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WS 101 & 102 Intro to Women's
& Gender StudiesWinter 1998 & 1999
Midterm Discussion Papers
Unsigned [by student request], "What Is Women's & Gender Studies?" WS 101, Winter 1998
Michelle Wallace, Untitled Discussion Paper, WS 102, Winter 1999
Amanda Tuggle, Untitled Discussion Paper, WS 102, Winter 1999
Kate Miles, "Women in Rock" WS 102, Winter 1999
Michelle Wallace, "Redefining Sexuality" WS 102, Winter 1999
Midterm Discussion Papers
Unsigned WS 101, Winter 1998
What is Womens and Gender Studies?
Womens and Gender Studies is a complex subject that uses an interdisciplinary approach to comparing and contrasting the many perspectives that shape our understanding of gender and our world. In the first four weeks of this class we have viewed a film on gender, read highlights of women in history and heard three presentations on feminism, psychology and male responses to the womens movement. The most definitive points are summarized below.
Womens and Gender Studies makes clear distinctions between sex, the determinate nature of biology, and gender, the learned behavior nurtured by culture. Gender includes roles, expectation, socialization, and educational and professional opportunities. Simone de Beauvoir said it all when she said, "A woman is not born, she is made."
The introduction to "Women and Psychology," by Leslie Minor-Evans, pointed out that we are an androcentric (male centered) society. This means that men are seen as the "norm" when we consider professional achievements, psychology and health studies. There are several theories as to how individuals learn their gender. Social Learning Theory (Human Adjustments, Chapter 8, "Gender") suggests that we learn by observation and imitation, repeating actions and behaviors that are rewarded (praise for behaving like a lady) and avoiding those that are punished (disapproval for female aggression). Other theories suggest that gender is part of our cognitive development; as we grow we categorize, observe constancy, and develop our self-conception based on our categorization. Regardless of how we learn, stereotyping and sexism are prevalent features in our concept of others and ourselves.
Stereotyping (generalized descriptions or images of a group of type of individual) is a major factor in the development of our cultural expectation of who and what women and men are. Women, often considered to be the "weaker sex," have been considered squeamish and unable to perform work requiring muscles or intellect (WS Packet P3). In Gender: The Enduring Paradox, three-year-old children were shown neutral and free of gender definition, playing games that did not distinguish between genders (androgynous play). Interviews with grade school children showed a progressive and well-defined line being drawn between the sexes, requiring boys to be strong protectors and girls to be nurturing and pretty, as they absorb the bias of their society.
Women and Gender Studies is about women and feminism. There is no single answer to question "What is a feminist?" Based on media, generalization, and preconceived notions, there are a wide range of perceptions and negative stereotypes. There are, however, some common features associated with feminism and those who define themselves as feminists.
Women and Gender Studies is not just about women, nor is it about male-bashing or gender wars. It is also about men and their experiences and responses to a changing world. Steve OBrien presented four primary Mens Movements, and how they have developed in response to the Womens Movement. These are important to explore because it is common for men to feel threatened by the Womens Movement.
Men in our culture face a system that affords them tremendous privileges (high pay, political power, and hierarchical power); and at the same time extracts a huge price (expendability in time of war, breadwinner expectations, robbed on family intimacy. How men cope with this system and respond to the changes brought about by the womens movement and their own fears are as varied as the approaches that women take.
For thousands of years, beginning with hunter-gather societies, traditional roles have required men to be heroes knights in shining armor, ready to fight, protect and provide. Womens traditional roles have been the civilizing force goddess on a pedestal, charged with domestication of self-destructive men. For the conservative man, the liberation of women in any form is a threat to society. Other men, like women, want to reject tradition, want to take control of their lives, or even feel the need to protect and demand their own (male) rights.
