongly with ‘femininity’ (a female gender role), since they are not attracted to men and do not wish to be an object of male sexual attention. Likewise male homosexuals will find it hard to ‘fit’ into heterosexual masculinity with its accompanying erotic assumptions.
Once binary gender has been naturalised and turned into one of two heterosexually gendered psychological states, this leaves only one option for biological females who feel a strong affinity with normatively ‘male’ behaviours and/or sexual attractions – they must actually become biological males. If they had an innate desire to “act like men” while being biologically female, they would be sick (“dysphoric”). The same goes for biological males who feel a stronger affinity to normatively “feminine” roles and sexual tendencies. In this context, it would be unsurprising if homosexuals felt confused.
Transgender’s clinicians identify gender dysphoria (unhappiness) as an abnormal psycho-sexual condition. But if the dysphoria is really an effect or symptom of society’s misunderstanding of natural sexual biochemistry, then the disease is not intrinsic in the ‘patient’; it is the outcome of a relationship between the patient and his surrounding culture. Indeed, both liberal eugenicist Nicholas Agar and Christian bioethicists Michael J. Reiss and Roger Straughan construe disease as a socially constructed concept, or “in a sense, a relationship between a person and society”.
However, queer activists of the past argued that it is the nature of the relationship – not the nature of the patient – that makes the ‘patient’ feel unhappy. A social ‘dis-ease’ with difference is re-conceptualised, then, as a psychosexual abnormality within the constitution of the patient. The subject’s “disordered brain” is seen as the cause of an unacceptable interaction of individuals and social organizations. The political consequence is that of deflecting criticism away from social institutions that might need reforming, and towards the aberrant individual demanding reforms. He must be altered to fit the institutions.
To get some purchase on how this works in practice, we need only consider the situation for queers in Iran. Iran is a sexist, intolerant, homophobic theocracy, where fundamentalist religious laws strictly enforce the hetero-normative status quo. The official state solution to homosexuality is to either (1) punish or execute those who practice it openly, or (2) ‘encourage’ homosexuals to transition, surgically, to the ‘correct’ sex so that they can fit back into the heterosexual norm, i.e., the only norm Iran tolerates. Consequently, Iran has the second highest number of sexual reassignment surgeries in the world, second only to Thailand. This seems analogous to chemically lightening a black person’s skin to make him more comfortable in a racist society, when what should be done is to tackle the society’s racism. It seems politically regressive. Instead of rejecting or deconstructing the heteronormative binary, the medical industry seems to be facilitating the transgender individual’s literal ‘deconstruction’ of herself – literally her very body — so that she can re-make it in the binary heterosexist image required. This is violence masquerading as compassion.
This is not entirely dissimilar to the Soviet-styled ‘medicine’ of the early 1970’s, in which the Soviet state used violence only as a last resort in dealing with her dissenting intelligentsia who had begun to press for greater political freedoms. Psychiatric investigations and diagnoses of mental illness (typically schizophrenia) became the preferred instrument through which the dissident’s incarceration in a psychiatric hospital could be effected. In light of the politically fraught historical relationship between the LGBTI rights movement and establishment political institutions, the current Transgender ‘treatment’ trend might best be analysed in light of Michel Foucault’s argument that the entire category of psychological disorders is the expression of power relationships within society. In a simplified form, Foucault’s view is that madness is not a property of the individual but a social definition wished by society on a non-compliant proportion of its population.
The seemingly compassionate progressive medical and clinical ‘recognition’ of the transgender ‘patient’ may in reality be reinforcing the heteronormative binary that long caused suffering and alienation for a variety of gender queer people. We need not object to informed, consenting adults surgically transitioning to a body they feel comfortable living in. However, perhaps liberal progressives should consider for a moment the rush to embrace this option uncritically, or as the primary solution for those who suffer gender dysphoria.
There is simply no way to test whether being unhappy with one’s biological body is a by-product of dogmatic gender enculturation or an innate condition, since all cultures indoctrinate kids with gender, albeit in a diverse variety of ways. There is no control group against which we could compare gender-indoctrinated individuals. But the Trans activists’ claim that some biological females are inherently ‘masculine’ while some biological males are inherently ‘feminine’ assumes what it needs to prove: namely, that gender is natural and intrinsic in the psycho-sexual make-up of the individual, rather than a set of culturally circulated fictions that he or she has internalised. While there is no problem accepting that sex and sexual orientation are essential or innate in our biological constitution, this does not commit us to accept an essentialist theory of gender. Indeed liberal queers and feminists thwart progress by relinquishing the nature – nurture distinction that the past concept of gender served to illuminate.
