web site hit counter Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality

Availability: Ready to download

Why do some people prefer heterosexual love while others fancy the same sex? Is sexual identity biologically determined or a product of convention? In this brilliant and provocative book, the acclaimed author of Myths of Gender argues that even the most fundamental knowledge about sex is shaped by the culture in which scientific knowledge is produced.Drawing on astonishing Why do some people prefer heterosexual love while others fancy the same sex? Is sexual identity biologically determined or a product of convention? In this brilliant and provocative book, the acclaimed author of Myths of Gender argues that even the most fundamental knowledge about sex is shaped by the culture in which scientific knowledge is produced.Drawing on astonishing real-life cases and a probing analysis of centuries of scientific research, Fausto-Sterling demonstrates how scientists have historically politicized the body. In lively and impassioned prose, she breaks down three key dualisms - sex/gender, nature/nurture, and real/constructed - and asserts that individuals born as mixtures of male and female exist as one of five natural human variants and, as such, should not be forced to compromise their differences to fit a flawed societal definition of normality.


Compare

Why do some people prefer heterosexual love while others fancy the same sex? Is sexual identity biologically determined or a product of convention? In this brilliant and provocative book, the acclaimed author of Myths of Gender argues that even the most fundamental knowledge about sex is shaped by the culture in which scientific knowledge is produced.Drawing on astonishing Why do some people prefer heterosexual love while others fancy the same sex? Is sexual identity biologically determined or a product of convention? In this brilliant and provocative book, the acclaimed author of Myths of Gender argues that even the most fundamental knowledge about sex is shaped by the culture in which scientific knowledge is produced.Drawing on astonishing real-life cases and a probing analysis of centuries of scientific research, Fausto-Sterling demonstrates how scientists have historically politicized the body. In lively and impassioned prose, she breaks down three key dualisms - sex/gender, nature/nurture, and real/constructed - and asserts that individuals born as mixtures of male and female exist as one of five natural human variants and, as such, should not be forced to compromise their differences to fit a flawed societal definition of normality.

30 review for Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alok Vaid-Menon

    There’s a popular misconception that even though gender might be socially created, sex is fixed and firmly rooted in biology. This is not true. Biologist Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling reminds us: “labeling someone a man or a woman is a social decision. We may use scientific knowledge to help us make the decision, but only our beliefs about gender – not science – defines our sex” (3). The criteria we use to define and categorize sex is dependent on historical, cultural, and social decisions. The sex b There’s a popular misconception that even though gender might be socially created, sex is fixed and firmly rooted in biology. This is not true. Biologist Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling reminds us: “labeling someone a man or a woman is a social decision. We may use scientific knowledge to help us make the decision, but only our beliefs about gender – not science – defines our sex” (3). The criteria we use to define and categorize sex is dependent on historical, cultural, and social decisions. The sex binary – dividing billions of people into one of two opposite sexes – is a political choice, not a biological truth. Nature offers us more than two biological sexes. It’s Western society that denies this biological reality for the sake of control. The sex binary erases intersex people who are born with “anatomical components conventionally attributed to both males and females” (33). By the mid-20th century, scientists developed procedures to disappear intersex people in the name of “correcting nature’s mistakes” (39). Doctors like John Money began to label intersex children as possessing “gonadal anomalies” and “sex chromosome anomalies” to suggest that intersex children were “unusual in some aspect of their physiology, not that they constitute[d] a category other than male or female” (54). Non-consensual surgeries of intersex people are still practiced today. Sex is not a purely physical category. “Our bodies are too complex to provide clear-cut answers about sexual difference…what bodily signals and functions we define as male or female come already entangled in our ideas about gender” (5). In other words: cultural ideas of what a man or a woman should be dictate how we define and divide biological sex. In the early 1900s male critics argued that feminists advocating for women’s suffrage were “psychologically abnormal” “evolutionary throwbacks” that possessed the “feelings and desires of a man” (158). Policing women’s behavior by redefining women’s biology continued with the International Olympic Committee beginning to conduct chromosomal tests on women’s athletes out of fear that “women’s participation in sports threatened to turn them into manly creatures” (3). Challenging gender stereotypes is not about erasing biology. It’s actually about engaging biology and therefore refusing the false binary between nature and nurture. Our genocentric world that approaches “genes as a blueprint for development” (246) prevents us from considering other explanations for human behavior and physiology. Anatomy as well as “less visible physical connections among nerve cells, target organs, and the brain” are constantly changing, even into our adult years. Anatomical change “results when the body’s nervous system respond to, and incorporates, external messages and experiences” (250). Our bodies are dynamic systems that are constantly shifting over time based on exposure to environmental factors – including gender norms. Dr. Fausto-Sterling argues we should stop looking for “universal causes of sexual behavior and gender acquisition” and instead study the interaction between bodies and environments over time. How might genetic variability interact with environmental stimulus to produce anatomical difference” (149). For example we could investigate how cultural norms that specify that girls wear dresses but not boys “produce gender/sex differences in some types of motor skills” (274). We could understand gender “like nitrogen, oxygen, or carbon dioxide” as one of the “predominant atmospheric elements” that shape’s body and consciousness” (309). idea that gender/sex is an ongoing process of materialization embraces spectrum and complexity. That’s why it’s de-prioritized in a social world that requires fixed identity for “birth certificates, bathroom signs, government identity forms” (279). In recognition of biological sexual diversity, Dr. Fausto-Sterling imagines a medical science that doesn’t seek to coerce people into pre-determined categories, but rather one “placed at the service of gender variability” (101). This new “ethic of medical treatment” “permits ambiguity to thrive” (101) and moves away from sex stereotypes toward human specificity.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gabe Riggs