The primary conflict for men and women in exploring gender is developed not only in the historical perspective, but also in the personal arena. Men are raised to believe that their personal pleasure in life is highly dependent upon finding the idealized female form. Women are also led to believe that fulfillment and finding the ideal male partner heavily influences satisfaction in their lives. These expectation create a serious dilemma when people find themselves dissatisfied with their lives, because it creates the sense that "If you are the path to my happiness, and I am not happy, you must be to blame." Therefore, when men and women interact, they bring with them expectations and distrust. In order to resolve the conflict, one or both parties must let the other off the hook, turn away from past hurts and blame and toward solutions that will allow both parties to get what they need out of the situation.
The goals and methods of Womens and Gender Studies are supported by a wide variety of historical, personal and professional perspectives. Womens and Gender Studies takes a gynocentric (women-centered) approach to learning by placing womens lives, perspectives, experiences, cultures and achievements on center stage to better understand them. A Historical Timeline (WS Packet pp.2-29) creates an overview of a wide variety of women beginning 2000 BCE through 1995, covering women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize, written poetry, ruled nations, and fought for their rights as equals.
In this class, individuals and professionals address the topic of women and gender using history, media, and personal experience to provoke thought and bring to light the conflict between genders and the reasons for it. Further topics include "Womens Culture in the Middle Ages," "Renaissance Women Artists," "Women in Management," and "The Beijing Conference: International Perspectives on Women & Gender today." By comparing and contrasting this wide array of topics and perspectives, we hope to clarify our understanding of gender and break down the barriers erected throughout history.
The importance of Womens and Gender Studies can be observed throughout history and in every schoolroom today. Girls and boys with similar capabilities perform differently due to difference in expectation and experience. Only recently have women influenced the questions that are asked, the methods practiced and how the resulting knowledge is used. Only by challenging the stereotypes of women and men can we explore the relationships among gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity, class and age. It is a class that embraces the arts, humanities, social sciences and life sciences. In short Womens and Gender Studies is about the past, the present, the future, and how we can achieve understanding and equity.
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Michelle Wallace WS 102, Winter 1999
WS 102, Prof. Agatucci
Midterm Discussion Paper
16 February 1999
*Women and Gender Studies involves interdisciplinary learning that combines a unique understanding of the historical, anthropological, arts, and both science and social science aspects, to help give us a broad understanding of cross-gender interpretations that have been given to us throughout history and modern education. This study has helped me understand the different roles of women depending on their culture, as well as the historical timeframe in which they lived. Throughout this course, while trying to overcome my cross-gender limitations, I have found that there is an incredibly huge female misinterpretation, of the male interpretation of the female, and the particular roles that she may carry out. I will give an example of this later in my paper. I have especially found how important it is to recover the female story, when learning about our history. I never realized before how selective our knowledge and education has been spoon-fed to us when learning of our history. This is so important to acknowledge as a woman (and a man), since it is our history, which still affects how gender-specific roles are continuing to rule our lives even today. The results of my studies: feelings of universal connectedness across time and across space with other women who may have felt at times, such as I.
I was intrigued by how ones culture shapes reality when looking at gender roles, for instance, Patricia ONeills account of the Celtic woman. Women in Celtic society were given a lot more choices than I had assumed, such as choosing mates. Not to mention having sexual partners outside of marriage were common also. Patricias explanation for such behavior was simple and made much sense to me. In a society where there are more men than women, and the survival of the clan depended upon the woman, acceptance of a womans sexual conduct was assumed. Celtic women naturally held an equal position to men in society when choosing mates.
Nancy Zens presentation of Native American women also shed some light on the cultural, perhaps anthropological, view of the womans role in society. The Native American woman was well honored and a natural healer. Beyond owning her own home, she was also given control of food once harvested. Women worked together in Native American culture, and I found that aspect most interesting of all. It really is amazing how much culture shapes our reality of gender roles. I see how in my own culture, individuality is so important, and women really strive to be independent. Yet in other cultures, while working together, women form a unification of sisterhood and I see this as a powerful aspect of society. There is power in numbers, I definitely believe, and I feel that women who gather together feel empowered and strong. Its that feeling of being able to speak freely with like minds and similar souls that secure the feeling of connection.