In the context of a biological determinist account of gender, it becomes difficult to distinguish the homosexual from the transgendered person. The latter is conceptualised as a heterosexual ‘male’ or ‘female’ psyche trapped in the ‘wrong’ body. But “wrong” according to whom, or what? Whether one is homosexual or heterosexual, binary gender norms represent a set of industrial strength constraints on how a person with male or female genitals may act. Homosexuality represents one good reason why a subset of people simply cannot feel ‘at home’ in their bodies, given the sexual expectations built into (heterosexist) gender norms. But some straight people also find it incredibly hard to identify with the many behavioural expectations of their gender. Some people simply find gender too alienating and cannot adapt themselves to its generalisations about ‘men’ and ‘women’. This is not a disease in those persons, but a symptom of social ‘dis-ease’ with diversity. All individuals are strongly ‘encouraged’ to believe that they will be better off and happier if their ideas about their biological ‘selves’ mesh with the culturally acceptable ones. And so they too might be happier to transition than to cross-dress or to live with the constant rejection that haunts the non-conformist. In a liberal society, this option should not be off the table, but again, it should not enjoy precedence over the fight for new social reforms and it should be a decision taken by adults who are fully aware of the part that culture plays in their understanding of themselves.
To grasp the looming political implications of the current transgender rights trend, we need to be clear about how its core concepts function in relation to women’s rights and LGBI rights, as well as to “liberal” eugenics. Transhumanists/”Liberal” Eugenicists (Nicholas Agar, Julian Savulescu, James Hughes, Nick Bostrom, David Pearce, Gregory Stock, John Harris, Johann Hari, et. al.) combine their biopolitics with free market economics to arrive at an ostensibly ‘liberal’ social policy on the use of biotech. These self-described ‘Liberal eugenicists’ are arguing for unlimited and/or unregulated use of reprogenetics. They distinguish reprogenetics from eugenics in that the latter implies state coercion with the presumption of benefit. The former would be voluntarily pursued by individual parents with the aim of improving their children according to their preferences. This is “privatized” or “free-market” eugenics (so there is of course a financial incentive to promote its use).
Inside the seemingly progressive Transgender Trojan Horse’s belly is a regressive sexual politics that is prepared to use medicine and biotech to, first, surgically and chemically – and later, maybe even genetically – engineer us back to our traditional roles within the age-old heterosexual binary. Social engineering traditionally done by means of discipline and punishment could soon be accomplished through biotech, pre-natal hormone treatments and/or genome editing.
IF a biological cause of homosexual attraction exists, eliminating it will almost certainly reduce homosexual behaviour. To deny this is to pretend that voluntary sexual acts are unrelated to involuntary sexual attraction. The very purpose of reprogenetic interventions will be to eliminate individuals’ voluntary homosexual behaviour by eliminating their involuntary biological predisposition for it. This will happen not by taking away the individual’s free will, but by biologically steering the direction in which it is most likely to be expressed. Can those whose primary sexual orientation is heterosexual still engage in homoerotic acts? Of course they can. But that misses the point. Reprogenetic interventions to prohibit homosexual desire would constitute a form of social engineering that is not therapeutic in any medical sense, but aims at constraining another individual’s behaviour (without her consent) to the kinds of life goals that parents prefer. The future would be one in which homosexual persons would never rebel against the indoctrination of homophobic parents by “coming out” because they simply won’t wish to do so.
The new Trans movement (whether intentionally or not) removes the only barrier that would prevent parents being able to assume the patient’s implied consent for this kind of pre-natal eugenic ‘treatment’ of his psycho-sexual ‘condition’. In order to define and target homosexual orientation as a medical condition suitable for ‘treatment’, it will first be necessary to distinguish this ‘treatment’ from homophobic medical violence, which would be too objectionable. All that is lacking to make the distinction viable is the assumption that the patient would happily consent to such a ‘treatment’. In their haste to embrace “Transgender rights”, well-meaning liberals and homosexuals are furnishing just that assumption. A homophobic eugenics movement has searched for the holy grail of biological sexual orientation with the aim of finding a way to change it. If they ever do locate a biological cause(s) for homosexual orientation, all they will lack to be permitted to ‘cure’ it is a conceptual framework that will allow homophobic genome editing or pre-natal hormonal treatment to appear benevolent. Since the ‘treatment’ will be done to an unborn foetus, clinicians will need to pathologise homosexuality in such a way that parents can assume the patient’s (offspring’s) consent for its ‘cure’.
They could only make such an assumption if existing individuals with non-binary sexualities would consent to changing themselves. The Transgender movement fights for recognition of the deviant’s ‘condition’ as a clinical one and patients’ ‘rights’ to access medical assistance in transitioning back to a socially conservative definition of health.
If some who have transitioned do not actually end up being heterosexual, they will have nevertheless supported the heterosexist notion that gender is, for some subset of individuals, an internal biological condition that makes them feel bad. As voluntary patients who accept the theoretical medicalisation of their unhappiness, they will have played a role in the theoretical re-branding of political issues as clinical pathologies. While Trans supporters are motivated by good intentions, they unwittingly help social conservatives to sell a eugenic agenda to the public, casting it as a form of enlightened compassion or tolerance for diversity.