    Great book, as long as you know nothing about race and racism. I would suggest reading it alongside Mary K. Bloodsworth-Lugo's "In-between Bodies: Sexual Difference, Race and Sexuality," which does a much better job of racially contextualizing our notions of the sexed body. Fausto-Sterling writes in a racial void, missing a great deal of important information on the history of sex as a category of science and silently pedestalizing the white body at the center of her research. Another example of Great book, as long as you know nothing about race and racism. I would suggest reading it alongside Mary K. Bloodsworth-Lugo's "In-between Bodies: Sexual Difference, Race and Sexuality," which does a much better job of racially contextualizing our notions of the sexed body. Fausto-Sterling writes in a racial void, missing a great deal of important information on the history of sex as a category of science and silently pedestalizing the white body at the center of her research. Another example of gender and sexuality theorizing gone wrong due to a lack of a racialized lens.

  3. 5 out of 5

    C.D. Leavitt

    It's remarkable how quickly some things can become dated in eleven years (transsexuals have a website!), but the scientific history given here still holds. Fausto-Sterling gives a remarkably thorough look at how our current ideas about sex, gender, identity and orientation all came to exist. The most striking fact she illuminates is how as our ideas changed, so did the way these things presented themselves in society. There's something comforting about biological determinism, which is why people It's remarkable how quickly some things can become dated in eleven years (transsexuals have a website!), but the scientific history given here still holds. Fausto-Sterling gives a remarkably thorough look at how our current ideas about sex, gender, identity and orientation all came to exist. The most striking fact she illuminates is how as our ideas changed, so did the way these things presented themselves in society. There's something comforting about biological determinism, which is why people return to it again and again. The "born this way" mentality has deep roots in the human psyche, but Fausto-Sterling (a queer woman herself) offers a more complex vision. From the cellular level to the organism, to culture, to personal relationships and to personal history, we are defined. No single sphere of influence can truly be said to control everything and no sphere can operate in a vacuum. Though she doesn't make mention of epigenetics by name, the influence of history on our gene expression should make her point clear. This was one of the best books examining gender and science I've ever read and I tore through it quickly. If someone doesn't have at least a rough understanding of some of the science she dissects it may be dry, but I found it absolutely fascinating, particularly with the way she began each chapter with the story of a specific individual.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Professor Boyd-Kramer recommended this to me after the Lierre Keith transphobia fiasco at Lawrence. I wanted to dive deeper into feminist theories of gender and the biological background of sex and gender. The book started looking like it was going to scratch those itches, but in retrospect it was kind of disappointing. Sterling spends most of the book critiquing scientific investigations of gender from a biological perspective. For instance, chapters 2-4 cover intersexes (formerly known as herm Professor Boyd-Kramer recommended this to me after the Lierre Keith transphobia fiasco at Lawrence. I wanted to dive deeper into feminist theories of gender and the biological background of sex and gender. The book started looking like it was going to scratch those itches, but in retrospect it was kind of disappointing. Sterling spends most of the book critiquing scientific investigations of gender from a biological perspective. For instance, chapters 2-4 cover intersexes (formerly known as hermaphrodites) while chapters 6-8 cover "sex" hormones. The two parts are not very well connected - in the first, she is acting to display natural human genital variation and complexify the biological concept of sex, but also acting as an intersex advocate, while in the second she is doing a feminist critique of science with a side project of undermining a simplistic biochemical view of sex. In these histories, she makes a good point in an eminently clear way: these investigations were not carried out in a scientifically appropriate manner. Rather than seeking to describe the breadth of human anatomical and behavioral variation and get a handle on the forces that control their expression, they essentially took social ideas of gender for granted and asked how they were biologically determined. This mode of inquiry produced some good biological leads - we know a lot more about embryology and hormones and corpora callosa than we did when we started, certainly. But it is fundamentally biased towards results and interpretations that justify the prevailing ideology about gender, or at least fit into its terms. That is a good point, but it doesn't answer the question I asked. It's unclear if Sterling is suggesting that these biases have prevented