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Assumptions about Gender and Intersexuality in a Global Context

During this week's class when we broke into small groups and discussed some of the ethics behind modifying the bodies of young children.  Our group came to the conclusion that the most ethical thing to do would be to allow the child to wait until they were 18 to get a surgery if that was what they wanted. I thought that it would be interesting if we explored this idea outside of a western context.  For Instance, would we have the same answers to these questions if we were talking about an intersex kid in a place like Bangladesh?  In other countries, what would be the priority of the parent in making the decision about surgery for their child, the gender identity of the child or the ability to be physically percieved as normal, especially in a place where the gender binary is concrete?  In the United States there is stigma attached to intersexuality but it is far less severe than other parts of the world.  

Again, thinking about our readings outside of a Western context, in examining whether or not women choose low risk jobs, could you even begin to make a similar study in another country?  I don't think it is fair to make these assumptions about testosterone and career choice without looking at statistics in a global context.  There is no way to fully measure how much culture influences these assumptions about testosterone and career choice, but it is obvious that women avoid high risk jobs in other parts of the world because of more than testosterone. 


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Thoughts on "The He Hormone"

I also found “The He Hormone” a frustrating yet intriguing article.  I was surprised by how much the author attributed gender differences to biology instead of culture.  I thought one of the most shocking parts of the article was when Sullivan suggested what would happen to society if parents injected their sons with female hormones while in the womb, eradicating all differences in testosterone.  Sullivan takes a quote from Matt Ridley that states, ''War, rape, boxing, car racing, pornography and hamburgers and beer would soon be distant memories.

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Nonverbal Communication as an Unclear Symbol of Gender and Identity


Most of the discourse about human communication is centered on the importance of the spoken word.  Although verbal communication tells us a lot about our society, body language can portray our true intentions. The individual body is always constrained by the social body because every action the individual does has been imprinted in their minds by culture. People are raised and socialized to interpret each other’s bodies as a series of symbols.  Almost every movement an individual does, whether it is crying, laughing, winking, smiling, or shrugging their shoulders is socially constructed.  Without following the example of other people, these movements would have no social significance.  The social significance of types of body languages in not a cultural universal and it is not portrayed and understood by all people.  One given signal cannot be interpreted the same way across cultures.  What social conditions occur when certain symbols are assumed to be universal, even though they cannot be universally expressed?

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Disability and Sexual Identity

                Last week’s discussion and Exile and Pride have made me think a lot about the de-sexualization of people with disabilities in our society.   When our class looked at the picture of the women with disabilities dressed up in pink dresses the first thing that most of us noticed was the disabilities and the second thing we did was to try and figure out why each person in the picture had a disability.  For most of the class, our first reaction was not to see them as beautiful but as disabled.  I am interested in understanding why the de-sexualization happens.  I feel like part of the reason this happens is because the body is a series of symbols that mean different things to different cultures and when someone has a physical disability those symbols get jumbled.  Our bodies display a lot of our personal information and when somebody has a disability that is the first thing that people see.  I am interested in learning why this happens and how it can change.

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Stolen and Reclaimed Bodies

Eli Clare’s book, Exile and Pride, did an excellent job tying together issues of class, sexuality, and disability.  Clare writes from each perspective, discussing her struggles with his gender identity, his socio-economic status, and disability.  Clare makes an interesting point by saying, “Disability snarls into gender.  Class wraps around race. Sexuality strains against abuse.  This is how to reach beneath the skin.”(159)  This ties into a common theme in Exile and Pride which is the body as home.  At some point in any person’s life I am sure they have felt like their body isn’t home   Society has taught us that the perfect body is something that only few people can achieve..  Anything outside the perfect, healthy, gendered, body is stigmatized.

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Hi Everyone!


My name is Lucy and I am a sophomore at Bryn Mawr.  I am an anthropology major with an undeclared gender and sexuality studies concentration.  I am interested in public health, particularly women’s health.  I wanted to take interdisciplinary perspectives on gender and sexuality because all of the other Gen/Sex classes that I have taken have been anthropology classes and I wanted to learn about gender and sexuality in a different context.  This semester I am also taking anthropology of the body and introduction to biology and I am hoping to see a connection between the three classes.


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