There is no reason why we cannot have compassion for people who feel that they are trapped in the ‘wrong’ biological body. What is troublesome is not how these individuals feel. Rather, the issue is how their feelings are being framed or interpreted, and this is partly owing to the socio-political contexts in which their feelings arise in the first place. As Sarah Ditum has argued, “the fact of suffering is not evidence that the sufferer has unimpeachable insight into the source of that suffering.” If societies were organized around the assumption that natural human sexuality (attraction) includes both heterosexual and homosexual variants, not only would this go some way to eliminating the stigma associated with being born intersex, it would greatly diminish homophobia and (to a large extent) sexism. And because it would also break down sexist myths about gender that alienate those who do not, and cannot, feel ‘at ease’ with the social roles assigned to people of their genital sex, it would likely increase the well-being of those who presently feel they are trapped in the “wrong” bodies.
T M Murray, PhD. is the author of Thinking Straight About Being Gay: Why it Matters If We’re Born That Way
- Doctor with syringe in hands and flag on background – LGBT people. Copyright : niyazz Link: Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_niyazz’>niyazz / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
- Illustration for differences in men and woman’s thinking. Conceptual icon set. Copywright: Ho Yeow Hui. <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_hofred’>hofred / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
- Abstract word cloud for Gender identity disorder with related tags and terms. Copywright: radiantskies. Link: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_radiantskies’>radiantskies / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
- Transgender female to male graphic on blue background.Copyright. Copywright: Winterbee. Link: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_winterbee’>winterbee / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
- Funny man suffering from mental disorder. Copyright : Elnur Amikishiyev Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_Elnur’>Elnur / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
- Man’s Feet with Red Nail Polish and Hairy Legs on Bright Gray Background. Copyright: Alessandro De Leo Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_mrkornflakes’>mrkornflakes / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
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Thank you so much TOPAZTHECAT for all of these rich and detailed suggestions and affirmations. I would love to tag-team with you on an article for Conatus News. You up for it? There is currently a piece up on their main page that needs to be responded to. https://conatusnews.com/biological-sex-differences/ I would love to use some of the research you posted above to respond to it…. with your permission, or with your co-authorship?
I posted the wrong link to this book by mistake before, This is a Great sociology book with a lot of great research studies and other information debunking common gender myths,The Marriage & Family Experience Intimate relationships In A Changing Society that debunks common sexist gender myths and how the sexes are actually biologically and psychologically more alike than different and how the very sexist,artificially gender divided,gender stereotyped,male dominated society,that is totally obsessed and oriented to making the sexes into these false ”opposite” ”feminine” and ”masculine” categories.
20 YEAR OLD SEX SURVEY STILL VALID
Public Release date: 4-Nov-1999 Print E-mail Share
20-year-old sex-role research survey still valid
This is only part of this very good important article
In the late 1970s, Penny Burge, director of Virginia Tech’s Women’s Center, was working on her doctoral dissertation at Penn State University researching the relationship between child-rearing sex-role attitudes and social issue sex-role attitudes among parents. As part of her research, Burge designed a 28-question survey in which respondents were asked to mark how much they agreed or disagreed with statements such as: “Only females should receive affectionate hugs as rewards,” “I would buy my son a doll,” and “I would be upset if my daughter wanted to play little league baseball.”
Hard-hitting questions, many of them. But Burge carried on. She received her degree in 1979, and in 1981 her research findings were published in the Home Economics Research Journal.
Among her findings were that respondents who named the mother as their child’s primary caretaker held more traditional child-rearing sex-role attitudes than respondents who named both parents. In addition, those respondents who held more traditional child-rearing sex-role attitudes also held more traditional social issue sex-role attitudes, and fathers were more conventional than mothers with respect to the issue of whether or not boys and girls should be raised differently.
“We found that parents do cling to traditional sex-role attitudes,” Burge said. “It was more pronounced with male children where pressure to achieve was more intense.”
20-year-old sex-role research survey still valid …
20-year-old sex-role research survey still valid Virginia Tech
Here are acclaimed author John Stoltenberg’s 1980’s speeches about this in his excellent important acclaimed book,Refusing To Be A Man:Essays On Sex And Justice,he’s a pro-feminist man who co-founded Men Against Pornography in New York.
Here is a PDF file of the entire great book,Refusing To Be A Man and he talked a lot about how pornography sexualizes,male supremacy,woman-hatred,men’s dominance and violence against women.
Here is my important blog,with a lot of this great important information that I posted on here and more,
DEBUNKING COMMON SEXIST MYTHS OF GENDER A Lot Of Strong, Important Psychological Research Debunking Common Sexist, Gender Myths And Gender Stereotypes
TOPAZ THE CAT
Although it’s really interesting to have a comprehensive reading list but this is a place for conversation and exchange. We would be far more interested in your positions on the subject. We want to start new conversations.
If you are interested in submitting your own article please see our submissions page. Link at top of home page.
In her very good important 1998 book,Why So Slow? The Advancement Of women, psychologist Virginia Valian says for parents who recognize and actively oppose the limitations of gender schemas matters are more complex she demonstrates clearly that many studies have shown that even parents who say they are egalitarian and who do encourage their children especially girls to consider a wide range of possible occupations and that encouragement influences the children’s aspirations.She then says but without realizing it on the other hand,they are affected by gender schemas,dressing their children in ways appropriate to their gender.