good science from being done up to the present day. Perhaps that's her point, and the answer is that we don't have good answers to these questions yet and what we do know is too complicated to interpret clearly. Regardless, the book is not a good review of the state of science on gender and sex biology. When she's not critiquing the modes of thought that biased science for the past century, Sterling sort of develops her own alternative perspective. However, it's not done very specifically or very well. She makes a hand-wavey suggestion that we should treat the body and social ideas as a dynamic system, acknowledging that the body is plastic and can actually change in response to changes in gender politics and identity and expression in a really complex and interesting way. This is her way of refuting biological essentialism of any stripe and carving out intellectual space for investigations of historical gender that allow for the possibility that all cultures aren't just "working with the same fundamental stuff." Those are good and interesting ideas. They seem believable and suggest a whole set of research questions that will probably yield fascinating answers. But the expression of the position in the book is weak and bland, I thought. Sterling's science writing could use some work too. She explores a dizzying array of complicated hormone work and failed to make it comprehensible to me. It was usually unclear what exactly the scientist was doing and why, and what conclusions Sterling wanted us to draw from the story - beyond the basic "social belief systems weave themselves into the daily practice of science." The discussion of psychological gender and transgender people was almost an afterthought, a way to explore other concepts. There was one interesting point she made though: transgender people have literally been forced to express social gender norms to a greater degree than they would otherwise, or than they necessarily identify as, in order to convince medical practitioners they are "serious" and gain access to surgery and other care. Overall, it was somewhat interesting but not what I was looking for.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kupie

    This fascinating book explores the idea that sex (including gender roles and constructs) is not necessarily a cut-and-dry, two group system... (but you might want to skim the first and the last two chapters.) Consider the sex of each example (and therefore the marrying and political rights): -- an XY person who is androgen insensitive, looks physically/genitals feminine, undescended testes, raised female & wants to compete as a female in the Olympics -- a XX person with facial and body hair, a ph This fascinating book explores the idea that sex (including gender roles and constructs) is not necessarily a cut-and-dry, two group system... (but you might want to skim the first and the last two chapters.) Consider the sex of each example (and therefore the marrying and political rights): -- an XY person who is androgen insensitive, looks physically/genitals feminine, undescended testes, raised female & wants to compete as a female in the Olympics -- a XX person with facial and body hair, a phallus 5 cm long with a urethra (at age 21) and cyclic urethral bleeding, raised as a male -- an athletic looking young man with a functioning ovary in his left groin and an undescended testis on the right -- a child with a small penis/clitoris and divided scrotum (appears female) but during adolescence have their testes descend, and facial hair/penis grow What should be done when an infant has neither/both genitalia? Or when an otherwise healthy baby girl has large, masculine looking clitoris? Most surgery "fixing" intersex people has poor results (based on any measure except aesthetics). Without surgery, most intersex people grow up as happy, well adjusted people, often marrying and with good sex lives. Should transgender people be required to undergo surgery (possibly risky to their health, scarring, expensive, and with poor results) in order to legally change their gender? If not, should they be allowed to marry? Should the picture on your driver’s license/passport be a cultural match to your registered sex on that document (or can a man be pictured in make-up and long hair if this is how s/he normally dresses)? "... in 1601, a young soldier named Daniel Burghammer shocked his regiment when he gave birth to a healthy baby girl. After his alarmed wife called in his army captain, he confessed to being half male, half female. Christened as a male, he had served as a soldier for seven years while also practicing as a blacksmith.... Uncertain of what to do, the captain called in the Church authorities, who decided to co ahead and christen the baby, whom they named Elizabeth. After she was weaned -- Burghammer nursed the child with his female breast -- several towns competed for the right to adopt her. The Church declared the child's birth a miracle, but granted Burghammer's wife a divorce, suggesting that it found Burghammer's ability to give birth incompatible with role of husband." This book is filled with thought-provoking facts. It's sad that most of them never occured to me until I read this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Julie Winchester

