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Beyond Boy-Girl-Boy-Girl: Re-thinking Measurements of Gender for Quantitative Analysis
Unformatted Document Text:  3 Theories about gender roles that treat notions of the self as essential require all women to internalize and embody feminine gender roles, and men to internalize and embody masculine gender roles, with little room for true agency or reclamation of roles or their consequences. This view suggests that once gender roles are embedded in a woman’s psyche, internalized oppression conditions her desires. Cassidy (2000) summarizes Simone de Beauvoir’s description of this state of internalized oppression, Socialized to objectify themselves, women become narcissistic, small-minded, and dependent on others’ approval. Excluded from careers, waiting to be chosen by their future husbands, taken over by natural forces during pregnancy, busy with tedious, repetitive housework, women never become transcendent agents, Indeed, they are content not to assume the burden of responsibility for their own freedom. Cast in the role of man’s Other and at the mercy of feminine vices, women succumb to bad faith and surrender their agency. (2000:5) Recognizing the link between an essentialist notion of the ‘true self’ and uncontrollable internalized oppression, feminists have argued that in order to account for female emancipation, the self must be understood as heterogeneous. It is common for women to comport themselves in a feminine fashion, scaling down aspirations and embracing gender-compliant roles (Bartky 1990; Babbitt 1993), but it is of course also common for women to pursue lofty goals, achieve high levels in their work, and succeed in contexts which reward more masculine behavior (Valian 1997). In an attempt to account for the self’s ability to discern and resist cultural norms and demands of internalized roles, feminists urge that the self is better understood as socially situated and complex. A number of feminist philosophers draw upon classic psychoanalysis, objects relations theory and post-structuralism to reconceptualize approaches to understanding selfhood. These approaches, and others, emphasize the variegated notion of the self; none regards the self as homogenous, coherent, or decontextualized. Julia Kristeva (1980), for example, proposes that all discourse embodies elements of both the masculinized rational and symbolic and the feminized affective semiotic. She asserts that every subject of enunciation – every self – amalgamates masculine and feminine and that the masculine symbolic and feminine semiotic are indispensable to all speaking subjects; therefore, it is impossible to be a purely masculine self or a purely feminine self. Kristeva challenges the notion of the homogeneous self and the heavy line between reason and emotion. Chodrow (1981) similarly challenges the claim that the self is sharply designated and self-subsisting with sharp self-other boundaries. She claims, instead, that the self is fundamentally relational, and thus linked to norms of gender-based interpersonal roles. Individuals gain a sense of self through interaction with society around them and thus the self is intertwined with the other. Judith Butler (1990) challenges both these views, claiming that personal identity is an illusion. She proposes that the self is merely an unstable discursive node – a shifting confluence of multiple discursive currents – and gendered identity is merely a “corporeal style” – the imitation and repeated enactment of ubiquitous norms. For Butler, psychodynamic accounts of self, such as Kristeva’s and Chodrow’s, conceal the ways in which normalizing regimes deploy power to enforce the performative routines that construct “natural” sexed/gendered bodies with proscribed roles. Butler’s solution is to question the notions of polarized sex and gender, and treat the

Authors: Martey, Rosa Mikeal.
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Theories about gender roles that treat notions of the self as essential require all women to
internalize and embody feminine gender roles, and men to internalize and embody masculine
gender roles, with little room for true agency or reclamation of roles or their consequences. This
view suggests that once gender roles are embedded in a woman’s psyche, internalized oppression
conditions her desires. Cassidy (2000) summarizes Simone de Beauvoir’s description of this
state of internalized oppression,
Socialized to objectify themselves, women become narcissistic, small-minded, and
dependent on others’ approval. Excluded from careers, waiting to be chosen by their
future husbands, taken over by natural forces during pregnancy, busy with tedious,
repetitive housework, women never become transcendent agents, Indeed, they are
content not to assume the burden of responsibility for their own freedom. Cast in the role
of man’s Other and at the mercy of feminine vices, women succumb to bad faith and
surrender their agency. (2000:5)

Recognizing the link between an essentialist notion of the ‘true self’ and uncontrollable
internalized oppression, feminists have argued that in order to account for female emancipation,
the self must be understood as heterogeneous. It is common for women to comport themselves
in a feminine fashion, scaling down aspirations and embracing gender-compliant roles (Bartky
1990; Babbitt 1993), but it is of course also common for women to pursue lofty goals, achieve
high levels in their work, and succeed in contexts which reward more masculine behavior
(Valian 1997). In an attempt to account for the self’s ability to discern and resist cultural norms
and demands of internalized roles, feminists urge that the self is better understood as socially
situated and complex.

A number of feminist philosophers draw upon classic psychoanalysis, objects relations theory
and post-structuralism to reconceptualize approaches to understanding selfhood. These
approaches, and others, emphasize the variegated notion of the self; none regards the self as
homogenous, coherent, or decontextualized. Julia Kristeva (1980), for example, proposes that all
discourse embodies elements of both the masculinized rational and symbolic and the feminized
affective semiotic. She asserts that every subject of enunciation – every self – amalgamates
masculine and feminine and that the masculine symbolic and feminine semiotic are indispensable
to all speaking subjects; therefore, it is impossible to be a purely masculine self or a purely
feminine self. Kristeva challenges the notion of the homogeneous self and the heavy line
between reason and emotion. Chodrow (1981) similarly challenges the claim that the self is
sharply designated and self-subsisting with sharp self-other boundaries. She claims, instead, that
the self is fundamentally relational, and thus linked to norms of gender-based interpersonal roles.
Individuals gain a sense of self through interaction with society around them and thus the self is
intertwined with the other.

Judith Butler (1990) challenges both these views, claiming that personal identity is an illusion.
She proposes that the self is merely an unstable discursive node – a shifting confluence of
multiple discursive currents – and gendered identity is merely a “corporeal style” – the imitation
and repeated enactment of ubiquitous norms. For Butler, psychodynamic accounts of self, such
as Kristeva’s and Chodrow’s, conceal the ways in which normalizing regimes deploy power to
enforce the performative routines that construct “natural” sexed/gendered bodies with proscribed
roles. Butler’s solution is to question the notions of polarized sex and gender, and treat the


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