She then says that their egalitarian beliefs prevent such parents from perceiving that they do encourage gender-specific patterns and from seeing how closely their children conform to the norm.She then says that gender schemas are powerful cultural forces and that adults cannot simply abandon them especially when they are unaware that they hold them and they too conform to them in such matters of dress.On another page she says that everyone,it appears is likely to be affected deeply and nonconsciously by their culture’s view of what it means to be male and female.Then she says that even people who consciously espouse egalitarian beliefs do not realize how profoundly they have internalized the culture’s norms and applied them to their children.
She then says that there is wide implicit consensus across income level,education,and sex about the core features of gender schemas and for these features parents are much more alike than they are different.She then says regardless of demographic variables,most subscribe to basic gender norms ,dress gender stereotypically themselves,and unwittingly treat their children gender-stereotypically.Then she says parents who actively endorse gender schemas or are unaware of the impact of gender schemas on their perceptions and interpretations,perceive children as gendered from birth and treat them accordingly.
She also says that studies show that even parents who deliberately try to rear their children nonstereotypically are subject to the influence of gender schemas.She says a study of six year olds for example compared children whose mothers explicitly tried to bring them up in gender-neutral ways with children whose mothers had conventional attitudes about gender roles. And that when independent observers who were unaware of the parents beliefs rated the children’s clothes as masculine or feminine the ratings showed that the boys and girls in both types of families were dressed according to gender norms.She explains that the mothers who were committed to gender equality however saw their children’s clothes as less gender-stereotypical even though they were not.
She shows how parents perceive and treat their daughters and sons so differently from the moment they are born and she says in chapter 1 called Gender Schemas At work that gender schemas oversimplify and that masculine and feminine traits are not opposites of each other and they are not contradictory and that everyone has both to some degree and expresses different traits in different situations.She then says that differences exist, but the sexes are more alike than they are different and she says it is easy to lose sight of that reality,even though most differences between the sexes are small.
Why So Slow?: The Advancement of Women by Virginia Valian
Pub. Date: February 1999
Publisher: MIT Press
Why do so few women occupy positions of power and prestige? Virginia Valian uses concepts and data from psychology, sociology, economics, and biology to explain the disparity in the professional advancement of men and women. According to Valian, men and women alike have implicit hypotheses about gender differences — gender schemas — that create small sex differences in characteristics, behaviors, perceptions, and evaluations of men and women.
Those small imbalances accumulate to advantage men and disadvantage women. The most important consequence of gender schemas for professional life is that men tend to be overrated and women underrated.Valian’s goal is to make the invisible factors that retard women’s progress visible, so that fair treatment of men and women will be possible. The book makes its case with experimental and observational data from laboratory and field studies of children and adults, and with statistical documentation on men and women in the professions. The many anecdotal examples throughout provide a lively counterpoint.
The MIT Press
Social psychologist Valian thinks that the Western world has gotten gender all wrong. “As social beings we tend to perceive the genders as alternatives to each other, as occupying opposite and contrasting ends of a continuum,” she writes, “even though the sexes are not opposite but are much more alike than they are different.” Indeed, despite nearly three decades of feminism, “gender schema”the assumption that masculine and feminine characteristics determine personality and ability continue to influence the expectations and thinking of most Americans. Just about everyone, Valian writes, assumes that men are independent, task-oriented and assertive, while women are tagged as expressive and nurturing.
As such, women lag behind in many professions and continue to do the lion’s share of housework and child-rearing. Girls remain less attentive in math and science, while even women who attend medical school tend to steer themselves into “gender appropriate” slots such as family practice or pediatrics.
Valian bases her findings on research conducted by social scientists in fields as disparate as psychology, education, sociology and economics, and the result is a work that is both scholarly and anecdotally rich. But it also posits concrete suggestions for changing the way we view the sexes, from stepped-up affirmative action programs, to timetables for rectifying gender-based valuations. Accessible and lively, Why So Slow? is a breakthrough in the discourse on gender and has great potential to move the women’s movement to a new, more productive phase. (Jan.)
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I have an excellent book from 1979 written by 2 parent child development psychologists Dr. Wendy Schemp Matthews and award winning psychologist from Columbia University, Dr.Jeane Brooks-Gunn, called He & She How Children Develop Their Sex Role Identity. They thoroughly demonstrate with tons of great studies and experiments by parent child psychologists that girl and boy babies are actually born biologically more alike than different with very few differences but they are still perceived and treated systematically very different from the moment of birth on by parents and other adult care givers.
They go up to the teen years. They also show that surveys show that boys are overwhelmingly preferred over girls,(sadly nothing has changed and sexist woman-hating,girl-hating Tee shirts that say( I’m Too Pretty For Homework So I Let My Brother Do It For Me) (and other sexist anti-female ads,pornography,etc do too) like these both reflect and contribute to this injustice.They also explain that when people guess if a pregnant woman is having a girl or a boy,and they list a whole bunch of false unproven sexist, gender myth,gender stereotyped,old wives tales,that assign all negative characteristics to a woman if they think she’s having a girl,and the imagined girls or given all of the negative characteristics.