    This book is so good - a historical and cultural consideration of how biological knowledge about sex and gender is produced as a social act as well as how biological "facts" are directly incorporated into our bodies via the cultures of medicine and psychology. Covering many avenues of biological research from studies of human intersex conditions to hormonal rat behavior, Fausto-Sterling makes the argument that many of the binaries we tend to apply to thinking about sex and gender, such as scienc This book is so good - a historical and cultural consideration of how biological knowledge about sex and gender is produced as a social act as well as how biological "facts" are directly incorporated into our bodies via the cultures of medicine and psychology. Covering many avenues of biological research from studies of human intersex conditions to hormonal rat behavior, Fausto-Sterling makes the argument that many of the binaries we tend to apply to thinking about sex and gender, such as science/society, nature/nurture, or even sex/gender, are fundamentally false and that the two partners in each dualism are indivisible, a Möbius strip of interconnectedness. Sex as we know it is a "social construction," that is, observations generated by scientists (who are social actors and whose research is affected by cultural notions) are packaged as sex knowledge in ways that jive with pre-existing social beliefs. What we perceive as an objective process is instead wobbly and subjective. On the negative side, the book is about 14 years old and some parts do feel dated. But on the whole, it's well argued and supported. I've found Fausto-Sterling's work rare and enjoyable, because it weighs heavily both on my scientific perspectives of my own research (despite my subject of interest having little to do with sex or gender!) and teaching, as well as my personal social views as a feminist. The last book I read that had similar reach was Jonathan Marks' Why I Am Not A Scientist, which I read years ago. In connecting these elements of thought, Sexing the Body has scratched an uncommon itch and I'll probably be thinking about it for a long time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Fear not, this is a dry academic book and the most lurid parts are probably the chapters describing the sexual behaviour of rats, complete with diagrams. Despite the in-depth ratology, Fausto-Sterling does a very good job of challenging the very notion of our underlying assumptions of sex and gender. She draws on centuries of research (only her references covered 200 pages) and presents a very good case for how the way we think of bodies, what is normal/abnormal and how our preconceived notions o Fear not, this is a dry academic book and the most lurid parts are probably the chapters describing the sexual behaviour of rats, complete with diagrams. Despite the in-depth ratology, Fausto-Sterling does a very good job of challenging the very notion of our underlying assumptions of sex and gender. She draws on centuries of research (only her references covered 200 pages) and presents a very good case for how the way we think of bodies, what is normal/abnormal and how our preconceived notions of gender influence the very research meant to uncover the truth about sex and gender. With a flawed starting position, then this will also affect the conclusions, which Fausto-Sterling manages to show with startling ease. The only thing that surprised me when reading this was why nobody had written this book before. Further, her chapters on intersex bodies are also of great import, since it shines the light on how gender is imposed upon biology, even if there is no reason for this "correction" from a health point of view. Together with Julia Serano's "Whipping Girl", "Sexing the Body" works as a harsh criticism of the very foundation of how we apply gender so rigidly, with and why the nature/nurture debate is a false debacle that should not have one single breath wasted on it ever again. Nature is variation, reality is complex. There is no simple scale with two ends points where either of them fit and it is useless to try, despite all the attempts to the contrary.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tani