I am incredibly intrigued by how misunderstood we are as women. Yet in the same breath, I can honestly say that women also misinterpret a mans understanding of women. For instance, in the novel The Stone Diaries, Cuyler Goodwill is walking home from work thinking about sex with his wife. Or at least that is how I would interpret it as a woman and sometimes victim of my own sexuality. Yet the way Cuyler thinks about this act brought tears to my eyes, and definitely won some empathy from me for that rambunctious, horny male. His character alone is painted as a simple, slightly pathetic man, with his simple thoughts and pleasures. And yet he is such a romantic at heart. Could he not be a voice for his "kind"?
"His body at the end of the afternoon is pleasantly tired, but he cherishes each minor ache of bone and muscle, knowing that his day, even an ordinary Monday like today, will be rounded by rapture." Or "so this is what the world offers us in exchange for our labor this precious spark of joy!" (36).
I found his thoughts of anticipation for his beloved wife very surprising, intimate, and I felt somewhat guilty for reading such tender eagerness. Could it truly be?
Cuyler is not the only man we have read about in Women's and Gender Studies, to lower himself to such sensitive thoughts. Paul D. of Beloved was caught voicing other such "girlish", emotional gibberish.
"There are too many things to feel about this woman." And "She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. Its good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind" (272)
I hear myself patronizing these overheard confessions of a victimized man. By victimized I mean, victim of love. (Im a slave to cliches.) To convey such
feeling and emotion is unfortunately a hard thing to grasp for the average woman in our society. Whatever average woman consists of, I was reduced to tears on more than one occasion while reading the above mentioned books. It was hard for me to place what type of men and women we were dealing with. This could be attributed to a cultural and societal difference, as well as a time/space aspect. Either way, such cross-gender interpretations are extremely hard for me to overcome. Sexuality and physical appearance is so overplayed and obvious in my culture that it is hard to believe that women are accepted beyond face value sometimes. These interpretations could be attributed to entertainment such as through music, television and theater; therefore ingrained in our society. Yet, I have a feeling that it will take a few more characters like Paul D. and Cuyler, for me to understand what the opposite sex is truly trying to convey in terms of their emotions, expectations and actions.
Recovering our past, as women, is crucial to understanding our true role in society today. I never before realized how history and especially women in history, really shape how women are perceived in our society today. For instance, Jenny Greenes presentation on "Renaissance Women Artists." This historical account of what art and paintings meant to society back then is incredibly important in understanding why women were not allowed to express themselves in this artful fashion. Paintings were meant to depict what was happening in society, and at the time it sure seems as if what women were doing, was not important at all. How fascinating to learn the importance of posture and profile shots when enjoying a painting.
The most meaningful part of Greenes presentation was how we were only learning about the Renaissance and what was happening in society during this time, by half of the population who was involved in this historical timeframe. Women were not able to express themselves. We just hear male voices. What a sad, rude awakening this was for me to contemplate. Coras journal and fascination with recovering women writers and literature was also along the same lines. Her readings also voiced perplexing questions. Why werent there many women writers, and if there were, why in the world was no one interested in reading them?
Women and Gender Studies is a very important aspect of understanding ones self. While trying to understand why women (and men) are perceived as they are, we must look not only across cultures, but through other lenses of gender perception and through historical timeframes. I understand how hard this is to do. I am a woman, truly trying to live up to my image of what a woman should be. I realize that this image is tainted by my own sexuality and personal experiences. This image is ruined by societal definitions of women and also by a definite misunderstanding of my gender specific role that is constantly being battled by equal rights and past oppression.
I agree with Cora that women need to read what other women are writing. I truly believe in what Jenny says, that without the females story, we only see half the picture or painting. We lose faith that others feel or think the same way we do. We lose that universal connection. Its that connection that Im striving for, and its that unification that I will try to recover, retain and reuse over and over again.