For example they say that author Elana Belotti(1977) explained these examples, The man and woman each take hold of one end of a wishbone and pull it apart.If the longest part comes away in the man’s hand,the baby will be a boy. If you suddenly ask a pregnant woman what she has in her hand and she looks at her right hand first ,she will have a boy;if she looks at her left hand it will be a girl.
If the mother’s belly is bigger on the right-hand side a boy will be born,and also if her right breast is bigger than her left,or if her right foot is more restless. If a woman is placid during pregnancy she will have a boy,but if she is bad-tempered or cries a lot,she will have a girl.If her complexion is rosy she’s going to have a son;if she is pale a daughter. If her looks improve,she’s expecting a boy;if they worsen,a girl.
If the fetal heartbeat is fast,it is a boy;if it is slow it is a girl.If the fetus has started to move by the fortieth day it will be a boy and the birth will be easy,but if it doesn’t move until the ninetieth day it will be a girl.( Belotti 1977,pp.22-23) Dr.Brooks-Gunn and Wendy Schempp Matthews then say, now rate each of the characteristics above as positive or negative. A woman expecting a girl is pale,her looks deteriorate,she is cross and ill-tempered,and she gets the short end of the wishbone,all negative characteristics.
They then say,furthermore ,a girl is symbolized by the left-the left hand,the left side of the belly,the left foot,the left breast. They say,left connotes evil,a bad omen,or sinister,again the girls have all of the negative characteristics. They then say,that sex-role stereotypes about activity also characterize Belotti’s recipes:boys are believed to be active from the very beginning and girls have slower heartbeats and begin to move around later.They then say,the message although contradictory(girls cause more trouble even though they are more passive) is clear in that it reflects the sex-role stereotype that boys “do” while girls “are” and the belief that boys are more desirable than girls.
They also say that parents have gender stereotyped reasons for wanting a girl or a boy,obviously if they didn’t it wouldn’t matter if it’s a girl or boy.When my first cousin was pregnant with her first of two girls people even strangers said such false ridiculous things to her,that they were sure she was going to have a boy because she was carrying low or how stomach looked.
I once spoke with Dr.Brooks-Gunn in 1994 and I asked her how she could explain all of these great studies that show that girl and boy babies are actually born more alike with few differences but are still perceived and treated so differently anyway, and she said that’s due to socialization and she said there is no question, that socialization plays a very big part.
I know that many scientists know that the brain is plastic and can be shaped and changed by different life experiences and different environments too and Eastern College gender and Christian psychology professor Dr.Mary Stewart Van Leewuen told this to me too when I spoke to her 15 years ago. Dr.Van Leeuwen also said that human beings don’t have sex fixed in the brain and she told me that humans have a unique highly developed cerebral cortex that allows us to make choices in our behaviors and we can learn things that animals can’t.
There was another case in Canada that I read about online some years ago about another case in which a normal genetic male baby’s penis was destroyed when he was an infant and in this case he was raised as a girl from the much younger age of only 7 months old,not as late as 21 months as was David Reimer,and research shows that the core gender identity is learned by as early as 18 months old.
In this other case,it was reported in 1998 he was still living as a woman in his 20’s but a bisexual woman. With David Reimer they raised him as a girl too late after he learned most of his gender identity as a boy from the moment he was born and put into blue clothes, treated totally differently, given gender stereotyped toys, perceived and treated totally differently than girls are in every way(in the great book,He and She:How Children Develop Their Sex Role Identity it explains that a lot of research studies and tests by parent child psychologists found that they give 3 month old babies gender stereotyped toys long before they are able to develop these kinds of preferences or ask for these toys.
They also found that when adults interacted with the same exact baby they didn’t know was a girl or boy who was dressed in gender neutral clothes,they decided if they *believed* it was a girl or boy. And those adults who thought the baby was a boy,always handed the baby a toy foot ball ,but never a doll and they never gave an infant they perceived to be a girl a toy football, were asked what made them think it was a girl or boy and they said they used characteristics of the baby to make the judgement .
Those who thought the baby was a boy described characteristics such as strength,those who thought the baby was a girl described the baby as having softness and fragility,and as the Dr.Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Wendy Schempp Mathews explain,Again remember that the same infant was being characterized as strong or soft,the actual distinction by sex characteristics being only in the minds of the adults. They also explain that in the toy preference studies,girl toddlers often show an initial interest in the trucks,but eventually abandon them for a more familiar type of toy.
Also check out Kate Bornstein’s books,Gender Outlaw and My Gender Workbook,and recently a co-written book,Gender Outlaws. Kate used to be a heterosexual married man who fathered a daughter and then had a sex change and became a lesbian woman who now doesn’t identity as a man or a woman. I heard Kate interview in 1998 on a local NPR show and she totally debunks gender myths,and rejects the “feminine” and “masculine” categories as the mostly socially constructed categories that they really are.She even said,what does it mean to feel or think like a woman(or man) she said what does that really mean.
