City Colleges of Chicago Queer Feminist Movements Essay

Here is the instruction: This is the assigned Unit that need to be summaries ; The first unit is called Early to Late 20th Century Feminist Movements and the second unit is Third Wave and Queer Feminist Movements. The file of the book where the units are located is attached below.

your annotation needs to be at least 300 words (approximately one page that is double-spaced), and it needs to include all three of the categories below (e.g., summarize, assess, and reflect). Try to answer as many questions below as possible. For your first annotation, you may not be able to answer “How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography?” in the “Assess” section. Answer what is possible. Be sure to make your annotation three paragraphs (e.g., summarize, assess, and reflect) that are each have their first line indented half an inch. Do not add a space between the three paragraphs.

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Introduction to Women, Gender,
Sexuality Studies
Introduction to Women, Gender,
Sexuality Studies
Introduction to Women, Gender,
Sexuality Studies
MILIANN KANG, DONOVAN LESSARD, AND LAURA
HESTON
UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST LIBRARIES
AMHERST, MA
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies by Miliann Kang, Donovan Lessard, Laura Heston, Sonny Nordmarken is
licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Contents
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies ………………………………………………………………………. x
About This Book ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… xi
Table of Contents ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. xiii
Acknowledgements ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. xvi
Unit I: An Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies: Grounding Theoretical Frameworks and
Concepts ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 17
Critical Introduction to the Field ……………………………………………………………………………………….. 18
Theorizing Lived Experiences ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 22
Identity Terms …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 26
Conceptualizing Structures of Power …………………………………………………………………………………. 31
Social Constructionism …………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 35
Intersectionality ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 38
References: Unit I ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 44
Unit II: Challenging Binary Systems and Constructions of Difference ………………………………………….. 47
Introduction: Binary Systems ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 48
The Sex/Gender/Sexuality System ……………………………………………………………………………………… 49
Gender and Sex – Transgender and Intersex ……………………………………………………………………….. 51
Sexualities ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 54
Masculinities …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 56
Race ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 57
Class ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 61
Alternatives to Binary Systems ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 64
References: Unit II …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 65
Unit III: Institutions, Culture, and Structures ……………………………………………………………………………. 67
Introduction: Institutions, Cultures, and Structures …………………………………………………………….. 68
The Family ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 74
Media …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 78
Medicine, Health, and Reproductive Justice ……………………………………………………………………….. 82
The State, Law, and the Prison System ………………………………………………………………………………. 87
Intersecting Institutions Case Study: The Struggle to End Gendered Violence and Violence Against
Women …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 91
References: Unit III …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 94
Unit IV: Gender and Work in the Global Economy ……………………………………………………………………… 97
Introduction: Gender and Work in the Global Economy ………………………………………………………… 98
Gender and Work in the US ………………………………………………………………………………………………. 99
Gender and the US Welfare State ……………………………………………………………………………………. 103
Transnational Production and Globalization ……………………………………………………………………… 105
Racialized, Gendered, and Sexualized Labor in the Global Economy ……………………………………. 109
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
References: Unit IV ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 111
Unit V: Historical and Contemporary Feminist Social Movements ……………………………………………… 113
Introduction: Feminist Movements …………………………………………………………………………………… 114
19th Century Feminist Movements ………………………………………………………………………………….. 116
Early to Late 20th Century Feminist Movements ……………………………………………………………….. 121
Third Wave and Queer Feminist Movements …………………………………………………………………….. 128
References: Unit V …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 134
Introduction to Women, Gender,
Sexuality Studies
Miliann Kang, Donovan Lessard, Laura Heston, and Sonny
Nordmarken
University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries
Amherst, Massachusetts
x
About This Book
Copyright © 2017 Miliann Kang, Donovan Lessard, Laura Heston, and Sonny
Nordmarken
University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries
Amherst, Massachusetts
Cover Image: “Resistance and Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies” by Sonny
Nordmarken is licensed under CC BY SA 3.0 and contains the following images:
“Nekima Levy-Pounds at Black Lives Matter march, April 2015.jpg” by Fibonacci
Blue is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Black Lives Matter in Minneapolis” by Fibonacci Blue is licensed under CC BY
2.0
“Women’s March – Washington DC 2017 (31771083973).jpg” by S. Pakhrin is
licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Women’s march against Donald Trump (32406735346).jpg” by Fibonacci Blue is
licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Baiga adivasi in protest walk, India.jpg” by Ekta Parishad is licensed under CC
BY SA 3.0
Electronic edition available online at: https://press.rebus.community/introwgss/
xi
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
ISBN-13: 978-1-945764-02-8
xii
Table of Contents
Unit I: An Introduction to Women, Gender,
Sexuality Studies: Grounding Theoretical
Frameworks and Concepts
1. Critical Introduction to the Field
2. Theorizing Lived Experiences
3. Identity Terms
4. Conceptualizing Structures of Power
5. Social Constructionism
6. Intersectionality
References: Unit I
Unit II: Challenging Binary Systems and
Constructions of Difference
7. Introduction: Binary Systems
8. Theorizing Sex/Gender/Sexuality
9. Gender and Sex – Transgender and Intersex
10. Sexualities
11. Masculinities
12. Race
13. Class
14. Alternatives to Binary Systems
References: Unit II
xiii
Unit III: Institutions, Culture, and Structures
15. Introduction: Institutions, Cultures, and Structures
16. Family
17. Media
18. Medicine, Health, and Reproductive Justice
19. State, Laws, and Prisons
20. Intersecting Institutions Case Study: The Struggle to End Gendered Violence
and Violence Against
Women
References: Unit III
Unit IV: Gender and Work in the Global Economy
21. Introduction: Gender, Work and Globalization
22. Gender and Work in the US
23. Gender and the US Welfare State
24. Transnational Production and Globalization
25. Racialized, Gendered, and Sexualized Labor in the Global Economy
References: Unit IV
Unit V: Historical and Contemporary Feminist
Social Movements
26. Introduction: Feminist Movements
27. 19th Century Feminist Movements
28. Early to Late 20th Century Feminist Movements
29. Third Wave and Queer Feminist Movements
xiv
References: Unit V
xv
Acknowledgements
Thanks to the Open Education Initiative Grant at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, for
providing the funds and support to develop this on-line textbook. It was originally produced for the
course, Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies 187: Gender, Sexuality, and Culture, an introductory-level,
general education, large-lecture course which has reached upwards of 600 students per academic year.
Co-authored by Associate Professor Miliann Kang and graduate teaching assistants Donovan Lessard,
Laura Heston and Sonny Nordmarken, this text draws on the collaborative teaching efforts over many
years in the department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies. Many faculty, staff, teaching assistants
and students have developed the course and generously shared teaching materials.
In the past, we have assigned textbooks which cost approximately $75 per book. Many students,
including the many non-traditional and working-class students this course attracts, experienced
financial hardship in purchasing required texts. In addition, the intersectional and interdisciplinary
content of this class is unique and we felt could not be found in any single existing textbook currently on
the market. In recent years, we have attempted to utilize e-reserves for assigned course readings. While
more accessible, students and faculty agree that this approach tends to lack the structure found in a
textbook, as it is difficult for students to complete all assigned readings and they are missing an
anchoring reference text. This situation prompted us to begin drafting this text that we would combine
with other assigned readings and make available as an open source textbook.
While this textbook draws from and engages with the interdisciplinary field of WGSS, it reflects the
disciplinary expertise of the four authors, who are all sociologists. We recognize this as both a strength
and weakness of the text, as it provides a strong sociological approach but does not cover the entire
range of work in the field.
We would like to continue the practice of having our students access online content available in the
University Learning Commons free of charge and hope this resource will be useful to anyone interested
in learning more about the rich, vibrant and important field of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies.
xvi
UNIT I: AN INTRODUCTION TO
WOMEN, GENDER, SEXUALITY
STUDIES: GROUNDING THEORETICAL
FRAMEWORKS AND CONCEPTS
Critical Introduction to the Field
There was a time when it seemed all knowledge was produced by, about, and for men. This was true
from the physical and social sciences to the canons of music and literature. Looking from the angle of
mainstream education, studies, textbooks, and masterpieces were almost all authored by white men. It
was not uncommon for college students to complete entire courses reading only the work of white men
in their fields.
Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies (WGSS) is an interdisciplinary field that challenges the androcentric
production of knowledge. Androcentrism is the privileging of male- and masculine-centered ways of
understanding the world.
Alison Bechdel, a lesbian feminist comics artist, described what has come to be known as “the Bechdel Test,”
which demonstrates the androcentric perspective of a majority of feature-length films. Films only pass the Bechdel
Test if they 1) Feature two women characters, 2) Those two women characters talk to each other, and 3) They talk
to each other about something other than a man. Many people might be surprised to learn that a majority of films
do not pass this test! This demonstrates how androcentrism is pervasive in the film industry and results in malecentered films.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
A YouTube element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Critical Introduction to the Field


Feminist frequency. (2009, December 7). The bechdel test for women in movies. Retrieved from
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLF6sAAMb4s .