*References cited in this student paper are to COCC faculty presentations, WS 102 coursepack, and these required course texts used in WS 102 during Winter term 1999: Morrison, Toni. 1987. Beloved. New York: Plume-Penguin, 1998.Shields, Carol. 1993. The Stone Diaries. New York: Penguin, 1995.
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Amanda Tuggle WS 102, Winter 1999
WS 102, Prof. Agatucci
Midterm Discussion Paper
16 February 1999
*The study of Women and Gender in the Humanities involves many areas of interest including the arts, literature, culture, music, politics, and much more. The purpose of studying these fields is to celebrate the achievements, the experiences, and the place and/or roles of women in any given society. Gender is included in the study of women because it is important to know about both male and female experiences, in order to completely understand the way humans live and interact. One important goal of women studies is to inform everyone that women have and will continue to play an important role in the development of cultures and humankind. The issues of women need to be studied and celebrated by all not just by a few.
A defining feature of achievement in politics for women can be observed in their fight for equal rights in America. I feel that this was important not just for equal rights but also for allowing women, not men, to define their place and/or role in society. In the United States women put up a long fight to win equal status with men in many areas including the right to own property, the right to work the same jobs, and the right to vote. Although women were treated some what better in America than in most European countries they were still inferior in many ways (Packet 9). Early in American life women were property of their husbands, eventually in some communities women gained some rights under the Equity law. This law came about in England, but it affected women in the United States; around the 1850's some states allowed women by law to sue their husbands, and to own land separate from their husbands (Packet 11). During this time women had begun to work outside the home, but conditions were horrible. It wouldn't be "until the 1910s that the states began to pass legislation limiting working hours and improving working conditions of women and children" (Packet 12). Although these laws were supposed to benefit women, and in some ways they did, they also would limit women to the types of jobs they could hold. This type of treatment provoked women to organize many kinds "of reform movements to improve education, to initiate prison reform, improve the lives and save the souls of prostitutes, increase the wages and expand employment opportunities of working women, ban alcoholic drinks which they believed largely responsible for sexual violence, and, during the pre-Civil War period, to free slaves" (Packet 13). One of the most important of these movements was the Women Suffrage Movement, which demanded that women have the right to vote. It took nearly 72 years of women speaking out, publishing newspapers and pamphlets, getting arrested, and being harassed before they finally got the 19th Amendment changed, on August 26,1920, to include the right to vote for women. This was a defining moment in American history and for women in the United States. Most of America probably have never heard of Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, Harriet Tubman, or Sojourner Truth; these are a few of the women who fought for the rights of women and of blacks. Why are American not taught about these women? Or about the struggles they went though in order for the rest of us to be treated equally? These are important questions that we need to be asking our government and our education systems. To me, it seems like women are still being discriminated against because we are being left out of history, and our story isn't being told from a woman's point of view; [it has traditionally been]told from that of mostly white upper class men. It seems like our struggle will never be over; we will continually have to prove our equality.
When defining women studies, an important area to focus on is cultures where women were viewed as relatively equal or at least thought of as being a significant part of the whole. One society that this was true in was that of the Celtics. "The Celtic society was one in which the values of the male warrior were dominant, but also on in which the powers - sexual and otherwise - of females was given serious consideration" (O'Neill handout, 3). Women were allowed to participate in battles, in politics, and in religion. They had sexual freedom to be married but to sleep with whom ever she choose. Marriages were on a trial basis for one year, if the couple decided they weren't right for each other then they could end it. "Husband and wife continued to own the respective shares brought into the marriage, such as land, flocks and ê household goods, so that if they divorced, they would each take away their own part" (O'Neill handout, 4). Even though Celtic women may not have been totally equal they were given the freedom to make certain choices on their own.
Other societies that held women at an equal status were the Native Americans. They believed that every person did their part in the society to keep their tribe alive. Women were an important because it was their role to have kids, to keep the house and food, and to be active in the politics of the tribe. The tribe was ruled by consensus, the women choose the chiefs, and the women were also considered to be great healers (Zens lecture). It is important for women to realize that not every society had a negative view of women, and some were actually ruled by women.