Excellent book by psychology professor Vicki Helgeson The Psychology of Gender 4th edition shows sexes more alike than different which tons of decades worth of psychological studies by all different psychologists has found.She also very rightfully points out that transgendering children stems from gender stereotypes that change over time and vary in different cultures,she discusses the androgynous societies like Tahiti and a few others,where the sexes are encouraged to be and are more alike in personality and behaviors.
Very good radio interview with psychology professor Dr.Zlatan Krizan of Iowa State University and cultural anthropology professor Emily Wentzell( who rightfully points out how clothes and toys for the sexes are much more gender stereotyped than they were 30 years ago) discuss the findings of the extensive gender study that found the sexes are 80% more alike than different.
January 2015 major study of over 100 meta analysis and of 12 million people by two male,lead researcher is psychology professor Dr.Zlatan Krizan and one female psychology professor found what many other psychologists over decades have found,that the sexes are more alike than different in most areas psychologically including personality.It is published in American psychologist the journal of The American psychological Association
British cognitive and social Psychologist Dr.Gary Wood’s description of his great important gender myth debunking book,Sex Lies And Stereotypes:Challenging Views Of Women,Men And Relationships
It says it even offers free non-surgical gender reassignment for every reader and this book first came out back in March 2005 before the transgender explosion and transgendering of children became so disturbingly common.
And here are the great customer 5 reviews of this great important book,mine is one of them from March 2006.
There is an excellent online article that I printed out around 2002,by Jungian psychologist Dr.Gary S.Toub,called,Jung and Gender:Masculine and Feminine Revisited. On his site it now only has part of this article and it says you have to register to read the full article. I emailed Dr.Toub years ago and he wrote me back several nice emails,in one he said he really liked my letter,and that it was filled to the brim with excellent points and references.
In this article he talks about what parts of Jungian thought he finds useful and what he finds problematic. The first thing he says he finds useful is, In the course of Jungian analysis, he often assists female clients to discover traditionally,masculine qualities in their psyche and that he likewise frequently assist male clients to recognize traditionally feminine qualities in their psyche. He says this process frees each gender from the straight-jacket of stereotyped sex roles and expands his clients identities. He then said that the process also mirrors and furthers the breakdown of male-female polarization in our culture,and the cultural shifts towards androgyny.
He also says that most importantly, his practice of Jungian analysis places the greatest emphasis on facilitating his clients individuation process. He says this means that he tries to assist clients,male or female,to search for their authentic self-definition,distinct from society’s gender expectations.He also says that many Jungian definitions of masculine and feminine are narrow,outdated and sexist.
He also says that he has found that generalizing about what is masculine and what is feminine is dangerous,often perpetuating gender myths that are discriminatory and damaging.He says while there is some research supporting biological roots to personality differences,the majority of studies suggest that much of what is considered masculine or feminine is culture determined.
He also says that viewing masculine and feminine as complementary opposites,while useful at times,is problematic. He then says as his gay,lesbian, and transsexual clients have taught him,gender is more accurately viewed as encompassing a wide-ranging continuum. He then says that likewise,the more people he sees in his practice,the more he is impressed at the great diversity in human nature.
He says he has seen men of all types and varieties,and women of all kinds. He then says,he is hard-pressed to come up with very many generalizations based on gender.He says he knows that there are some statistical patterns,but how useful are they when he works with individuals and in a rapidly changing society? He says if each person is unique,no statistical norm or average will be able to define who my client is.
He then says,from a psychological perspective,men and women are not, in fact,opposite. He says his clinical experience is that they are much more psychologically alike than different,and the differences that exist are not necessarily opposing.
In 2014 Psychologist Dr.Janet Shibley Hyde updated her 2005 major meta analysis that found that the sexes are more alike than different in 80% of their psychological traits,behaviors and abilities including personality.In this 2014 article by Curt Rice he says that by the end of her article Gender Similarities and Differences,she has you convinced that the sexes are more similar in almost every way and he says that she she says this is not surprising since the sexes share 23 of the same chromosomes and only one of them is different.
In these extensive studies by psychologist Dr. Janet Shibley Hyde and others that is still on the American Psychological Association’s web site since 2006 and that was published in American psychologist the journal of The American Psychological Association,Think Again:Men and women Share Cognitive Skills.
It’s reported that Psychologists have gathered solid evidence that boys or girls or men and women differ in very few significant ways– differences that would matter in school or at work–in how,and how well they think.
Psychologist Dr.Janet Shibley Hyde in this 2005 major meta-analysis of hundreds of studies by all different psychologists from decades that was written in American psychologist,the journal of The American Psychological Association,found that the sexes are more alike than different in almost all personality traits,abilities,etc.
Below is an email I wrote to Oxford University Gender communication professor Deborah Cameron author of the great important book,The Myth Of Mars and Venus Do Men and women Really Speak Different Languages?.
I recently read your great important book, The Myth Of Mars & Venus. I read a bad review of the book, The Female Brain on Amazon.com US by psychologist David H.Perterzell he called it junk science.
