ignore this, it's about women and sexism ...]]]

James Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Tue Nov 30 11:13:16 PST 1999

On Tue, 30 Nov 1999 11:51:00 -0500 Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at osu.edu> writes:
>Jim F. wrote:
>>As I understand it, mainstream feminist thought has tended
>>to draw a rather sharp distinction between sex and gender.
>>The former was taken as a given biological reality whereas
>>the latter was taken to be socially constructed. Many feminists
>>from de Beauvoir on argued that patriarchical ideology fell
>>into the error of confusing the two. Now we are seeing people
>>argue that sex as well as gender is socially constructed.
>>No doubt much of our thinking concerning the nature of
>>the sexes as a biological reality is itself distorted by
>>ideology but it doesn't necessarily follow that sex is not
>>a biological fact. And I think that Katha is correct in arguing
>>that most of the arguments presented so far in defense of
>>the thesis that sex is socially constructed only demonstrate
>>that gender is. Furthermore, the connection between
>>the defense of thesis that sex is socially constructed and
>>the espousal of pomo seems self-evident to me. For many
>>pomos science itself is basically just a social construct
>>and hence another form of ideology. Katha is right in
>>perceiving a link between the defense of realism and
>>the rejection of the thesis that sex is just a social construct IMO.
>This is where we might or might not differ. It doesn't take
>to argue that "sex" (a political interpretation of biological facts)
>historically constituted.

I think that the notion of gender refers to what you refer to as the political interpretation of biological facts. It is a biological fact that most people who are classified as men possess penises and have XY chromosones whereas most people who are classified as women possess vaginas and have XX chromosones. The historical fact that in most human societies a great deal has been made of these biological differences (as opposed to other sorts of biological differences) to the point of creating a division of labor centered around gender roles, with those people with the penises generally possessing much more power than those with vaginas is one that must be understood in sociological rather than biological terms.

> In fact, postmodernism obscures the causes
>means of historical constitution of "sex." One might employ Bhaskar
>argue that intrahuman biological differences (the intransitive
>are prior to & independent of "sex" (the transitive dimension) and the
>former does not automatically determine the latter.

Quite right.

> Facts do not
>speak for
>themselves. Except for positivists, this argument can't be too
>to assimilate. There should be no problem upholding ontological
>epistemological relativism, and judgmental rationalism at the same
>time, if
>we accept Bhaskar's analytic distinctions. Marxists and neoclassical
>economists look at the same ontological reality (ontological realism)
>have different interpretations of it (epistemological relativism), and
>have a rational ground to think of the former as good science and the
>latter as bunk (judgmental rationalism). Likewise, feminist and
>scientists look at the same human biology and intrahuman biological
>differences (ontological realism) but have different interpretations
>them (epistemological relativism), and we have a rational ground to
>of the former as good science and the latter as bunk.

So far no cause for disagreement insofar as I can tell.

Jim F.


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