    BEST BOOK...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Logan Isaac

    Fausto-Sterling, in her Sexing the Body (Basic, 2000), explores the trend, over time and across disciplines, of how sexuality and gender have been described and defined by socio-cultural processes. She argues convincingly that facts and nature are rarely, if ever, truly factual or natural. Instead, she claims, “What we call facts about the living world are not universal truths.” (7) She agrees with scholarship that suggests identity is embodied, “not individual and fixed, but irredeemably social Fausto-Sterling, in her Sexing the Body (Basic, 2000), explores the trend, over time and across disciplines, of how sexuality and gender have been described and defined by socio-cultural processes. She argues convincingly that facts and nature are rarely, if ever, truly factual or natural. Instead, she claims, “What we call facts about the living world are not universal truths.” (7) She agrees with scholarship that suggests identity is embodied, “not individual and fixed, but irredeemably social and processional.” (4) What is constructed becomes reality… As new technologies and categories and biological phenomenon are discovered and require description, the very act of describing enters a new ‘thing’ into existence; hence, “scientists create truths about reality.” (5) Varying disciplines have identified and regulated (created?) gender – from religion, to law, science, and (most recently) medicine. However, what we think of as gender has actually been different across time and culture, most often being related directly to male political privilege. These disciplines, instead of merely identifying or categorizing gender, have been used by the status quo to regulate gender and punish or ‘correct’ deviance from a “two-sex system.” Science especially “was used as a tool to obliterate precisely the wonders it illuminated” (37) with scientists defining “some bodies as better and more deserving of rights than others.” (39) Medicine takes a heavy beating in Fausto-Sterling’s critic, especially the practice of infant genital surgery, variously referred to also as “mutilation.” (79) Surgeries that “correct” biology, she claims, are actually motivated by social concerns, not “nature’s course,” as the language of doctors often suggests. She argues strongly in favor of discontinuing involuntary and unnecessary procedures that often are conducted without parental knowledge or consent. In her concluding chapter, Fausto-Sterling focuses again on processes as the fundamental character of gender identity formation, that (using the example of blind Braille readers) “the environment and the body co-produce behavior and that it is inappropriate to try to make one component prior to the other.” (241) This fits well with her overriding thesis that “the divide between nature and nurture is indivisible.” [I lost the citation, but credit is hers] The name she gives to this framework is described variously as a “Development [or Dynamic] Systems Theory” and a “Systems Account” (25, 238, 243, 249, 254, etc.) of gender identity. Obviously, a major theme of her work is that gender (and I kept reading into her claims ‘identity’ as well) is constructed over time and never totally crystallizes into one final and absolute form. Dynamic systems of physiology and environment co-produce the developing gendered person, even as society writ large suggests that gender is produced, perhaps at conception, by biological sex. I don’t know quite what to do with the (mildly amusing) contradiction to her overall claim, namely that if the construction is in fact of a two-sex system, then exactly how is it that these non-binary expressions emerge (if it’s a chicken that produces the egg, then where did this swan come from)? Maybe construction is not actually reality… Fausto-Sterling suggests that “cells and culture mutually construct each other,” (242) a theme of her work is that nature and nurture are inseparable. Breaking down this dichotomy is helpful and encouraging. However, if we are to “erode the distinctions between the physical and the social body” (20), where does that leave rights claims? Seemingly, one of the classic claims of early feminisms in the West was that women had more claim over their bodies than did political (often masculine) entities, if not an absolute claim; if we are to erode that physical/social distinction, would that not reinforce certain assumptions she is trying to dissolve? Fausto-Sterling should possibly describe in more detail the permeability of this distinction, and defend why some of the distinctions not remain in place. Finally, as a theology student with particular ethical commitments, I wonder how her use of the word “process” might interact with theological frameworks that share the same name that suggest ‘becoming’ should be privileged over ‘being.’ This might explain her aversion to notions of ‘essence’ and nature, but she does not clearly discredit that school of thought. Instead, she ostensibly suggests a fusion of nature/biology (essence) and nurture/culture (environment), though I am left wondering if in reality she holds more firmly to the latter than the former. After all, she spends little energy or ink to critiquing culture per se, instead focusing her energy on scientific and medical forms of gender essentialism. Questions; • How does DST fit with theological frameworks such as “Narrative/Post-Liberal” or “Process” (235) theological frameworks? • If culture is so formative and co-productive, how should that shape the ethics of mass media, television, advertising, etc.?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    Apparently being either a man or a woman is a lot more complicated than you might think - this book argues that social ideas about gender have a strong influence on what we consider to be the relatively uncontroversial realm of biological sex. Looking at, among other things, how hormones have been gendered, the problems posed to binary sex categories by intersex people and the ways scientists have looked for sexual difference in brain structure, the author argues for a more nuanced understanding Apparently being either a man or a woman is a lot more complicated than you might think - this book argues that social ideas about gender have a strong influence on what we consider to be the relatively uncontroversial realm of biological sex. Looking at, among other things, how hormones have been gendered, the problems posed to binary sex categories by intersex people and the ways scientists have looked for sexual difference in brain structure, the author argues for a more nuanced understanding of how nature and environment interact, with particular implications for our ideas about the flexibility of gender identity and sexuality. Fascinating and quite easy to read though I did find myself losing interest a bit when she went into lots of detail about rats. Though she had an eye to the bigger picture looking at how and why scientists did what they did and how the work and findings were considered relevant or not to humans, I was still a bit bored during that chapter.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Quin Rich

