Mean Girls: A Theory of Women's Violence and Gender Subordination in Global Politics
Unformatted Document Text:
label both sex and gender.
Biological differences between people classified as male and
people classified as female can be understood as sex, and socially constituted differences
between these categorized groups can be understood as gender. It is often difficult to tell
which differences are biological and which are socially constructed, however.
Fausto-Sterling argues that, in thinking about gender, it is imperative that one considers
the sexed body as a producer of some of the factors generally understood as social
gender, such as professional success and sexual promiscuity.
She instead argues for a
life-course understanding, applying dynamic systems theory to the relationship between
biological sex and social gender.
Fausto-Sterling’s complex understanding of the
construction of gender interactive with biological sex is important, but incomplete. Even
the biological dichotomy between male and female is the product of the social
construction of simplicity where complexity exists.
Sex is not limited to those people classified biologically as ‘male’ and ‘female’; there
are persons who fall into the biological categories asexual, intersexual, transsexual, and
hermaphroditic. The dynamic construction of sex and gender is generally divisible into
masculinities and femininities – stereotypes, behavioral norms, and rules assigned to
people based on their perceived membership in sex categories. Gender, then, is not static,
but contingent upon changing social fact and practice.
Gendering is a category of social
classification and treatment based on perceived gender, which is not always consistent in
content and result but always involves assumptions based not on individual
characteristics but on assumed group characteristics.
Peterson, V. Spike. 1999. Sexing political identities/nationalism as heterosexism. International
Feminist Journal of Politics 1, n.1:34-65, p.38
Fausto-Sterling, Anne. “Bare Bones of Sex: Part I, Sex and Gender.” Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society 20, no.2: 1491-528.
Rissman, Barbara. 2004. Gender as a Social Structure: Theory Wrestling with Activism. Gender and
Society 18(4): 429-50.