Feminist scholars argue that the common assumption that knowledge is produced by rational, impartial
(male) scientists often obscures the ways that scientists create knowledge through gendered, raced,
classed, and sexualized cultural perspectives (e.g., Scott 1991). Feminist scholars include biologists,
anthropologists, sociologists, historians, chemists, engineers, economists and researchers from just
about any identifiable department at a university. Disciplinary diversity among scholars in this field
facilitates communication across the disciplinary boundaries within the academy to more fully
understand the social world. This text offers a general introduction to the field of Women, Gender,
Sexuality Studies. As all authors of this textbook are trained both as sociologists and interdisciplinary
feminist scholars, we situate our framework, which is heavily shaped by a sociological lens, within
larger interdisciplinary feminist debates. We highlight some of the key areas in the field rather than
comprehensively covering every topic.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
The Women’s Liberation Movement and Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th Century called attention
to these conditions and aimed to address these absences in knowledge. Beginning in the 1970s,
universities across the United States instituted Women’s and Ethnic Studies departments (African
American Studies, Asian American Studies, Latin American Studies, Native American Studies, etc.) in
response to student protests and larger social movements. These departments reclaimed buried
histories and centered the knowledge production of marginalized groups. As white, middle-class,
heterosexual women had the greatest access to education and participation in Women’s Studies, early
incarnations of the field stressed their experiences and perspectives. In subsequent decades, studies
and contributions of women of color, immigrant women, women from the global south, poor and
working class women, and lesbian and queer women became integral to Women’s Studies. More
recently, analyses of disability, sexualities, masculinities, religion, science, gender diversity,
incarceration, indigeneity, and settler colonialism have become centered in the field. As a result of this
opening of the field to incorporate a wider range of experiences and objects of analysis, many Women’s
Studies department are now re-naming themselves “Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies”
departments.
Feminist scholars recognize the inextricable connection between the notions of gender and sexuality in
U.S. society, not only for women but also for men and people of all genders, across a broad expanse of
topics. In an introductory course, you can expect to learn about the impact of stringent beauty
standards produced in media and advertising, why childrearing by women may not be as natural as we
think, the history of the gendered division of labor and its continuing impact on the economic lives of
men and women, the unique health issues addressed by advocates of reproductive justice, the
connections between women working in factories in the global south and women consuming goods in
the United States, how sexual double-standards harm us all, the historical context for feminist
movements and where they are today, and much more.
More than a series of topics, Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies offers a way of seeing the world
differently. Scholars in this field make connections across institutional contexts (work, family, media,
law, the state), value the knowledge that comes from lived experiences, and attend to, rather than
ignore, marginalized identities and groups. Thanks to the important critiques of transnational, postcolonial, queer, trans and feminists of color, most contemporary WGSS scholars strive to see the world
through the lens of intersectionality. That is, they see systems of oppression working in concert rather
than separately. For instance, the way sexism is experienced depends not only on a person’s gender but
also on how the person experiences racism, economic inequality, ageism, and other forms of
marginalization within particular historical and cultural contexts.
Intersectionality can be challenging to understand. This video explains the intersectionality framework using the
example of gender-specific and race-specific anti-discrimination policies that failed to protect Black women.
Can you think of some other contexts in which people who are marginalized in multiple ways might be left out?
20
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
What are some things you can do to include them?
A Vimeo element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Critical Introduction to the Field


Peter Hopkins, Newcastle University. (2018, April 22). What is intersectionality?. Retrieved
from https://vimeo.com/263719865. Used with permission.
By recognizing the complexity of the social world, Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies advocates for
social change and provides insight into how this can be accomplished.
21
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Theorizing Lived Experiences
You may have heard the phrase “the personal is political” at some point in your life. This phrase,
popularized by feminists in the 1960s, highlights the ways in which our personal experiences are
shaped by political, economic, and cultural forces within the context of history, institutions, and culture.
Socially-lived theorizing means creating feminist theories and knowledge from the actual day-to-day
experiences of groups of people who have traditionally been excluded from the production of academic
knowledge. A key element to feminist analysis is a commitment to the creation of knowledge grounded
in the experiences of people belonging to marginalized groups, including for example, women, people of
color, people in the Global South, immigrants, indigenous people, gay, lesbian, queer, and trans people,
poor and working-class people, and disabled people.
Feminist theorists and activists argue for theorizing beginning from the experiences of the marginalized
because people with less power and resources often experience the effects of oppressive social systems
in ways that members of dominant groups do not. From the “bottom” of a social system, participants
have knowledge of the power holders of that system as well as their own experiences, while the reverse
is rarely true. Therefore, their experiences allow for a more complete knowledge of the workings of
systems of power. For example, a story of the development of industry in the 19th century told from the
perspective of the owners of factories would emphasize capital accumulation and industrial progress.
However, the development of industry in the 19th century for immigrant workers meant working
sixteen-hour days to feed themselves and their families and fighting for employer recognition of trade
unions so that they could secure decent wages and the eight-hour work day. Depending on which pointof-view you begin with, you will have very different theories of how industrial capitalism developed, and
how it works today.
Feminism is not a single school of thought but encompasses diverse theories and analytical
perspectives—such as socialist feminist theories, radical sex feminist theories, black feminist theories,
queer feminist theories , transfeminist theories, feminist disability theories, and intersectional feminist
theories.
In the video below, “Barbie explains feminist theories,” Cristen, of “Ask Cristen,” defines feminisms generally as a
project that works for the “political, social, and economic equality of the sexes,” and suggests that different types of
feminist propose different sources of gender inequality and solutions. Cristen (with Barbie’s help) identifies and
defines 11 different types of feminism and the solutions they propose:
Liberal feminism
Marxist feminism
Radical feminism
Anti-porn feminism
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Sex positive feminism
Separatist feminism
Cultural feminism
Womanism (intersectional feminism)
Postcolonial feminism
Ecofeminism
Girlie feminism
What types of feminism do Cristen and Barbie leave out of this list? Do you agree with how they characterize
these types of feminism? Which issues across these feminisms do you think are most important?
A YouTube element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Theorizing Lived Experiences


Stuff Mom Never Told You – HowStuffWorks. (2016, March 3). Barbie Explains Feminist Theories | Radical,
Liberal, Black, etc. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3D_C-Nes60.
The common thread in all these feminist theories is the belief that knowledge is shaped by the political
and social context in which it is made (Scott 1991). Acknowledging that all knowledge is constructed by
individuals
inhabiting
particular
social
locations,
23
feminist
theorists
argue
that
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
reflexivity—understanding how one’s social position influences the ways that they understand the
world—is of utmost necessity when creating theory and knowledge. As people occupy particular social
locations in terms of race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, and ability, these multiple identities
in combination all at the same time shape their social experiences. At certain times, specific dimensions
of their identities may be more salient than at others, but at no time is anyone without multiple
identities. Thus, categories of identity are intersectional, influencing the experiences that individuals
have and the ways they see and understand the world around them.
In the United States, we often are taught to think that people are self-activating, self-actualizing
individuals. We repeatedly hear that everyone is unique and that everyone has an equal chance to make
something of themselves. While feminists also believe that people have agency—or the ability to
influence the direction of their lives—they also argue that an individual’s agency is limited or enhanced
by their social position. A powerful way to understand oneself and one’s multiple identities is to situate
one’s experiences within multiple levels of analysis—micro – (individual), meso- (group), macro(structural), and global. These levels of analysis offer different analytical approaches to understanding
a social phenomenon. Connecting personal experiences to larger, structural forces of race, gender,
ethnicity, class, sexuality, and ability allows for a more powerful understanding of how our own lives are
shaped by forces greater than ourselves, and how we might work to change these larger forces of
inequality. Like a microscope that is initially set on a view of the most minute parts of a cell, moving
back to see the whole of the cell, and then pulling one’s eye away from the microscope to see the whole
of the organism, these levels of analysis allow us to situate day-to-day experiences and phenomena
within broader, structural processes that shape whole populations. The micro level is that which we, as
individuals, live everyday—interacting with other people on the street, in the classroom, or while we are
at a party or a social gathering. Therefore, the micro-level is the level of analysis focused on individuals’
experiences. The meso level of analysis moves the microscope back, seeing how groups, communities
and organizations structure social life. A meso level-analysis might look at how churches shape gender
expectations for women, how schools teach students to become girls and boys, or how workplace
policies make gender transition and recognition either easier or harder for trans and gender
nonconforming workers. The macro level consists of government policies, programs, and institutions,
as well as ideologies and categories of identity. In this way, the macro level involves national power
structures as well as cultural ideas about different groups of people according to race, class, gender,
and sexuality spread through various national institutions, such as media, education and policy. Finally,
the global level of analysis includes transnational production, trade, and migration, global capitalism,
and transnational trade and law bodies (such as the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations,
the World Trade Organization)—larger transnational forces that bear upon our personal lives but that
we often ignore or fail to see.