    Good feminist critical appraisal of mainstream biological accounts of gender/sex/sexuality. Fausto-Sterling is an icon in this field, and this work clearly demonstrates why. That said, I was still somewhat underwhelmed by this text. If you're looking for an introduction to feminist biology that is heavily footnoted for further reading, you'll find it here. However, this text didn't go as deep as I was hoping for. Some more significant limitations were a general lack of discussion of transgender a Good feminist critical appraisal of mainstream biological accounts of gender/sex/sexuality. Fausto-Sterling is an icon in this field, and this work clearly demonstrates why. That said, I was still somewhat underwhelmed by this text. If you're looking for an introduction to feminist biology that is heavily footnoted for further reading, you'll find it here. However, this text didn't go as deep as I was hoping for. Some more significant limitations were a general lack of discussion of transgender and non-binary people (trans* folks get a few brief mentions but are never treated in depth) and a failure to account for the role that race played/plays in constructions of accounts of sexual difference. I read this in tandem with Thomas Lacquer's "Making Sex," which was a great complement to this text. However, neither work seriously addressed race. I plan to read "The Specter of Sex" next to attempt to remedy this gap; it may be of interest to others for similar reasons.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hellen

    "The feminist theorist Donna Haraway has written that biology is politics by other means. This book provides an extended argument for the truth of that claim. We will, I am sure, continue to fight our politics through arguments about biology. I want us never, in the process, to lose sight of the fact that our debates about the body's biology are always simultaneously moral, ethical, and political debates about social and political equality and the possibilities for change. Nothing less is at sta "The feminist theorist Donna Haraway has written that biology is politics by other means. This book provides an extended argument for the truth of that claim. We will, I am sure, continue to fight our politics through arguments about biology. I want us never, in the process, to lose sight of the fact that our debates about the body's biology are always simultaneously moral, ethical, and political debates about social and political equality and the possibilities for change. Nothing less is at stake."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    While I've read excerpts of this canonical work mainly through other works, I have never sat down and read it thru. I'm of the nature & nurture school myself, being bisexual and gender nonbinary, so her history of the study of gender and sexuality proving it's mismeasure by man (lots of male mansplaining scientists actually) was fulfilling as a fight song at the gender pep rally. A lot of that history is also pretty dirty, especially in the ways people with intersex conditions were mistreated, u While I've read excerpts of this canonical work mainly through other works, I have never sat down and read it thru. I'm of the nature & nurture school myself, being bisexual and gender nonbinary, so her history of the study of gender and sexuality proving it's mismeasure by man (lots of male mansplaining scientists actually) was fulfilling as a fight song at the gender pep rally. A lot of that history is also pretty dirty, especially in the ways people with intersex conditions were mistreated, used for "study", and harmed through misgendering.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Libby T

