Sex or Gender & Histories

February 28, 2008

Last night I was thinking about gender and history–and yes, I think about these things at home. This was prompted by a promo for an upcoming episode of Taboo on National Geographic. The focus of the episode will be on Sexual Identity, and while the program was quite interesting (its a rerun), I remember being disturbed by the their constant shift between the terms: sex and gender. While there is already amazing scholarship on this subject, I want to offer a succinct intervention.

Why gender as an analytic alternative to sex? Sex is a biological construct that relies upon reproductive capacity as a foundation for sexual difference. It creates a mutually exclusive binary structure that render as in invisible other histories that exist outside of this dualism. A number of “third-wave” and French feminists dispute the biological-natural status the distinction imputes to sex, arguing instead that both sex and gender are culturally constructed and structurally complicit. I am not yet familiar enough with this stance, but I do believe that it certainly warrants mentioning.

But at this moment I still understand sex as an analytic concept is subject to ahistorical forces which do not portray the altering circumstances of our social condition(s). Study of historical records reveal that the social conditions constructed vis-à-vis sexual difference—gender—has lead to hierarchy, inequalities and a number of other inequitable circumstances.
Gender offers a contextual variable that shapes to address social conditions.Through integrating gender as historically specific analytic concept, we can broaden historiography to include gendered personal and systematic experiences as equally valid as conventional means of recording history. Historical analysis is particularly useful to feminists who aim to develop a gender-based foundation to their social critique. Gender provides specifity to activist projects. Considering these advantages, we can easily see the relationship between gender and history is not an exclusive hierarchical setup, rather it is the feminist alternative, a mutually inclusive symbiotic partnership that will allow us to finally broaden our intellectual scope to fully understand our social conditions.

What do you think?

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