How Macro Structures Impact People: Maquiladoras
Applying multiple levels of analysis, let’s look at the experiences of a Latina working in a maquiladora, a factory
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
on the border of the US and Mexico. These factories were built to take advantage of the difference in the price of
labor in these two countries. At the micro level, we can see the worker’s daily struggles to feed herself and her
family. We can see how exhausted she is from working every day for more than eight hours and then coming home
to care for herself and her family. Perhaps we could examine how she has developed a persistent cough or skin
problems from working with the chemicals in the factory and using water contaminated with run-off from the
factory she lives near. On the meso-level, we can see how the community that she lives within has been transformed
by the maquiladora, and how other women in her community face similar financial, health, and environmental
problems. We may also see how these women are organizing together to attempt to form a union that can press for
higher wages and benefits. Moving to the macro and global levels, we can situate these experiences within the
Mexican government’s participation within global and regional trade agreements such as the North American Free
Trade Act (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Act (CAFTA) and their negative effects on environmental
regulations and labor laws, as well as the effects of global capitalist restructuring that has shifted production from
North America and Europe to Central and South America and Asia. For further discussion, see the textbook section
on globalization.
Recognizing how forces greater than ourselves operate in shaping the successes and failures we
typically attribute to individual decisions allows us see how inequalities are patterned by race, class,
gender, and sexuality—not just by individual decisions. Approaching these issues through multiple
levels of analysis—at the micro, meso, and macro/global levels—gives a more integrative and complete
understanding of both personal experience and the ways in which macro structures affect the people
who live within them. Through looking at labor in a maquiladora through multiple levels of analysis we
are able to connect what are experienced at the micro level as personal problems to macro economic,
cultural, and social problems. This not only gives us the ability to develop socially-lived theory, but also
allows us to organize with other people who feel similar effects from the same economic, cultural, and
social problems in order to challenge and change these problems.
25
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Identity Terms
Language is political, hotly contested, always evolving, and deeply personal to each person who chooses
the terms with which to identify themselves. To demonstrate respect and awareness of these
complexities, it is important to be attentive to language and to honor and use individuals’ selfreferential terms (Farinas and Farinas 2015). Below are some common identity terms and their
meanings. This discussion is not meant to be definitive or prescriptive but rather aims to highlight the
stakes of language and the debates and context surrounding these terms, and to assist in understanding
terms that frequently come up in classroom discussions. While there are no strict rules about “correct”
or “incorrect” language, these terms reflect much more than personal preferences. They reflect
individual and collective histories, ongoing scholarly debates, and current politics.
“People of color” vs. “Colored people”
People of color is a contemporary term used mainly in the United States to refer to all individuals who
are non-white (Safire 1988). It is a political, coalitional term, as it encompasses common experiences of
racism. People of color is abbreviated as POC. Black or African American are commonly the
preferred terms for most individuals of African descent today. These are widely used terms, though
sometimes they obscure the specificity of individuals’ histories. Other preferred terms are African
diasporic or African descent, to refer, for example, to people who trace their lineage to Africa but
migrated through Latin America and the Caribbean. Colored people is an antiquated term used before
the civil rights movement in the United States and the United Kingdom to refer pejoratively to
individuals of African descent. The term is now taken as a slur, as it represents a time when many forms
of institutional racism during the Jim Crow era were legal.
“Disabled people” vs. “People with disabilities”
Some people prefer person-first phrasing, while others prefer identity-first phrasing. People-first
language linguistically puts the person before their impairment (physical, sensory or mental
difference). Example: “a woman with a vision impairment.” This terminology encourages nondisabled
people to think of those with disabilities as people (Logsdon 2016). The acronym PWD stands for
“people with disabilities.” Although it aims to humanize, people-first language has been critiqued for
26
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
aiming to create distance from the impairment, which can be understood as devaluing the impairment.
Those who prefer identity-first language often emphasize embracing their impairment as an integral,
important, valued aspect of themselves, which they do not want to distance themselves from. Example:
“a disabled person.” Using this language points to how society disables individuals (Liebowitz 2015).
Many terms in common use have ableist meanings, such as evaluative expressions like “lame,”
“retarded,” “crippled,” and “crazy.” It is important to avoid using these terms. Although in the case of
disability, both people-first and disability-first phrasing are currently in use, as mentioned above, this is
not the case when it comes to race.
“Transgender,” vs. “Transgendered,” “Trans,” “Trans*,” “Non-binary,” “Genderqueer,”
“Genderfluid,” “Agender,” “Transsexual,” “Cisgender,” “Cis”
Transgender generally refers to individuals who identify as a gender not assigned to them at birth. The
term is used as an adjective (i.e., “a transgender woman,” not “a transgender”), however some
individuals describe themselves by using transgender as a noun. The term transgendered is not
preferred because it emphasizes ascription and undermines self-definition. Trans is an abbreviated
term and individuals appear to use it self-referentially these days more often than transgender.
Transition is both internal and social. Some individuals who transition do not experience a change in
their gender identity since they have always identified in the way that they do. Trans* is an all-inclusive
umbrella term which encompasses all nonnormative gender identities (Tompkins 2014). Non-binary
and genderqueer refer to gender identities beyond binary identifications of man or woman. The term
genderqueer became popularized within queer and trans communities in the 1990s and 2000s, and the
term non-binary became popularized in the 2010s (Roxie 2011). Agender, meaning “without gender,”
can describe people who do not have a gender identity, while others identify as non-binary or gender
neutral, have an undefinable identity, or feel indifferent about gender (Brooks 2014). Genderfluid
people experience shifts between gender identities. The term transsexual is a medicalized term, and
indicates a binary understanding of gender and an individual’s identification with the “opposite” gender
from the gender assigned to them at birth. Cisgender or cis refers to individuals who identify with the
gender assigned to them at birth. Some people prefer the term non-trans. Additional gender identity
terms exist; these are just a few basic and commonly used terms. Again, the emphasis of these terms is
on viewing individuals as they view themselves and using their self-designated names and pronouns.
“Queer,” “Bisexual,” “Pansexual,” “Polyamorous,” “Asexual,”
Queer as an identity term refers to a non-categorical sexual identity; it is also used as a catch-all term
27
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
for all LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) individuals. The term was historically
used in a derogatory way, but was reclaimed as a self-referential term in the 1990s United States.
Although many individuals identify as queer today, some still feel personally insulted by it and
disapprove of its use. Bisexual is typically defined as a sexual orientation marked by attraction to
either men or women. This has been problematized as a binary approach to sexuality, which excludes
individuals who do not identify as men or women. Pansexual is a sexual identity marked by sexual
attraction to people of any gender or sexuality. Polyamorous (poly, for short) or non-monogamous
relationships are open or non-exclusive; individuals may have multiple consensual and individuallynegotiated sexual and/or romantic relationships at once (Klesse 2006). Asexual is an identity marked by
a lack of or rare sexual attraction, or low or absent interest in sexual activity, abbreviated to “ace”
(Decker 2014). Asexuals distinguish between sexual and romantic attraction, delineating various subidentities included under an ace umbrella. In several later sections of this book, we discuss the terms
heteronormativity, homonormativity, and homonationalism; these terms are not self-referential
identity descriptors but are used to describe how sexuality is constructed in society and the politics
around such constructions.
“Latino,” “Latin American,” “Latina,” “Latino/a,” “Latin@,” “Latinx,” “Chicano,” “Xicano,”
“Chicana,” “Chicano/a,” “Chican@,” “Chicanx,” “Mexican American,” “Hispanic”
Latino is a term used to describe people of Latin American origin or descent in the United States, while
Latin American describes people in Latin America. Latino can refer specifically to a man of Latin
American origin or descent; Latina refers specifically to a woman of Latin American origin or descent.
The terms Latino/a and Latin@ include both the –o and –a endings to avoid the sexist use of “Latino”
to refer to all individuals. Chicano, Chicano/a, and Chican@ similarly describe people of Mexican
origin or descent in the United States, and may be used interchangeably with Mexican American,
Xicano or Xicano/a. However, as Chicano has the connotation of being politically active in working to
end oppression of Mexican Americans, and is associated with the Chicano literary and civil rights
movements of the 1960s and 1970s, people may prefer the use of either Chicano or Mexican
American, depending on their political orientation. Xicano is a shortened form of Mexicano, from the
Nahuatl name for the indigenous Mexica Aztec Empire. Some individuals prefer the Xicano spelling to
emphasize their indigenous ancestry (Revilla 2004). Latinx and Chicanx avoid either the –a or the –o
gendered endings to explicitly include individuals of all genders (Ramirez and Blay 2017). Hispanic
refers to the people and nations with a historical link to Spain and to people of country heritage who
speak the Spanish language. Although many people can be considered both Latinx and Hispanic,
Brazilians, for example, are Latin American but neither Hispanic nor Latino, while Spaniards are
Hispanic but not Latino. Preferred terms vary regionally and politically; these terms came into use in
the context of the Anglophone-dominated United States.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
“Indigenous,” “First Nations,” “Indian,” “Native,” “Native American,” “American Indian,”
“Aboriginal”
Indigenous refers to descendants of the original inhabitants of an area, in contrast to those that have
settled, occupied or colonized the area (Turner 2006). Terms vary by specificity; for example, in
Australia, individuals are Aboriginal, while those in Canada are First Nations. “Aboriginal” is
sometimes used in the Canadian context, too, though more commonly in settler-government documents,
not so much as a term of self-definition. In the United States, individuals may refer to themselves as
Indian, American Indian, Native, or Native American, or, perhaps more commonly, they may refer
to their specific tribes or nations. Because of the history of the term, “Indian,” like other reclaimed
terms, outsiders should be very careful in using it.
