Originally Posted by lolalola
Yeah, I get this. I don't think anyone would seriously argue that there are NO biological differences between male/female bodies, and most would agree that gender has an impact on how we think, feel, behave and understand ourselves. The experiences of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding are unique to women. Even the most dyed-in-the-wool social-constructionist acknowledges this.
heh - two examples to the contrary.
1. on alt.soc.bi back in the old usenet days, two close friends of mine met each other in a massive flame war, started when one of them stated "the biological function of female breasts is to feed babies/children" (it was a discussion about why men have nipples, etc). Well, this statement started a sh!tstorm of women screaming "don't you DARE tell me what to do with my body!" and "My breasts are NOT for feeding babies!" My breasts are for ME!"
Sadly, I have had similar experiences myself with rather radical (mainly childfree) feminists. I've also been told by self-identified feminists that discussions of motherhood and feminism are not important in defining feminism, because if we do discuss motherhood, we are falling into an essentialist trap. The fact that over 90% of all women experience motherhood seems to have escaped their logic.
2. during my Anthropology Master's I got into an extended arguement where I made the statement that *gasp* there are two sexes (note I said sexes, not genders - I do know the difference). I was shouted down with lots of examples of asexual humans and hermaphrodites, etc.
But from a strictly biological perspective, there are two sexes. Period. Yes, there are exceptions, but since those exceptions are unable to reproduce, they are not included by biologists as a separate sex, but rather as outliers.
What bugs me about both examples above is the inability to separate the political/social definition of gender from the scientific/biological definition of sex. Yes, biology is not destiny. But it is also not a blank slate either as some would like to believe because it is more consistant with their political perspective.
|What is problematic for feminists, is the explicit assertion (by maternalists, etc) that these differences indicate a universal 'maternal instinct', regardless of race, class or social status.
I do get your point. I personally am not all about the maternal essence. I think it is another great way to trap women into expectations.
On desperate housewives recently, the character of Edi had a great quote -
Edi - "you think I am a horrible person"
Carlos "I didn't say that"
Edi - "you think I am a horrible mother, and for a woman, that is the same thing."
She goes on to say that she knows she isn't a good mother and that is the reason she intentionally doesn't have custody of her kid. But since the character is already so unpleasent, it underlines and reinforces the many flaws in her character. I felt it was heavily implied that the character is missing that "maternal instinct" that would guide her to make the right choices for her son and that this is an indiciation of a deep failure in character. My interpretation, however was that she is just missing some basic responsibility and ownership of her problems. But I digress.
|It's tricky, because while some women argue that focusing on women's so-called inherent nurturing qualities is empowering, others argue that biological essentialism serves only to perpetuate male-domination and constrain women's opportunities.
we have some similar and some different needs than men. Whether those needs come from biology, culture, or out of our asses, this doesn't change the fact that our needs are not identical. Does defining where they come from change the fact that they are not being met? Honest question - what is the role in determining the source of our difference?
Because if the source is biology, then the difference has to be accepted and dealt with. If the source is culture than the culture (read women, mainly, though it would help if men changed too) should change. But I think we are saying that most of the time it is both.