I feel that there are great limitations in studying the topics of women. When Prof. Zens presented the topic of Native American women she stated that it is difficult for us to really know how women acted or felt. Most of the information we have is from European settlers describing what they noticed or found interesting or strange. Many people who know about the ways of the Native Americans, like their ancestors, are unwilling to share in depth with outsiders. A major theme of studying women in history seems to be that of relying on sources other than women, and sometimes much of the information is from sources outside the society or tribe. This makes it difficult to fully understand the woman's view of her world. I do believe however that even though information is limited there is still significant value in studying women's topics. Women develop a better understanding of themselves by studying other women. They feel that there are others out there who have the same interests, feelings, questions, and thoughts on similar topics and life in general. It helps women identify who they are and what they stand for. I believe that knowing about women and their achievements opens up the future for young women. They can see that women can achieve anything they put their mind to, and helps them define their role in society. Learning about different roles helps women become more valuable to their particular society. I have found through taking a women studies course that I have become more aware of how lucky I am to live in country that allows women to have choices in their lives. I feel grateful to the many women before me that fought a long battle to create an environment where I feel I can do anything without limitations. I don't think that we have completely won the battle of equality, but I feel that women will continue this fight until we don't have anything left to prove. I hope that my children will see an even greater appreciation of women and their importance in the past, present, and future.
*References cited in this student paper are to COCC faculty presentations, WS 102 coursepack, and required course texts used in WS 102 during Winter term 1999.
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Kate Miles WS 102, Winter 1999
WS 102, Prof. Agatucci
March 11, 1999
Women in Rock
I have always loved music. I was blessed with a good singing voice and through all my formative years made up song and dance routines with my girlfriends. I eventually taught myself to play guitar and wrote songs, with rock music being a major influence in my life. So I chose to research how women started in the business and had such a small role and have now come to dominate the industry, and why women chose rock and roll performance as their occupation. I believe that this is relevant to WS102 content and learning goals because the focus is on how women have become so successful in this field and the need for women audiences to have music they can relate to.
Gabree, John. The World of Rock. Greenwich, CN: Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1968.
While this book is somewhat old, it did provide a great history of rock music beginning with the 1950s, including many photos. The man who wrote this book was in the business and had great first hand knowledge and insight, as well as informative research and interviews.
The book covered the beginning of the girl groups, like the Ronnettes and the Supremes, and went through the progression from women being strictly singers to fronting bands (like Janis Joplin, and Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane). It provided some insight into the transition from women being just singers (as with the girl groups) to the beginning of women writing their own songs and playing instruments, this being influenced by the folk movement and women like Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins. While the book was mostly about men (that being the "real" history of rock music, with men being the dominant force in the industry until recently), it did provide a clear picture of how few influential women there were in the business in the early years.
Wenner, Jann S., ed. Rolling Stone 30th Anniversary Issue "Women of Rock", November 13, 1997
(the entire issue, no specific page numbers).
I used the entire issue of this magazine for research. This issue was a wonderful resource, containing articles and interviews with a broad cross section of women in music, from hip-hop to punk to pop to blues to rock. The articles and photos were all done by women also, and this reinforced the idea of getting a womans point of view. It provided a great history on the real beginnings of women in rock starting with the women gospel and juke joint singers, relating histories of women like Big Mama Thorton who came from poverty and surmounting great odds took their shows on the road, providing themselves a means to survive other than domestic servitude or field hand wages. This, in part, answered my question of why women choose rock music as a means of livelihood, it was because they had, in some cases, limited options. Taking a show on the road didnt require a college education or influential family or back ground, it just required natural born talent and a calling to sing. Women were also allowed to be part of the rock music culture more so than in some other fields, in that the culture was based on non-conformity and filled with, what many would see as, societies out-casts and liberals. The Rock culture was a perfect breeding ground for women with natural talent and abilities to flourish in.
