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Gender Order and Society

Studies reveal that each historical society has a different gender order or regime. We should also consider the role of Enlightenment science in constructing the notion of two, fundamentally opposite sexes. And we have seen how implicit in such constructions are hierarchies of gender, but also of race, class, age, sexuality and disability. Finally, we must consider the importance of centering trans histories and what happens to our understanding of gender and sex when we do.

Studies reveal that each historical society has a different gender order or regime. We should also consider the role of Enlightenment science in constructing the notion of two, fundamentally opposite sexes. And we have seen how implicit in such constructions are hierarchies of gender, but also of race, class, age, sexuality and disability. Finally, we must consider the importance of centering trans histories and what happens to our understanding of gender and sex when we do.

Gender and Systematic Injustices

In this video, we are joined by Dr Katharine Jenkins, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, who specializes in the philosophy of gender, race and sexuality and how social categories are bound up with systematic injustices. Here, she deepens our understanding of the historical construction of gender categories by exploring what we mean when we use terms like ‘gender’ and ‘woman’, outlining different ways that philosophers have approached this topic.

Gender and Society

For example, if we accept that women across different cultures tend to occupy subordinated social positions, can we define people who are perceived as anatomically female but who are not subordinate as women? Also, what happens to our gender as we move through social spaces, when we might be perceived differently by different social groups?

Definitions

Genderqueer: Used to describe someone whose gender identity is neither male nor female – https://gender.wikia.org/wiki/Genderqueer

Butch: A term originating in the lesbian and bi community and which refers to a person who identifies as masculine – https://gender.wikia.org/wiki/Butch

Boi: An umbrella term for many different queer masculine identities, although some argue it relates only to people of colour – https://gender.wikia.org/wiki/Boi

Demigirl: Someone who only partially identifies as a girl or woman, despite being assigned a female identity at birth – https://gender.wikia.org/wiki/Demigirl

Further Reading

Sally Haslanger, ‘Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them To Be?’, Noûs 34:1 (2000), pp. 31-55 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/0029-4624.00201

Ásta Kristjana Sveinsdóttir, ‘The Social Construction of Human Kinds’, Hypatia, 28:4 (2013), pp. 716-32

Katharine Jenkins, ‘Towards an Account of Gender Identity’, Ergo, 5:27 (2018), pp. 713-744 https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/idx/e/ergo/12405314.0005.027/–toward-an-account-of-gender-identity?rgn=main;view=fulltext

Comment

Having listened to Katharine on how one’s gender can be perceived very differently in different social spaces, how should we approach gender in the past? Can we even write histories of ‘women’ or ‘men’, given that what is understood by those terms varies depending on the particular historical context?

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A Global History of Sex and Gender: Bodies and Power in the Modern World

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