Thursday, May 28, 2009
Is gender just something you are, or something you do?
"...the tendency to try to fit every person into the binary of male/female can be explained by...the human propensity to categorize." Last night, under the yellow glow of passenger-controlled lights on the 10.5 hour bus ride from Manhattan to Toronto, I read Gendering Bodies by Sara L. Crowley, Lara J. Foley and Constance L. Shehan (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008). The three sociologists argue that even though human bodies, sexuality and gender are interrelated, they can be considered separately. Doing so allows the authors to demonstrate how gender is constantly mapped onto the body and reinforced through social constructionism and forms of surveillance so ingrained that we tend not to question them. Sister I’m a Poet was going through my head: "And is evil just something you are, or something you do?" (While I am on a tangent about Morrissey, if you want to read about gender expectations, babies, and butterflies [read: former chrysalises], the three things that converge in my artwork regularly, check out Mark Beaumont’s blog posting on Morrissey’s latest album cover here). Although the book does not look at the practice of dressing baby girls and boys differently, it is clear that it fits with the many examples they cite of imposing gender on humans. If I do not get around to reading Stephen Pinker’s writing anytime soon, I take comfort in the authors’ suggestion that resolving the nature vs. nurture debate is less pressing than grasping the ways in which gender is constructed. By relaying countless examples that reek of sexism, the authors reveal the practice of gendering bodies to be anything but nurturing. Book cover added in 2020 as fair use/dealing; source: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780742559578/Gendering-Bodies