This issue of Rolling Stone magazine also brought home the point that women now dominate the music scene, and in large part it is because they are finally getting contracts and being promoted by the record companies, and thus, receiving airplay on the radio. Women rockers were probably always out there in large numbers but never got a chance to be heard, so we never knew about them. Once a few women began making big money and selling out big ticket venues for the records companies, more were given a chance and signed up for contracts. It was the money momentum that drove the machine that now is dominated by women. People like Sheryl Crow, multi-grammy winner, still worry that its a passing fad and veteran, hard rocker Patti Smith refused to be interviewed for an issue on women in rock, feeling it genderized her music, resisting the label of women in rock and just wanting to be evaluated on her own merits as a rocker with out it being "woman"rocker.
The main thread that ran through all the interviews, when the women were asked why they did what they did for a living, was that they had to, there was no choice, it was a calling and obsession and they were driven to play music, write or sing...something inside that had to be heard and shared. The theme of the issue seemed to be the quote one writer mentioned of "gotta sing" "gotta go". The music was also a way out, be that poverty, boredom, or a "going-nowhere-fast" kind of life. As with early blues ladies, it was a ticket to ride on to something better when the options for women were sparse.
Harris, Beth. "Lauryn Hill Seeks Record 10 Grammys". LA Times 24 February 1999.
This article was about Lauryn Hill breaking the record for women by winning 5 grammy awards. More importantly the article went on to discuss how women have dominated the Grammy Awards for the past few years with the culmination this year of Best Album of the Year being all women nominees. This reinforces my point that women have come to a very special place today in music and rock from their beginnings as cute sex symbols who sing, to competent musicians and writers who are recognized for their achievements. These women are becoming the role models for a whole new generation of women rockers. Suddenly its common place to think of women and rock and roll at the same time. Beth Harris who wrote the article writes for Associated Press and her articles are picked up many major and minor newspapers, in this case appearing in the prestigious LA Times.
In conclusion it seems obvious that there were always many talented women that no one ever heard of because we only hear who the record companies choose to promote and give contracts to. If it were not for a few women who proved they could be popular and make money for the companies we would still be listening to music that didnt always speak to the feelings of a woman. What really sticks in my mind are the quotes from the interviews in the Rolling Stone Magazine, one from Tori Amos being told by the record companies that she could never "make it" because there was already one alternative woman rocker on the radio (as though the interest was so limited there was only room for one woman to be popular), and that Sara MacLaughin wasnt allowed to tour with another woman as her "warm up" band because people wouldnt want to come to see two women at one show. Sara MacLaughlin went on to start the Lilith Fair in response to an industry that had summer festivals that were all male, and tended to be hard rock. Both years the Lilith Fair outgrossed all other summer festivals. This is so significant in that it proves to the people in power that there is an audience they have neglected and that equates to ticket sold and money made. The thing I really noticed while at the Lilith Fair was how many women my age (40s) were there with their daughters and girl friends. Women are a whole huge market just waiting to be tapped and the clout of women has been underestimated in the market place.
Possibly women have been stereo-typed as being family and home oriented, and the thought they might spend money and time going to a concert or buying music that speaks to them has been an oversight by the male dominated record companies. Only now are some marketing people realizing that with the womans place moving out of the home that they have money and their own unique interests that they want to follow, and they have been overlooked in the past, and in some cases, as is now happening in the music industry, that need and interest is being recognized. It proves that if you give someone something they can relate to they will support it and pay for it, and women being invisible in the market place (besides laundry commercials) may slowly be coming a thing of the past.
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Michelle Wallace WS 102, Winter 1999
WS 102, Prof. Agatucci
11 March 1999
I became interested in the evolution and definitions of sexuality only a couple weeks ago, at the closing of our Women and Gender Studies Winter term course. Since this was just an introductory course into an intense and insightful realm of studies, we were unable to explore deeply into the crevices of gender and sexuality. I became especially interested in this aspect of study, as a result of learning about the history of brilliant women across cultures and time, and how they were shaped into who we are today. It amazes me that the achievements of women have been oppressed since the beginning of time, and yet it is not just their literary or artistic achievements that have been under-represented and compromised within society, but also their sexuality. Again, this is not just an issue that is restricted to women, but men and women as a whole, and the idea that history has left her mark in our conscious throughout every aspect of life.