“Global South,” “Global North,” “Third world,” “First world,” “Developing country,”
“Developed country”
Global South and Global North refer to socioeconomic and political divides. Areas of the Global
South, which are typically socioeconomically and politically disadvantaged are Africa, Latin America,
parts of Asia, and the Middle East. Generally, Global North areas, including the United States, Canada,
Western Europe and parts of East Asia, are typically socioeconomically and politically advantaged.
Terms like Third world, First world, Developing country, and Developed country have been
problematized for their hierarchical meanings, where areas with more resources and political power are
valued over those with less resources and less power (Silver 2015). Although the terms Global South
and Global North carry the same problematic connotations, these tend to be the preferred terms
today. In addition, although the term Third world has been problematized, some people do not see
Third world as a negative term and use it self-referentially. Also, Third world was historically used as
an oppositional and coalitional term for nations and groups who were non-aligned with either the
capitalist First world and communist Second world especially during the Cold War. For example,
those who participated in the Third World Liberation Strike at San Francisco State University from
1968 to 1969 used the term to express solidarity and to establish Black Studies and the Ethnic Studies
College (Springer 2008). We use certain terms, like Global North/South, throughout the book, with
the understanding that there are problematic aspects of these usages.
“Transnational,” “Diasporic,” “Global,” “Globalization”
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Transnational has been variously defined. Transnational describes migration and the transcendence of
borders, signals the diminishing relevance of the nation-state in the current iteration of globalization, is
used interchangeably with diasporic (any reference to materials from a region outside its current
location), designates a form of neocolonialism (e.g., transnational capital) and signals the NGOization of
social movements. For Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan (2001), the terms “transnational women’s
movements” or “global women’s movements” are used to refer to U.N. conferences on women, global
feminism as a policy and activist arena, and human rights initiatives that enact new forms of
governmentality. Chandra Mohanty (2003) has argued that transnational feminist scholarship and social
movements critique and mobilize against globalization, capitalism, neoliberalism, neocolonialism, and
non-national institutions like the World Trade Organization. In this sense, transnational refers to “crossnational solidarity” in feminist organizing. Grewal and Caplan (2001) have observed that transnational
feminist inquiry also examines how these movements have been tied to colonial processes and
imperialism, as national and international histories shape transnational social movements. In feminist
politics and studies, the term transnational is used much more than “international,” which has been
critiqued because it centers the nation-state. Whereas transnational can also take seriously the role of
the state it does not assume that the state is the most relevant actor in global processes. Although all of
these are technically global processes, the term “global” is oftentimes seen as abstract. It appeals to the
notion of “global sisterhood,” which is often suspect because of the assumption of commonalities among
women that often times do not exist.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Conceptualizing Structures of Power
A social structure is a set of long-lasting social relationships, practices and institutions that can be
difficult to see at work in our daily lives. They are intangible social relations, but work much in the same
way as structures we can see: buildings and skeletal systems are two examples. The human body is
structured by bones; that is to say that the rest of our bodies’ organs and vessels are where they are
because bones provide the structure upon which these other things can reside. Structures limit
possibility, but they are not fundamentally unchangeable. For instance, our bones may deteriorate over
time, suffer acute injuries, or be affected by disease, but they never spontaneously change location or
disappear into thin air. Such is the way with social structures.
“Social Structure” by Shane is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
The elements of a social structure, the parts of social life that direct possible actions, are the
institutions of society. These will be addressed in more detail later, but for now social institutions may
be understood to include: the government, work, education, family, law, media, and medicine, among
others. To say these institutions direct, or structure, possible social action, means that within the
confines of these spaces there are rules, norms, and procedures that limit what actions are possible. For
instance, family is a concept near and dear to most, but historically and culturally family forms have
been highly specified, that is structured. According to Dorothy Smith (1993), the standard North
American family (or, SNAF) includes two heterosexually-married parents and one or more biologicallyrelated children. It also includes a division of labor in which the husband/father earns a larger income
and the wife/mother takes responsibility for most of the care-taking and childrearing. Although families
vary in all sorts of ways, this is the norm to which they are most often compared. Thus, while we may
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
consider our pets, friends, and lovers as family, the state, the legal system, and the media do not affirm
these possibilities in the way they affirm the SNAF. In turn, when most people think of who is in their
family, the normative notion of parents and children structures who they consider.
Overlaying these social structures are structures of power. By power we mean two things: 1) access
to and through the various social institutions mentioned above, and 2) processes of privileging,
normalizing, and valuing certain identities over others. This definition of power highlights the
structural, institutional nature of power, while also highlighting the ways in which culture works in the
creation and privileging of certain categories of people. Power in American society is organized along
the axes of gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, age, nation, and religious identities. Some identities
are more highly valued, or more normalized, than others—typically because they are contrasted to
identities thought to be less valuable or less “normal.” Thus, identities are not only descriptors of
individuals, but grant a certain amount of collective access to the institutions of social life. This is not to
say, for instance, that all white people are alike and wield the same amount of power over all people of
color. It does mean that white, middle-class women as a group tend to hold more social power than
middle-class women of color. This is where the concept of intersectionality is key. All individuals have
multiple aspects of identity, and simultaneously experience some privileges due to their socially valued
identity statuses and disadvantages due to their devalued identity statuses. Thus a white, heterosexual
middle-class woman may be disadvantaged compared to a white middle-class man, but she may
experience advantages in different contexts in relation to a black, heterosexual middle-class woman, or
a white, heterosexual working-class man, or a white lesbian upper-class woman.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
“Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it is not a problem to you personally –
SURJ MN” by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
At the higher level of social structure, we can see that some people have greater access to resources
and institutionalized power across the board than do others. Sexism is the term we use for
discrimination and blocked access women face. Genderism describes discrimination and blocked
access that transgender people face. Racism describes discrimination and blocked access on the basis
of race, which is based on socially-constructed meanings rather than biological differences. Classism
describes discrimination on the basis of social class, or blocked access to material wealth and social
status. Ableism describes discrimination on the basis of physical, mental, or emotional impairment or
blocked access to the fulfillment of needs and in particular, full participation in social life. These “-isms”
reflect dominant cultural notions that women, trans people, people of color, poor people, and disabled
people are inferior to men, non-trans people, white people, middle- and upper-class people, and nondisabled people. Yet, the “-isms” are greater than individuals’ prejudice against women, trans people,
people of color, the poor, and disabled people. For instance, in the founding of the United States the
institutions of social life, including work, law, education, and the like, were built to benefit wealthy,
white men since at the time these were, by law, the only real “citizens” of the country. Although these
institutions have significantly changed over time in response to social movements and more progressive
cultural shifts, their sexist, genderist, racist, classist, and ableist structures continue to persist in
different forms today. Similar-sounding to “-isms,” the language of “-ization,” such as in “racialization”
is used to highlight the formation or processes by which these forms of difference have been given
meaning and power (Omi and Winant 1986). (See further discussion on this process in the section below
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
on social construction).
Just like the human body’s skeletal structure, social structures are not immutable, or completely
resistant to change. Social movements mobilized on the basis of identities have fought for increased
equality and changed the structures of society, in the US and abroad, over time. However, these
struggles do not change society overnight; some struggles last decades, centuries, or remain always
unfinished. The structures and institutions of social life change slowly, but they can and do change
based on the concerted efforts of individuals, social movements and social institutions.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Social Constructionism
Social constructionism is a theory of knowledge that holds that characteristics typically thought to be
immutable and solely biological—such as gender, race, class, ability, and sexuality—are products of
human definition and interpretation shaped by cultural and historical contexts (Subramaniam 2010). As
such, social constructionism highlights the ways in which cultural categories—like “men,” “women,”
“black,” “white”—are concepts created, changed, and reproduced through historical processes within
institutions and culture. We do not mean to say that bodily variation among individuals does not exist,
but that we construct categories based on certain bodily features, we attach meanings to these
categories, and then we place people into the categories by considering their bodies or bodily aspects.
For example, by the one-drop rule (see also page 35), regardless of their appearance, individuals with
any African ancestor are considered black. In contrast, racial conceptualization and thus racial
categories are different in Brazil, where many individuals with African ancestry are considered to be
white. This shows how identity categories are not based on strict biological characteristics, but on the
social perceptions and meanings that are assumed. Categories are not “natural” or fixed and the
boundaries around them are always shifting—they are contested and redefined in different historical
periods and across different societies. Therefore , the social constructionist perspective is concerned
with the meaning created through defining and categorizing groups of people, experience, and reality in
cultural contexts.