I also thought you would want to know that John Gray got his “Ph.D” from Columbia Pacific University which was closed down in March 2001 by the California Attorney General’s Office because he called it a diploma mill and a phony operation offering totally worthless degrees!
Also there is a Christian gender and psychology scholar and author psychology professor Dr. Mary Stewart Van Leewuen who teaches the psychology and Philosophy of Gender at the Christian College Eastern College in Pa. She has several online presentations that were done at different colleges from 2005- the present debunking the Mars & Venus myth.
One is called , Opposite Sexes Or Neighboring Sexes and sometimes adds, Beyond The Mars/Venus Rhetoric in which she explains that all of the large amount of research evidence from the social and behavorial sciences shows that the sexes are very close neighbors and that there are only small average differences between them many of which have gotten even smaller over the last several decades and in her great even longer article that isn’t online anymore called,What Do We Mean By “Male-Female Complentarity”? A Review Of Ronald W.Pierce,Rebecca M.Groothuis,and Gordon D.Fee,eds Discovering Biblical Equality:Complentarity Without Hierarchy, which she says happened after 1973 when gender roles were less rigid and that genetic differences can’t shrink like this and in such a short period of time, and that most large differences that are found are between individual people and that for almost every trait and behavior there is a large overlap between them and she said so it is naive at best and deceptive at worst to make claims about natural sex differences. etc.
She says he claims Men are From Mars & Women are From Venus with no empirical warrant and that his claim gets virtually no support from the large amount of psychological and behavioral sciences and that in keeping in line with the Christian Ethic and with what a bumper sticker she saw said and evidence from the behavioral and social sciences is , Men Are From,Earth ,Women Are From Earth Get Used To It. Comedian George Carlin said this too.
She also said that such dichotomous views of the sexes are apparently popular because people like simple answers to complex issues including relationships between men and women. She should have said especially relationships between them.She also said when I spoke wit her in 1998 and 1999 that human beings don’t have sex fixed in the brain,she said human beings adapt to their environments,and they develop certain characteristics in response to those environments but they are not fixed and unchangeable. Dr.Van Leeuwen also said that I’m correct that the human female and male brain is more alike than different and she said the brain is plastic and easily molded and shaped throughout life by different life experiences and environments.She said humans have a unique highly developed cerebral cortex which animals don’t and this enables people to learn things and make choices that animals can’t.
Sociologist Dr.Michael Kimmel writes and talks about this also including in his Media Education Foundation educational video. And he explains that all of the evidence from the psychological and behavioral sciences indicates that women and men are far more alike than different. He also demonstrated with a lot of research studies and evidence from the behavioral and social sciences that the sexes are more alike than different in his very good 2000 book,The Gendered Society which he updated several times in more extensive academic volumes called,The Gendered Society Reader.
Dr.Mary Stewart Van Leewuen says that there are no consistent large psychological sex differences found.
I have an excellent book from 1979 written by 2 parent child development psychologists Dr. Wendy Schemp Matthews and award winning psychologist from Columbia University, Dr.Jeane Brooks-Gunn, called He & She How Children Develop Their Sex Role Identity.
They thoroughly demonstrate with tons of great studies and experiments by parent child psychologists that girl and boy babies are actually born more alike than different with very few differences but they are still perceived and treated systematically very different from the moment of birth on by parents and other adult care givers. They go up to the teen years.
I once spoke with Dr.Brooks-Gunn in 1994 and I asked her how she could explain all of these great studies that show that girl and boy babies are actually born more alike with few differences but are still perceived and treated so differently anyway, and she said that’s due to socialization and she said there is no question, that socialization plays a very big part.
I know that many scientists(the good responsible ones) know that the brain is plastic and can be shaped and changed by different life experiences and different life time environments.
Also there are 2 great online rebuttals of the Mars & Venus myth by Susan Hamson called, The Rebuttal From Uranus and Out Of The Cave: Exploring Gray’s Anatomy by Kathleen Trigiani.
Also have you read the excellent book by social psychologist Dr.Gary Wood at The University of Birmingham called, Sex Lies & Stereotypes:Challenging Views Of Women, Men & Relationships? He clearly demonstrates with all of the research studies from psychology what Dr.Mary Stewart Van Leewuen does, and he debunks The Mars & Venus myth and shows that the sexes are biologically and psychologically more alike than different and how gender roles and differences are mostly socially created and how they are very limiting and emotionally damaging to both sexes mental and physical health and don’t only allow are encourage them to become more than only a half of a person instead of a whole human person with all of our shared*human* qualities!
Anyway, if you could write back when you have a chance I would
really appreciate it.
Christian psychology professor Dr.Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen’s college course presentation Beyond Malacandra and Perelandra:Men are From Earth,Women Are From Earth where she demonstrates what a large amount of psychological research studies shows,that most of the psychological sex differences
are really small and there is a large overlap between the sexes.
