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The Mind-Body problem and Feminist Politics

I thought I was confident with my interpretation of the mind-body problem; there is no mind-body distinction because the two function as a single unit. The mind is part of the brain—an organ responsible for conscious thought—which of course, means it is part of the body. I considered the brain to be compartmentalized of which one tiny part can be attributed to the mind. While Professor Grobstein made the same argument, that there exists no mind-body problem, it was unusual that his talk made me think about more about distinction between the mind and the body as two different, separate entities. “Sex is influenced by your genes, but it is not determined by your genes.” Grobstein argued for the difference between the sex of our body and the sex of our mind. Although I assumed his argument would solidify my solution to Descartes’ mind-body problem, the argument made me think, then, that the mind and body are two different entities with two different thought processes. One may have the body of a female, but have in her mind a different sexual identity. If the mind and the brain (essentially, the body) can have different thoughts, how is it that the two are one and the same? I think Cal’s narrative in Book One of “Middlesex” makes clear that a mind and brain do not engage in the same thought processes.

“When Calliope surfaces, she does so like a childhood speech impediment. Suddenly, there she is again, doing a hair flip, or check her nails. It’s a little like being possessed. Callie rises up inside me, wearing my skin like a loose robe. She sticks her little hands into baggy sleeves of my arms… (Eugendies 41).” This quote from Middle really resonated with me, especially after Grobstein’s talk on the biology of sex/gender. In saying this, one can make the distinction between the character’s body as Callie and mind as Cal. The “possession” that Cal makes reference to here indicates that the mind and the body/brain function as two pieces of an individual. Despite the fact that the two are distinct substances, the mind and the body still causally interact. At this point, I would like to say that I do not mean to start an argument against Grobstein’s view; instead, I mean to reveal the sort of mental transformation I made about issues of sex/gender since reading Middlesex.

It is clear to me that there exist more than two genders. It is also clear to me that Biology not only teaches us about evolution, but is itself an evolution, a story to be told. I just worry, though, how many people in society—particularly those with standard societal standpoints of there existing no more than two sexes— will listen to the story of biology or come to accept biology as ever-changing. There is a world that exists beyond the accepting atmosphere of the Bryn Mawr “bubble” and I just don’t think that world, the real world, will accept such a change. Personally, I respect and accept everyone who is male, female, in between, or undecided. I think that society cannot stray from the idea that more than two genders exist because it is, of course, more convenient to accept that only two sexes exist. For example, I do not think there will, maybe because I have never seen, more than two public restrooms. I believe that there can be 2, 4, 12, or 36 genders; people may identify and accept themselves as whatever and whoever he or she wishes to do so. But then, who is to decide how many there are? Who will decide the “maximum” number of genders possible? To a certain extent, I can understand the difficulties society will face. At the same time, I believe that society/societal norms should make everyone feel comfortable and included. I do not know, and cannot predict what is to happen in terms of issues surfacing in feminist politics, yet I can say that it will be a complex and challenging transformation.


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