The Social Construction of Heterosexuality
What does it mean to be “heterosexual” in contemporary US society? Did it mean the same thing in the late 19th
century? As historian of human sexuality Jonathon Ned Katz shows in The Invention of Heterosexuality (1999), the
word “heterosexual” was originally coined by Dr. James Kiernan in 1892, but its meaning and usage differed
drastically from contemporary understandings of the term. Kiernan thought of “hetero-sexuals” as not defined by
their attraction to the opposite sex, but by their “inclinations to both sexes.” Furthermore, Kiernan thought of the
heterosexual as someone who “betrayed inclinations to ‘abnormal methods of gratification’” (Katz 1995). In other
words, heterosexuals were those who were attracted to both sexes and engaged in sex for pleasure, not for
reproduction. Katz further points out that this definition of the heterosexual lasted within middle-class cultures in
the United States until the 1920s, and then went through various radical reformulations up to the current usage.
Looking at this historical example makes visible the process of the social construction of heterosexuality. First of
all, the example shows how social construction occurs within institutions—in this case, a medical doctor created a
new category to describe a particular type of sexuality, based on existing medical knowledge at the time. “Heterosexuality” was initially a medical term that defined a deviant type of sexuality. Second, by seeing how Kiernan—and
middle class culture, more broadly—defined “hetero-sexuality” in the 19th century, it is possible to see how
drastically the meanings of the concept have changed over time. Typically, in the United States in contemporary
usage, “heterosexuality” is thought to mean “normal” or “good”—it is usually the invisible term defined by what is
thought to be its opposite, homosexuality. However, in its initial usage, “hetero-sexuality” was thought to counter
the norm of reproductive sexuality and be, therefore, deviant. This gets to the third aspect of social constructionism.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
That is, cultural and historical contexts shape our definition and understanding of concepts. In this case, the norm
of reproductive sexuality—having sex not for pleasure, but to have children—defines what types of sexuality are
regarded as “normal” or “deviant.” Fourth, this case illustrates how categorization shapes human experience,
behavior, and interpretation of reality. To be a “heterosexual” in middle class culture in the US in the early 1900s
was not something desirable to be—it was not an identity that most people would have wanted to inhabit. The very
definition of “hetero-sexual” as deviant, because it violated reproductive sexuality, defined “proper” sexual behavior
as that which was reproductive and not pleasure-centered.
Social constructionist approaches to understanding the world challenge the essentialist or biological
determinist understandings that typically underpin the “common sense” ways in which we think about
race, gender, and sexuality. Essentialism is the idea that the characteristics of persons or groups are
significantly influenced by biological factors, and are therefore largely similar in all human cultures and
historical periods. A key assumption of essentialism is that “a given truth is a necessary natural part of
the individual and object in question” (Gordon and Abbott 2002). In other words, an essentialist
understanding of sexuality would argue that not only do all people have a sexual orientation, but that an
individual’s sexual orientation does not vary across time or place. In this example, “sexual orientation”
is a given “truth” to individuals—it is thought to be inherent, biologically determined, and essential to
their being.
Essentialism typically relies on a biological determinist theory of identity. Biological determinism can
be defined as a general theory, which holds that a group’s biological or genetic makeup shapes its
social, political, and economic destiny (Subramaniam 2014). For example, “sex” is typically thought to
be a biological “fact,” where bodies are classified into two categories, male and female. Bodies in these
categories are assumed to have “sex”-distinct chromosomes, reproductive systems, hormones, and sex
characteristics. However, “sex” has been defined in many different ways, depending on the context
within which it is defined. For example, feminist law professor Julie Greenberg (2002) writes that in the
late 19th century and early 20th century, “when reproductive function was considered one of a woman’s
essential characteristics, the medical community decided that the presence or absence of ovaries was
the ultimate criterion of sex” (Greenberg 2002: 113). Thus, sexual difference was produced through the
heteronormative assumption that women are defined by their ability to have children. Instead of
assigning sex based on the presence or absence of ovaries, medical practitioners in the contemporary
US typically assign sex based on the appearance of genitalia.
Differential definitions of sex point to two other primary aspects of the social construction of reality.
First, it makes apparent how even the things commonly thought to be “natural” or “essential” in the
world are socially constructed. Understandings of “nature” change through history and across place
according to systems of human knowledge. Second, the social construction of difference occurs within
relations of power and privilege. Sociologist Abby Ferber (2009) argues that these two aspects of the
social construction of difference cannot be separated, but must be understood together. Discussing the
construction of racial difference, she argues that inequality and oppression actually produce ideas of
essential racial difference. Therefore, racial categories that are thought to be “natural” or “essential”
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
are created within the context of racialized power relations—in the case of African-Americans, that
includes slavery, laws regulating interracial sexual relationships, lynching, and white supremacist
discourse. Social constructionist analyses seek to better understand the processes through which
racialized, gendered, or sexualized differentiations occur, in order to untangle the power relations
within them.
Notions of disability are similarly socially constructed within the context of ableist power relations. The
medical model of disability frames body and mind differences and perceived challenges as flaws that
need fixing at the individual level. The social model of disability shifts the focus to the disabling
aspects of society for individuals with impairments (physical, sensory or mental differences), where
the society disables those with impairments (Shakespeare 2006). Disability, then, refers to a form of
oppression where individuals understood as having impairments are imagined to be inferior to those
without impairments, and impairments are devalued and unwanted. This perspective manifests in
structural arrangements that limit access for those with impairments. A critical disability perspective
critiques the idea that nondisability is natural and normal—an ableist sentiment, which frames the
person rather than the society as the problem.
What are the implications of a social constructionist approach to understanding the world? Because
social constructionist analyses examine categories of difference as fluid, dynamic, and changing
according to historical and geographical context, a social constructionist perspective suggests that
existing inequalities are neither inevitable nor immutable. This perspective is especially useful for the
activist and emancipatory aims of feminist movements and theories. By centering the processes through
which inequality and power relations produce racialized, sexualized, and gendered difference, social
constructionist analyses challenge the pathologization of minorities who have been thought to be
essentially or inherently inferior to privileged groups. Additionally, social constructionist analyses
destabilize the categories that organize people into hierarchically ordered groups through uncovering
the historical, cultural, and/or institutional origins of the groups under study. In this way, social
constructionist analyses challenge the categorical underpinnings of inequalities by revealing their
production and reproduction through unequal systems of knowledge and power.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Intersectionality
Articulated by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw (1991), the concept of intersectionality identifies a
mode of analysis integral to women, gender, sexuality studies. Within intersectional frameworks, race,
class, gender, sexuality, age, ability, and other aspects of identity are considered mutually constitutive;
that is, people experience these multiple aspects of identity simultaneously and the meanings of
different aspects of identity are shaped by one another. In other words, notions of gender and the way a
person’s gender is interpreted by others are always impacted by notions of race and the way that
person’s race is interpreted. For example, a person is never received as just a woman, but how that
person is racialized impacts how the person is received as a woman. So, notions of blackness,
brownness, and whiteness always influence gendered experience, and there is no experience of gender
that is outside of an experience of race. In addition to race, gendered experience is also shaped by age,
sexuality, class, and ability; likewise, the experience of race is impacted by gender, age, class, sexuality,
and ability.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
This work is in the Public Domain, CC0
Understanding intersectionality requires a particular way of thinking. It is different than how many
people imagine identities operate. An intersectional analysis of identity is distinct from singledeterminant identity models and additive models of identity. A single determinant model of identity
presumes that one aspect of identity, say, gender, dictates one’s access to or disenfranchisement from
power. An example of this idea is the concept of “global sisterhood,” or the idea that all women across
the globe share some basic common political interests, concerns, and needs (Morgan 1996). If women in
different locations did share common interests, it would make sense for them to unite on the basis of
gender to fight for social changes on a global scale. Unfortunately, if the analysis of social problems
stops at gender, what is missed is an attention to how various cultural contexts shaped by race, religion,
and access to resources may actually place some women’s needs at cross-purposes to other women’s
needs. Therefore, this approach obscures the fact that women in different social and geographic
locations face different problems. Although many white, middle-class women activists of the mid-20th
century US fought for freedom to work and legal parity with men, this was not the major problem for
women of color or working-class white women who had already been actively participating in the US
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
labor market as domestic workers, factory workers, and slave laborers since early US colonial
settlement. Campaigns for women’s equal legal rights and access to the labor market at the
international level are shaped by the experience and concerns of white American women, while women
of the global south, in particular, may have more pressing concerns: access to clean water, access to
adequate health care, and safety from the physical and psychological harms of living in tyrannical, wartorn, or economically impoverished nations.