I found so much information on this broad subject and realized that this particular aspect of Women and Gender studies is highly debated and even more opinionated. I have tried to remain as neutral yet inquisitive as possible when asking the following questions which I will later, through my resources, attempt to answer. Is our westernized culture intimidated and confined within our sexuality thus causing a further gap of understanding across gender roles? Does our society need to be more open about our sexuality, less restrictive of gender-specifics, and more willing and accepting to cross those gender lines? Is homosexuality and bisexuality "normal" in terms of curiosity, but our culture places such emphasis on conversion and normality (heterosexuals) that these chosen alternative roles are even more appealing? (Such as Eve eating the apple concept). Is homosexuality and bisexuality a martyr of society in terms of expression of ones sexuality? How much has history affected our approval and disapproval of open sexuality, and why is this "hush-hush" still so prevalent in society today?
Karlen, Arno. Sexuality and HomoSexuality: A New View. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc, 1971.
Arno Karlens book is extremely insightful and captivating in terms of painting a realistic picture of historical sexuality and modern sexuality built upon the premise of what is and is not acceptable societally. Be prepared to question his sources and interviews, while at the same time, question your own sources and information that youve acquired throughout your sexual lifetime. I think that Arno has a deep understanding of the evolution of sexuality both from the oppressed and expressed viewpoint, and helps give a broader understanding of societal influence upon sexually determined gender roles. Arno pointed out that history has influenced our views on sexuality since the beginning of time. His chapter "The Myth of Patriarchs" is extremely informative, where he explains how far back homosexuality and bisexuality has evolved from. In Karlens chapter "The Christian Bedrock", he really hammers the idea in, how Christianity has influenced our definitions of what is normal and acceptable in terms of sexuality. Women were depicted as evil and savage beasts, mere troublemakers compared to their more saintly compliment of humanity, man. "As late as 858 it was seriously debated whether women had souls." pp. 71. In the same chapter, Arno has an interview with a Methodist minister, Father Ted Mcilvenna, who is co-founder of the National Sex and Drug forum and works with homosexuals, homosexual prostitutes and drug users at the Glide Urban Center, a private Methodist foundation in San Francisco. Father Teds main concern is allowing people, both the professionals such as physicians, educators, and psychiatrists, as well as the non-professionals, to confront each other so that they can experience each other as human beings.
"Its our job in the church to set people free. I shudder when I think of people going to most clergymen and psychiatrists with problems such as homosexuality. Theyre branded, because homosexuality is a scapegoat for societys sex problems. When we see someone doing something more, sexually, than what were doing, we scapegoat him-the fairies on Market Street, the bulldykes, they carry societys guilt. Id like to demythologize and radically humanize sexuality" (83).
Witt, Susan D. "Parental Influence on Childrens Socializaton to Gender Roles." Adolescence 32.125 (Summer
This particular article was extremely interesting in helping me realize the cultural forces that influence gender role, therefore having influence on our sexual identity. Specifically, this article centered on the parental influence of a child through their developing years and how this influence affects their beliefs about gender. Susan explains how difficult it is to raise a child without forming some type of gender bias or stereotypes. This self-concept is strengthened through housekeeping activities for girls and sports activities and playing with trucks for boys. It is found that most parents push these gender-stereotyped activities onto their children at a very early age, thus these parents are ultimately sex-typing their children. This article gave a very nice insight into how child rearing is really influenced by gender-specific role modeling, and really opened a door for my topic on defining ones sexual identity in accord with their expected gender role. I would like to follow up on Witts statement "the impact of parental influence on gender role development leads to the suggestion that an androgynous gender role orientation may be more beneficial to children than strict adherence to traditional gender roles." Perhaps rather than influence a childs gender identity role with dresses, dolls, toy trucks, and footballs, the parents might want to consider providing a neutral background for the child in terms of toys and clothing. Rather than being so gender-specific in choosing what the child should play with, we can prevent the child from forming such exclusive thoughts and quite possibly limit the child to one way of conceptualizing their gender and sexual identity. It seems that the more we try to push our children into believing that "girls act like girls" and "boys act like boys", the more these children dont believe us, and chose to express themselves in a rebellious act against their gender chosen role, i.e. a tomboy. I would like to further express my opinion that the more we encourage our children that the ultimate masculinity and femininity is ideal, we are putting limits on their ability to deal with and accept people on a cross-gender level.
SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States). "Ask NOAH About: Sexuality:
Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Sexual Orientation and Identity." NOAH: New York Online
Access to Health (City University of New York, Metropolitan New York Library Council, New
York Academy of Medicine, and New York Public Library), no date.
<http://www.noah.cuny.edu/sexuality/siecus/fact3.html> [Feb 1999].
This particular website briefly touched upon the definitions of sexuality and sexual identity, characteristics of sexual orientation and an overview of heterosexual, lesbians, and gays in the military. I found it very interesting that the people involved in writing up this piece for NOAHs website, stated that "neither the term heterosexuality nor the term homosexuality existed before 1890." This further backs my studies that sexuality has been long debated since the beginning of civilization, and only in recent years (if you consider 109 years recent, which I do), has there ever been specific definitions for a persons sexual identity. This particular fact sheet/website was constructed by SIECUS, in order to provide intelligent and resourceful information to the public regarding sexual identity. "Recent public debates on homosexuality have been distorted by homophobia, misinformation, and stereotypes about sexual orientation and identity." It was extremely refreshing and discerning to check out this website that was clearly constructed to inform in an unbiased and intelligent fashion. I found it particularly interesting that "no single scientific theory about what causes sexual orientation has been suitably substantiated." Throughout my studies of sexual identity and gender stereotyping, I have found that there are many "intelligent" people, including physicians that want to debate the genetic and hormonal factors regarding sexual orientation. So when I found that such studies so far have been inconclusive, I was pleased to see that this issue is still being investigated and tested. Another interesting tidbit I found in this fact sheet was "seven states have laws banning the practice of certain sexual acts between adults of the same gender." (6) Sixteen other states plus the District of Columbia have laws banning the practice of certain sexual acts by homosexual and heterosexual couples." (7) In my opinion these laws put restrictions and limits on a persons own right to sexual orientation, and furthermore increases the gap between sexual identity and orientation, and societal acceptance to ones sexual identity and orientation.
History has paved the road to our sexual acceptance and freedom with our sexuality. I believe there is a mass confusion of ones sexuality as a result of societal expectations of gender roles thus our proclamation of sexual identity. This is not only a result of the entertainment industry (television, advertising, etc.), but historically as far back as Greek civilization and the beginning of Christianity. People in our westernized culture have constantly lived in fear of sexuality. I truly believe in this fear, and whether we blame the church, television, parents, or quite possibly the homophobiacs, we still hold back our most thought provoking ideas on sexuality and acceptance of the ones who are uninhibited with their sexuality. I think that this fear has encompassed our society and crippled our ability to act out upon our immediate desires or willingness to accept other people and their diversity. I also hold in my humble opinion, that as long as we continue to cram gender-specific stereotypes and expectations down our children's throats, we will continue to assume their gender role (based upon constrictive stereotypes) for them as well limit their ability to accept anything uniquely different. Many people spend their whole lives escaping what they were flushed with as children. I believe that the way we introduce and instigate masculinity and femininity in society is so exclusive from each other, it is naturally impossible to compliment if not integrate the two together so that they may both be harmonious. I would like to think that courses such as Women and Gender Studies, helps us to understand the diversity of humanity and learn to accept these differences with a clear and open mind.
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