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Gender and Feminist Theory - Part I

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  1. Gender and Feminist Theory - Part I Sociology of Gender Conference Andrew Carvajal

  2. Contact Info Recap • E-mail: • Office hours: Mondays 10-11:30 in Leacock 822A, or by appointment • Site:

  3. Feminism:what often comes to mind

  4. Feminism and Gender Studies • Why speak about feminism when studying gender? Is it necessary? • Feminist theories offer many explanations about the origins of gender differences and how they matter? • Feminist movement  putting gender theory into practice

  5. Why Feminism Today? Some Very Few Examples

  6. Work • Doubleday of labour • “Equal access to jobs outside the home, while one of the preconditions for women’s liberation, will not in itself be sufficient to give equality for women; as long as work in the home remains a matter of private production” Margaret Benston • Childcare and eldercare • Women “opting-out” of work experience and tenure to start a family • Sweatshop labour • Different pay for sometimes equal work • 38% of the wage gap is not explained by differences in job/experience

  7. Work • Job segregation and job polarization

  8. Violence • Rape • Domestic violence • “The home is the most dangerous place for women and the safest for men” • War • Women are often the most affected by war according to the UN

  9. Beauty and Health • Different beauty standards • “Thinness norm” • Eating disorders • Unequal exposure to cleaning products • Birth control

  10. Some methods of birth control available by sex

  11. Sexuality • “Sexuality as a social construct of male power defined by men and forced on women” • “Woman is defined by what male desire requires for arousal and satisfaction” ---Catharine MacKinnon • Sex-trade • Pornography • Media representations

  12. Why Feminism Today? Some Very Few Examples “Women do 2/3 of the world's work, receive 10% of the world's income and own 1% percent of the means of production.”- Richard H. Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism “If women’s work were accurately reflected in national statistics it would shatter the myth that men are the main breadwinners of the world” - Mahbub ul Haq, UNDP 1995 • If you think any of these issues are relevant today and something should be done about them • I am afraid to tell you but you might be a feminist

  13. Dealing with Gender Problems: Multiple Feminisms • Different approaches • Equal laws and equal opportunity (liberal) • Different economic system (Marxist and socialist) • New sexual, cultural and socio-political order (radical) • Fight neo-liberalism (global) • Battle other sources of oppression (multicultural) • Deconstruct gender (postmodern)

  14. Most Important Lesson: Awareness! • Become aware of past and current sources and manifestations of gender inequalities • Identify how gender imbalances have affected knowledge, norms, social roles, institutions and social status • Don’t take gender for granted and question where it might come from (not just sex) • Be aware of how we may personally benefit from power imbalances and try to correct it • Make others aware of what we know and become intolerant of gender discrimination

  15. Gender Theory Discussion • Does evolutionary theory explain psychological sex differences in humans?

  16. Some exampleYes: David M. Buss • Gender differences reflect adaptive problems faced by men and women • Fertilization occurs internally within women • Women, are only fertile during a specific period of time and for a limited part of their lives • There is an asymmetry in the minimum obligatory parental investment between men and women • Pregnancy and lactation is resource-consuming • Men will try to access as many women as possible • This will ensure a greater likelihood of paternity, while decreasing the odds of investing time on children who could possibly not be theirs • Women seek individuals who are successful at securing reliable and replenishable supplies of resources for their survival and that of their offspring

  17. No: Anne Fausto-Sterling • Difference between “how” and “why” • Evolutionary psychology is based on two assumptions • The traits that we observe in humans today have been constant over human history • Environmental characteristics surrounding humans have also remained constant • Without knowing when these gendered traits became a permanent art of the human lineage, we can know little about the actual environmental variations at the time • Evidence from animals to assess primal and primitive behaviours of humans is problematic • Archeological evidence is better