This work is in the Public
Domain, CC0
In contrast to the single-determinant identity model, the additive model of identity simply adds
together privileged and disadvantaged identities for a slightly more complex picture. For instance, a
Black man may experience some advantages based on his gender, but has limited access to power
based on his race. This kind of analysis is exemplified in how race and gender wage gaps are portrayed
in statistical studies and popular news reports. Below, you can see a median wage gap table from the
Institute for Women’s Policy Research compiled in 2009. In reading the table, it can be seen that the
gender wage gap is such that in 2009, overall, women earned 77% of what men did in the US. The table
breaks down the information further to show that earnings varied not only by gender but by race as
well. Thus, Hispanic or Latino women earned only 52.9% of what white men did while white women
made 75%. This is certainly more descriptive than a single gender wage gap figure or a single race
wage gap figure. The table is useful at pointing to potential structural explanations that may make
earnings differ between groups. For instance, looking at the chart, you may immediately wonder why
these gaps exist; is it a general difference of education levels, occupations, regions of residence or skill
levels between groups, or is it something else, such as discrimination in hiring and promotion? What it
is not useful for is predicting people’s incomes by plugging in their gender plus their race, even though
it may be our instinct to do so. Individual experiences differ vastly and for a variety of reasons; there
are outliers in every group. Most importantly, even if this chart helps in understanding structural
reasons why incomes differ, it doesn’t provide all the answers.
40
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Table 1: Average Annual Earnings for Year-Round Full-Time Workers age 15 Years and Older by Race and
Ethnicity, 2015
41
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
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The additive model does not take into account how our shared cultural ideas of gender are racialized
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power—material, political, interpersonal. Sociologist Patricia Hill Collins (2005) has developed a strong
42
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
intersectional framework through her discussion of race, gender, and sexuality in her historical analysis
of representations of Black sexuality in the US. Hill Collins shows how contemporary white American
culture exoticizes Black men and women and she points to a history of enslavement and treatment as
chattel as the origin and motivator for the use of these images. In order to justify slavery, AfricanAmericans were thought of and treated as less than human. Sexual reproduction was often forced
among slaves for the financial benefit of plantation owners, but owners reframed this coercion and rape
as evidence of the “natural” and uncontrollable sexuality of people from the African continent. Images
of Black men and women were not completely the same, as Black men were constructed as hypersexual
“bucks” with little interest in continued relationships whereas Black women were framed as
hypersexual “Jezebels” that became the “matriarchs” of their families. Again, it is important to note how
the context, where enslaved families were often forcefully dismantled, is often left unacknowledged and
contemporary racialized constructions are assumed and framed as individual choices or traits. It is
shockingly easy to see how these images are still present in contemporary media, culture, and politics,
for instance, in discussions of American welfare programs. This analysis reveals how race, gender, and
sexuality intersect. We cannot simply pull these identities apart because they are interconnected and
mutually enforcing.
Although the framework of intersectional has contributed important insights to feminist analyses, there
are problems. Intersectionality refers to the mutually co-constitutive nature of multiple aspects of
identity, yet in practice this term is typically used to signify the specific difference of “women of color,”
which effectively produces women of color (and in particular, Black women) as Other and again centers
white women (Puar 2012). In addition, the framework of intersectionality was created in the context of
the United States; therefore, the use of the framework reproduces the United States as the dominant
site of feminist inquiry and women’s studies’ Euro-American bias (Puar 2012). Another failing of
intersectionality is its premise of fixed categories of identity, where descriptors like race, gender, class,
and sexuality are assumed to be stable. In contrast, the notion of assemblage considers categories
events, actions, and encounters between bodies, rather than simply attributes (Puar 2012). Assemblage
refers to a collage or collection of things, or the act of assembling. An assemblage perspective
emphasizes how relations, patterns, and connections between concepts give concepts meaning (Puar
2012). Although assemblage has been framed against intersectionality, identity categories’ mutual coconstitution is accounted for in both intersectionality and assemblage.
“Gender” is too often used simply and erroneously to mean “white women,” while “race” too often
connotes “Black men.” An intersectional perspective examines how identities are related to each other
in our own experiences and how the social structures of race, class, gender, sexuality, age, and ability
intersect for everyone. As opposed to single-determinant and additive models of identity, an
intersectional approach develops a more sophisticated understanding of the world and how individuals
in differently situated social groups experience differential access to both material and symbolic
resources.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
References: Unit I
Brooks, Katherine. 2014. “Profound Portraits Of Young Agender Individuals Challenge The Male/Female
Identity.”
The
Huffington
Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/03/chloe-aftel-agender_n_5433867.html. Accessed 15
May, 2017.
Crenshaw, Kimberlé W. 1991. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence
against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review 43(6): 1241–1299.
Decker, Julie Sondra. 2014. The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality. Carrel Books.
Farinas, Caley and Creigh Farinas. 2015. “5 Reasons Why We Police Disabled People’s Language (And
Why
We
Need
to
Stop)”
Everyday
Feminism
Magazine. http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/07/policing-disabled-peoples-identity/. Accessed 15
May, 2017.
Ferber, A. 2009. “Keeping Sex in Bounds: Sexuality and the (De)Construction of Race and Gender.” Pp.
136-142 in Sex, Gender, and Sexuality: The New Basics, edited by Abby L. Ferber, Kimberly Holcomb
and Tre Wentling. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Gordon, L. E. and S. A. Abbott. 2002 “A Social Constructionist Essential Guide to Sex.” In Robert
Heasley and Betsy Crane, Eds., Sexual Lives: Theories and Realities of Human Sexualities. New York,
McGraw-Hill.
Greenberg, J. 2002. “Definitional Dilemmas: Male or Female? Black or White? The Law’s Failure, to
Recognize Intersexuals and Multiracials.” Pp.102-126 in Gender Nonconformity, Race and Sexuality:
Charting the Connections, edited by T. Lester. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Grewal, Inderpal and Caren Kaplan. 2001. “Global Identities: Theorizing Transnational Studies of
Sexuality,” GLQ 7(4): 663-679.
Hesse-Biber, S.N. and D. Leckenby. 2004. “How Feminists Practice Social Research.” Pp. 209-226 in
Feminist Perspectives on Social Research. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Hill Collins, Patricia. 2005. Black Sexual Politics: African-Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New
York: Routledge.
Institute for Women’s Policy Research Compilation of U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.
2016. “Historical Income Tables: Table P-38. Full-Time, Year Round Workers by Median Earnings and
Sex:
1987
to
44
2015.
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/incomepoverty/historical-income-people.html.
Accessed 30 March, 2017.
Katz, J. N. 1995. The Invention of Heterosexuality. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Klesse, Christian. 2006. “Polyamory and its ‘others’: Contesting the terms of nonmonogamy.” Sexualities, 9(5): 565-583.
Liebowitz, Cara. 2015. “I am Disabled: On Identity-First Versus People-First Language.” The Body is
Not
an
Apology.

Retreattab


ge/. Accessed 15 May, 2017.
Logsdon, Ann. 2016. “Use Person First Language to Describe People With Disabilities.” Very Well.
https://www.verywell.com/focus-on-the-person-first-is-good-etiquette-2161897. Accessed 15 May,
2017.
Mohanty, Chandra. 2003. “’Under Western Eyes’ Revisited: Feminist Solidarity Through Anticapitalist
Struggles,” Signs 28(2): 499-535.
Morgan, Robin. 1996. “Introduction – Planetary Feminism: The Politics of the 21st Century.” Pp. 1-37 in
Sisterhood is Global: The International Women’s Movement Anthology, edited by Morgan. New York:
The Feminist Press at CUNY.
Omi, Michael and Howard Winant. 1986. Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the
1990s. Psychology Press.
Puar, Jasbir K. 2012. “’I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess’: Becoming-Intersectional in
Assemblage Theory.” PhiloSOPHIA, 2(1): 49-66.
Ramirez, Tanisha Love and Zeba Blay. 2017. “Why People Are Using the Term ‘Latinx.’” The Huffington
Post.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-people-are-using-the-term-latinx_us_57753328e4b0cc0fa13
6a159. Accessed 15 May, 2017.
Revilla, Anita Tijerina. 2004. “Muxerista Pedagogy: Raza Womyn Teaching Social Justice Through
Student Activism.” The High School Journal, 87(4): 87-88.
Roxie, Marilyn. 2011. “Genderqueer and Nonbinary Identities.” http://genderqueerid.com/gqhistory.
Accessed 15 May, 2017.
Safire, William. 1988. “On Language; People of Color.” The New York Times Magazine.
http://www.nytimes.com/1988/11/20/magazine/on-language-people-of-color.html. Accessed 15 May,
2017.
45
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Shakespeare, Tom. 2006. “The Social Model of Disability.” In The Disability Studies Reader, ed.
Lennard Davis (New York: Routledge, 2d ed.), 197–204.
Silver, Marc. 2015. “If You Shouldn’t Call It The Third World, What Should You Call It?” Goats and
Soda,
New
England
Public
Radio.
http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/01/04/372684438/if-you-shouldnt-call-it-the-third-wor
ld-what-should-you-call-it. Accessed 15 May, 2017.