Beyond Malacandra and Perelandra: Men are from Earth, Women are from Earth
March 16, 2012 Eagle Great Room, Eastern University Dr. Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen presents a lecture based on her book, A Sword Between the Sexes? C.S. Lewis and the …
[…] Religious authorities today continue to spread the gender ‘binary’ faith – ironically – through the Trans movement, which they support. This is because the Trans concept maintains the gender binary and its conservative stereotypes about men and women, as I have argued elsewhere. […]
I thoroughly enjoyed reading through that and found your final comment and thoughts regarding “societies were organized around the assumption that natural human sexuality (attraction) includes both heterosexual and homosexual variants” to be very enlightened, we can see it in some NON Western Anglo Saxon cultures that show far greater acceptance of said variants as well as historical examples.
However you mention human sexuality as being about “attraction” or put another way “sexual orientation” (masculinity being attracted to femininity and visa versa) and that we accept it as innate but what part if any of gender is innate (That is, directly determined by birth sex.)?
What is left of gender if the social and cultural functions are removed?
Just the sexual ones, other characteristics that we call ‘gender’ are not innate, some are the function of sex hormones, but most are of social conditioning.
If so then the innate part of gender is about how people relate sexually, or to put it another way:
‘Gender’ (who you want to have sex as) is driven by Sexual orientation (who you want to have sex with) and is derived from our sex drive (one of the most powerful instincts humans, indeed all living things, have) and as its innate that suggests that it has a genetic cause.
We might expect to see, if that were the case, that inversion of sexual attraction would be associated with other inversions of sex-based characteristics. And this is what we do see.
There is strong evidence that feminine male homosexual males are smaller, more lightly built and tend to neoteny more than the average for males in their ethnicity. (Blanchard etc.) So while we cannot say that there are no cases where sexuality is learned, we can reasonably suggest that in this case it might not be. Instead, here it is innate, a function of genetics and associated with other, physical, deviations from the “norm”.
So, some males are born with a sexual inversion, and this is associated with other distinguishing morphology. They are small, light, feminine and attracted to men. Attempts to ‘decondition’ these males — to make them attracted to females — are about as futile as attempting to make them grow another six inches in height.
(Note: not all small, lightly-built, neotenous males are homosexual by any means; but nearly all feminine homosexual males are small, lightly-built and neotenous.)
It is very easy, given our social conditioning, to think of sex and gender as being equally fixed. That is to say, that all males have masculine gender and all females have feminine. This gives us the two social characterizations, ‘man’ and ‘woman’. A man is a person born male who displays behaviors considered masculine in his culture and a woman is a person born female who does the opposite.
This is the standard Western, Anglo-Saxon social taxonomy. But it doesn’t fit the facts.
The spanner is thrown into the works by the existence of persons born male who display innate non-masculine traits — our small feminine homosexual men. These are what are known as ‘Gender Non-Conforming’ or GNC. Depending on social circumstances and personal factors, they may simply display a GNC sexual desire, or they might go all the way and be fully transsexual — that is, attracted to men but also adopting all other feminine gender stereotypes, after the fashion of their culture.
This difference boils down to the fact that males actually can perform both the male and the female sexual roles — that is, they can penetrate and they can be penetrated. So a male can be either a male or a female in sex.
No human female can penetrate, so she is incapable of equivalent physical aspects of psycho-sexual inversion to those that feminine homosexual males exhibit. So homosexuality among human females is rarely innate and far more likely to be cultural and social. On the other hand, bisexualism is far more culturally acceptable for women than it is for men.
Feminine homosexual males may present in either a pseudo-masculine gender or a feminine one. In the former they are often called ‘gays’ and in the latter they are known as ‘homosexual transsexuals’. However, this appellation is actually tautologous, so it’s better just to call them ‘transsexual’. They are persons born male who are attracted to men and masculinity, prefer to play the feminine role in sex (to be penetrated) and who adopt the other behaviours, dress modes and so on consistent with women, in their culture. So they are socially as well as psycho-sexually inverted.
This breaks the lockstep of ‘born-male-masculine-gender-man’ completely. That model could only exist if all males conformed to it, which manifestly they do not.
And we know there is nothing new in this; we have historical records documenting them for thousands of years and they appear in every human society, everywhere, despite attempts to suppress them. Of course, they cannot be suppressed, because their inversion is innate.
This means that the Anglo-Saxon model of gender — men and women — is wrong. It is a construct that doesn’t fit society. In a unfortunate paradox, those males often called ‘unnatural’ by the culture, demonstrate perfectly that THE CULTURE ITSELF IS NOT NATURAL.
The Western Anglo-Saxon model of homosexuality is also flawed.
Historically homosexuality was only assigned to the male who was being penetrated while the male doing the penetration was seen as heterosexual, likewise a male sexually attracted to a transwoman like Caroline “Tula” Cossey, Dutch model Kelly van der Veer and Canadian Jenna Talakova has a masculine heterosexual attraction to their femininity so is anything but a homosexual.
However as you quite rightly say the danger is that in identifying the genetic causes we also open the door to Western Anglo-Saxon attitudes towards “fixing” them and as terrifying as a “homophobic eugenics movement” sounds what is more concerning is that for whatever reason these variations exist and have been part of our evolution from back when we were primates at least and have never been selected out so playing around with them has dangers that we cannot begin to conceive of.