Smith, Dorothy. 1993. “The Standard North American Family: SNAF as an Ideological Code.” Journal of
Family Issues 14 (1): 50-65.
Subramaniam, Banu. 2014. Ghost Stories for Darwin: The Science of Variation and the Politics of
Diversity. Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press.
Tompkins, Avery. 2014. “Asterisk.” Transgender Studies Quarterly 1(1-2): 26-27.
Turner, Dale Antony. 2006. This is not a peace pipe: Towards a critical indigenous philosophy.
University of Toronto Press.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
UNIT II: CHALLENGING BINARY
SYSTEMS AND CONSTRUCTIONS OF
DIFFERENCE
Introduction: Binary Systems
Black and white. Masculine and feminine. Rich and poor. Straight and gay. Able-bodied and disabled.
Binaries are social constructs composed of two parts that are framed as absolute and unchanging
opposites. Binary systems reflect the integration of these oppositional ideas into our culture. This
results in an exaggeration of differences between social groups until they seem to have nothing in
common. An example of this is the phrase “men are from Mars, women are from Venus.” Ideas of men
and women being complete opposites invite simplistic comparisons that rely on stereotypes: men are
practical, women are emotional; men are strong, women are weak; men lead, women support. Binary
notions mask the complicated realities and variety in the realm of social identity. They also erase the
existence of individuals, such as multiracial or mixed-race people and people with non-binary gender
identities, who may identify with neither of the assumed categories or with multiple categories. We
know very well that men have emotions and that women have physical strength, but a binary
perspective of gender prefigures men and women to have nothing in common. They are defined against
each other; men are defined, in part, as “not women” and women as “not men.” Thus, our
understandings of men are influenced by our understandings of women. Rather than seeing aspects of
identity like race, gender, class, ability, and sexuality as containing only two dichotomous, opposing
categories, conceptualizing multiple various identities allows us to examine how men and women, Black
and white, etc., may not be so completely different after all, and how varied and complex identities and
lives can be.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
The Sex/Gender/Sexuality System
The phrase “sex/gender system,” or “sex/gender/sexuality system” was coined by Gayle Rubin
(1984) to describe, “the set of arrangements by which a society transforms biological sexuality into
products of human activity.” That is, Rubin proposed that the links between biological sex, social
gender, and sexual attraction are products of culture. Gender is, in this case, “the social product” that
we attach to notions of biological sex. In our heteronormative culture, everyone is assumed to be
heterosexual (attracted to men if you are a woman; attracted to women if you are a man) until stated
otherwise. People make assumptions about how others should act in social life, and to whom they
should be attracted, based on their perceptions of outward bodily appearance, which is assumed to
represent biological sex characteristics (chromosomes, hormones, secondary sex characteristics and
genitalia). Rubin questioned the biological determinist argument that suggested all people assigned
female at birth will identify as women and be attracted to men. According to a biological determinist
view, where “biology is destiny,” this is the way nature intended. However, this view fails to account for
human intervention. As human beings, we have an impact on the social arrangements of society. Social
constructionists believe that many things we typically leave unquestioned as conventional ways of life
actually reflect historically- and culturally-rooted power relationships between groups of people, which
are reproduced in part through socialization processes, where we learn conventional ways of thinking
and behaving from our families and communities. Just because female-assigned people bear children
does not necessarily mean that they are always by definition the best caretakers of those children or
that they have “natural instincts” that male-assigned people lack.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
“Kid Girl Doll Child Expression Cute Face Baby” by Max Pixel is in the Public Domain, CC0
For instance, the arrangement of women caring for children has a historical legacy (which we will
discuss more in the section on gendered labor markets). We see not only mothers but other women too
caring for children: daycare workers, nannies, elementary school teachers, and babysitters. What these
jobs have in common is that they are all very female-dominated occupations AND that this work is
economically undervalued. These people do not get paid very well. One study found that, in New York
City, parking lot attendants, on average, make more money than childcare workers (Clawson and
Gerstel, 2002). Because “mothering” is not seen as work, but as a woman’s “natural” behavior, she is
not compensated in a way that reflects how difficult the work is. If you have ever babysat for a full day,
go ahead and multiply that by eighteen years and then try to make the argument that it is not work.
Men can do this work just as well as women, but there are no similar cultural dictates that say they
should. On top of that, some suggest that if paid caretakers were mostly men, then they would make
much more money. In fact, men working in female-dominated occupations actually earn more and gain
promotions faster than women. This phenomenon is referred to as the glass escalator. This example
illustrates how, as social constructionist Abby Ferber (2009) argues, social systems produce differences
between men and women, and not the reverse.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Gender and Sex – Transgender and
Intersex
A binary gender perspective assumes that only men and women exist, obscuring gender diversity and
erasing the existence of people who do not identify as men or women. A gendered assumption in our
culture is that someone assigned female at birth will identify as a woman and that all women were
assigned female at birth. While this is true for cisgender (or “cis”) individuals—people who identify in
accordance with their gender assignment—it is not the case for everyone. Some people assigned male
at birth identify as women, some people assigned female identify as men, and some people identify as
neither women nor men. This illustrates the difference between, gender assignment, which doctors
place on infants (and fetuses) based on the appearance of genitalia, and gender identity, which one
discerns about oneself. The existence of transgender people, or individuals who do not identify with
the gender they were assigned at birth, challenges the very idea of a single sex/gender identity. For
example, trans women, women whose bodies were assigned male and who identify as women, show us
that not all women are born with female-assigned bodies. The fact that trans people exist contests the
biological determinist argument that biological sex predicts gender identity. Transgender people may or
may not have surgeries or hormone therapies to change their physical bodies, but in many cases they
experience a change in their social gender identities. Some people who do not identify as men or
women may identify as non-binary, gender fluid, or genderqueer, for example. Some may use
gender-neutral pronouns, such as ze/hir or they/them, rather than the gendered pronouns she/her or
he/his. As pronouns and gender identities are not visible on the body, trans communities have created
procedures for communicating gender pronouns, which consists of verbally asking and stating one’s
pronouns (Nordmarken, 2013).
The existence of sex variations fundamentally challenges the notion of a binary biological sex. Intersex
describes variation in sex characteristics, such as chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. The
bodies of individuals with sex characteristics variations do not fit typical definitions of what is culturally
considered “male” or “female.” “Intersex,” like “female” and “male,” is a socially constructed category
that humans have created to label bodies that they view as different from those they would classify as
distinctly “female” or “male.” The term basically marks existing biological variation among bodies;
bodies are not essentially intersex—we just call them intersex. The term is slightly misleading because
it may suggest that people have complete sets of what would be called “male” and “female”
reproductive systems, but those kinds of human bodies do not actually exist; “intersex” really just refers
to biological variation. The term “hermaphrodite” is therefore inappropriate for referring to intersex,
and it also is derogatory. There are a number of specific biological sex variations. For example, having
one Y and more than one X chromosome is called Kleinfelter Syndrome.
Does the presence of more than one X mean that the XXY person is female? Does the presence of a Y
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
mean that the XXY person is male? These individuals are neither clearly chromosomally male or female;
they are chromosomally intersexed. Some people have genitalia that others consider ambiguous. This is
not as uncommon as you might think. The Intersex Society of North America estimated that some 1.5%
of people have sex variations—that is 2,000 births a year. So, why is this knowledge not commonly
known? Many individuals born with genitalia not easily classified as “male” or “female” are subject to
genital surgeries during infancy, childhood, and/or adulthood which aim to change this visible
ambiguity. Surgeons reduce the size of the genitals of female-assigned infants they want to make look
more typically “female” and less “masculine”; in infants with genital appendages smaller than 2.5
centimeters they reduce the size and assign them female (Dreger 1998). In each instance, surgeons
literally construct and reconstruct individuals’ bodies to fit into the dominant, binary sex/gender
system. While parents and doctors justify this practice as in “the best interest of the child,” many people
experience these surgeries and their social treatment as traumatic, as they are typically performed
without patients’ knowledge of their sex variation or consent. Individuals often discover their
chromosomal makeup, surgical records, and/or intersex status in their medical records as adults, after
years of physicians hiding this information from them. The surgeries do not necessarily make bodies
appear “natural,” due to scar tissue and at times, disfigurement and/or medical problems and chronic
infection. The surgeries can also result in psychological distress. In addition, many of these surgeries
involve sterilization, which can be understood as part of eugenics projects, which aim to eliminate
intersex people. Therefore, a great deal of shame, secrecy, and betrayal surround the surgeries.
Intersex activists began organizing in North America in the 1990s to stop these nonconsensual surgical
practices and to fight for patient-centered intersex health care. Broader international efforts emerged
next, and Europe has seen more success than the first wave of mobilizations. In 2008, Christiane Völling
of Germany was the first person in the world to successfully sue the surgeon who removed her internal
reproductive organs without her knowledge or consent (International Commission of Jurists, 2008). In
2015, Malta became the first country to implement a law to make these kinds of surgeries illegal and
protect people with sex variations as well as gender variations (Cabral & Eisfeld, 2015). Accord Alliance
is the most prominent intersex focused organization in the U.S.; they offer information and
recommendations to physicians and families, but they focus primarily on improving standards of care
rather than advocating for legal change. Due to the efforts of intersex activists, the practice of
performing surgeries on children is becoming less common in favor of waiting and allowing children to
make their own decisions about their bodies. However, there is little research on how regularly
nonconsensual surgeries are still performed in the U.S., and as Accord Alliance’s standards of care have
yet to be fully implemented by a single institution, we can expect that the surgeries are still being
performed.
The concepts of “transgender” and “intersex” are easy to confuse, but these terms refer to very
different identities. To review, transgender people experience a social process of gender change, while
intersex people have biological characteristics that do not fit with the dominant sex/gender system. One
term refers to social gender (transgender) and one term refers to biological sex (intersex). While
transgender people challenge our binary (man/woman) ideas of gender, intersex people challenge our
binary (male/female) ideas of biological sex. Gender theorists, such as Judith Butler and Gayle Rubin,
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
have challenged the very notion that there is an underlying “sex” to a person, arguing that sex, too, is
socially constructed. This is revealed in different definitions of “sex” throughout history in law and
medicine—is sex composed of genitalia? Is it just genetic make-up? A combination of the two? Various
social institutions, such as courts, have not come to a consistent or conclusive way to define sex, and
the term “sex” has been differentially defined throughout the history of law in the United States. In this
way, we can understand the biological designations of “male” and “female” as social constructions that
reinforce the binary construction of men and women.
53
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Sexualities
As discussed in the section on social construction, heterosexuality is no more and no less natural than
gay sexuality or bisexuality, for instance. As was shown, people—particularly sexologists and medical
doctors—defined heterosexuality and its boundaries. This definition of the parameters of
heterosexuality is an expression of power that constructs what types of sexuality are considered
“normal” and which types of sexuality are considered “deviant.” Situated, cultural norms define what is
considered “natural.” Defining sexual desire and relations between women and men as acceptable and
normal means defining all sexual desire and expression outside that parameter as deviant. However,
even within sexual relations between men and women, gendered cultural norms associated with
heterosexuality dictate what is “normal” or “deviant.” As a quick thought exercise, think of some words
for women who have many sexual partners and then, do the same for men who have many sexual
partners; the results will be quite different. So, within the field of sexuality we can see power in
relations along lines of gender and sexual orientation (and race, class, age, and ability as well).
Adrienne Rich (1980) called heterosexuality “compulsory,” meaning that in our culture all people are
assumed to be heterosexual and society is full of both formal and informal enforcements that encourage
heterosexuality and penalize sexual variation. Compulsory heterosexuality plays an important role in
reproducing inequality in the lives of sexual minorities. Just look at laws; in a few states, such as
Indiana, joint adoptions are illegal for gay men and lesbians (Lambda Legal). Gay men and lesbians
have lost custody battles over children due to homophobia—the fear, hatred, or prejudice against gay
people (Pershing, 1994). Media depictions of gay men and lesbians are few and often negatively
stereotyped. There are few “out” gay athletes in the top three men’s professional sports—basketball,
baseball, and football—despite the fact that, statistically, there are very likely to be many (Zirin, 2010).
Many religious groups openly exclude and discriminate against gay men and lesbians. Additionally,
heteronormativity structures the everyday, taken-for-granted ways in which heterosexuality is
privileged and normalized. For instance, sociologist Karen Martin studied what parents say to their
children about sexuality and reproduction, and found that with children as young as three and five years
old, parents routinely assumed their children were heterosexual, told them they would get
(heterosexually) married, and interpreted cross-gender interactions between children as “signs” of
heterosexuality (Martin 2009). In this kind of socialization is an additional element of normative
sexuality—the idea of compulsory monogamy, where exclusive romantic and sexual relationships and
marriage are expected and valued over other kinds of relationships (Willey 2016). Therefore,
heteronormativity surrounds us at a very young age, teaching us that there are only two genders and
that we are or should desire and partner with one person of the opposite gender, who we will marry.
Just like gender, sexuality is neither binary nor fixed. There are straight people and gay people, but
people are also bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, queer, and heteroflexible, to name a few additional
sexual identities. Also, sexual attraction, sexual relations and relationships, and sexual identity can shift
54
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
over a person’s lifetime. As there are more than two genders,,there are more than two kinds of people
to be attracted to and individuals can be attracted to and can relate sexually to multiple people of
different genders at once!
Another common misconception is that not all transgender people are sexually queer. This belief may
stem from the “LGBT” acronym that lists transgender people along with lesbians, gay men, and
bisexuals. A trans man who previously identified as a lesbian may still be attracted to women and may
identify as straight, or may identify as queer. Another trans man may be attracted to other men and
identify as gay or queer. This multiplicity suggests that the culturally dominant binary model fails to
accurately encapsulate the wide variety of sexual and gender lived experiences.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Masculinities
Another concept that troubles the gender binary is the idea of multiple masculinities (Connell, 2005).
Connell suggests that there is more than one kind of masculinity and what is considered “masculine”
differs by race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender. For example, being knowledgeable about
computers might be understood as masculine because it can help a person accumulate income and
wealth, and we consider wealth to be masculine. However, computer knowledge only translates into
“masculinity” for certain men. While an Asian-American, middle-class man might get a boost in
“masculinity points” (as it were) for his high-paying job with computers, the same might not be true for
a working-class white man whose white-collar desk job may be seen as a weakness to his masculinity by
other working-class men. Expectations for masculinity differ by age; what it means to be a man at 19 is
very different than what it means to be a man at 70. Therefore, masculinity intersects with other
identities and expectations change accordingly.
Judith (Jack) Halberstam used the concept of female masculinity to describe the ways female-assigned
people may accomplish masculinity (2005). Halberstam defines masculinity as the connection between
maleness and power, which female-assigned people access through drag-king performances, butch
identity (where female-assigned people appear and act masculine and may or may not identify as
women), or trans identity. Separating masculinity from male-assigned bodies illustrates how
performative it is, such that masculinity is accomplished in interactions and not ordained by nature.
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Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
Race
“Concepts of race did not exist prior to racism. Instead, it is inequality and oppression that have
produced the idea of essential racial differences” (Ferber, 2009: 176).
In the context of the United States, there is a binary understanding of race as either Black Here, we
capitalize Black and not white in recognition of Black as a reclaimed, and empowering, identity. or white. This is
not to say that only two races are recognized, just to say that these are the constructed “oppositional
poles” of race. What do we mean by race? What does Abby Ferber in the quote above mean by race?
More than just descriptive of skin color or physical attributes, in biologized constructions of race, race
determines intelligence, sexuality, strength, motivation, and “culture.” These ideas are not only held by
self-proclaimed racists, but are woven into the fabric of American society in social institutions. For
instance, prior to the 20th Century, people were considered to be legally “Black” if they had any African
ancestors. This was known as the one-drop rule, which held that if you had even one drop of African
“blood,” you would have been considered Black. The same did not apply to white “blood”—rather,
whiteness was defined by its purity. Even today, these ideas continue to exist. People with one Black
and one white parent (for instance, President Barack Obama) are considered Black, and someone with
one Asian parent and one white parent is usually considered Asian.
Many cultural ideas of racial difference were justified by the use of science. White scientists of the early
19th Century set out to “prove” Black racial inferiority by studying biological difference. Most notable
were studies that suggested African American skulls had a smaller cranial capacity, contained smaller
brains, and, thus, less intelligence. Later studies revealed both biased methodological practices by
scientists and findings that brain size did not actually predict intelligence. The practice of using science
in an attempt to support ideas of racial superiority and inferiority is known as scientific racism.
57
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
“Indigenous Races of the Earth (1857)” by Josiah Clark
Nott and George Robins Gliddon is in the Public Domain,
CC0
Traces of scientific racism are evident in more recent “studies” of Black Americans. These studies and
their applications often are often shaped by ideas about African Americans from the era of chattel
slavery in the Americas. For instance, the Moynihan Report, also known as “The Negro Family: A Case
for National Action” (1965) was an infamous document that claimed the non-nuclear family structure
found among poor and working-class African American populations, characterized by an absent father
and matriarchal mother, would hinder the entire race’s economic and social progress. While the actual
argument was much more nuanced, politicians picked up on this report to propose an essentialist
argument about race and the “culture of poverty.” They played upon stereotypes from the era of
African-American slavery that justified treating Black Americans as less than human. One of these
stereotypes is the assumption that Black men and women are hypersexual; these images have been best
analyzed by Patricia Hill Collins (2004) in her work on “controlling images” of African Americans—
images such as the “Jezebel” image of Black women and the “Buck” image of Black men discussed
earlier. Slave owners were financially invested in the reproduction of slave children since children born
58
Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
of mothers in bondage would also become the property of owners, so much so that they did not wait for
women to get pregnant of their own accord but institutionalized practices of rape against slave women
to get them pregnant (Collins, 2004). It was not a…

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