    INCREDIBLE BOOK! Possibly the best reason I went back to grad school. Fausto-Sterling takes a critical look at how science and scientific "fact" is socially constructed, and applies this argument to the narrow understanding of sex and gender by the medical community. A biologist and sexuality theorist, Fausto-Sterling brings together excellent insight into the much-too-easily accepted two-gender system, and breaks down intersexuality in a fascinating way. INCREDIBLE BOOK! Possibly the best reason I went back to grad school. Fausto-Sterling takes a critical look at how science and scientific "fact" is socially constructed, and applies this argument to the narrow understanding of sex and gender by the medical community. A biologist and sexuality theorist, Fausto-Sterling brings together excellent insight into the much-too-easily accepted two-gender system, and breaks down intersexuality in a fascinating way.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Olga

    This is one of the best books I have read on development and gender theory. The authors makes a big effort to cater the layperson and the scientists and she does a great job. She keeps the main text with an clean prose and leaves the more sophisticated information for the notes. Also, she has great metaphors that let you visualize several key concepts on dynamical systems. Most probably, I will revisit this book over and over. Every person interested on gender studies should read it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Zawn V

    Sometimes I have dreams where Anne Fausto-Sterling is my best friend and we sit around and avoid being gender normative and laugh at the rest of society. And then I wake up to a world where things are, shall we say, not like that. Nevertheless, Anne Fausto-Sterling's existence makes it all a bit better. Sometimes I have dreams where Anne Fausto-Sterling is my best friend and we sit around and avoid being gender normative and laugh at the rest of society. And then I wake up to a world where things are, shall we say, not like that. Nevertheless, Anne Fausto-Sterling's existence makes it all a bit better.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    So much new info in here, with truly disruptive thoughts - especially the part about intersexuality was amazing. The second half gets a bit too much into details and therefore is quite difficult to read, but overall, it's been great and provides good ammo against people claiming gender expression is solely "natural". So much new info in here, with truly disruptive thoughts - especially the part about intersexuality was amazing. The second half gets a bit too much into details and therefore is quite difficult to read, but overall, it's been great and provides good ammo against people claiming gender expression is solely "natural".

  18. 4 out of 5

    Benedict

    Fausto Sterling reconsiders what it means to be man or woman, and along the way exposes why the science backing up traditional definitions may not have such a strong leg to stand on.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bryn

    Putting the nature vs. nurture debate to bed once and for all

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anna Goldberg

    This was an *exhaustive* overview of the intersection between biological, social, and cultural constructions of gender. It was very thorough and well-researched, though the writing was dry at times. Written by a biologist, it nevertheless interrogates what we know to be “true” about the human body through a range of critical lenses.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Aryss

    I think that this book direly needs an update. It's important content, but I can't get behind going in on transsexuals, the use of racist terminology, or the view from being white. I think that this book direly needs an update. It's important content, but I can't get behind going in on transsexuals, the use of racist terminology, or the view from being white.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lobeck

    The first few chapters on intersexuality are very informative and really drive home the point that there is a lot of fuzzy area in what is generally believed to be a solid two sex system. The history of how medical science and law have handled this ambiguity (generally, not very well) is quite interesting. The chapter on the corpus callosum was also very informative and shows scientific studies with diverse results and cultural biases, again opposing a popular dichotomous notion: that the corpus The first few chapters on intersexuality are very informative and really drive home the point that there is a lot of fuzzy area in what is generally believed to be a solid two sex system. The history of how medical science and law have handled this ambiguity (generally, not very well) is quite interesting. The chapter on the corpus callosum was also very informative and shows scientific studies with diverse results and cultural biases, again opposing a popular dichotomous notion: that the corpus callosum is something easily generdered. In the chapters about hormones, though, her point becomes fuzzier. She spends a lot of time on history of society without an obvious reason until she finally begins to point out that all hormone research simply supported the researcher's original point of view, which was generally the prevailing belief at the time. Bottom line: we have a lot of blind spots, especially when it comes to how a society views/treats certain groups of people, so skepticism about scientific research is well-founded. In the end, this point was well-made too, but she took the long way around. Perhaps one of my favorite ideas in this book was an alternate view of femininity and masculinity (illustrated by graphs). The prevailing view is a linear model, where femininity and masculinity are mutually exclusive and as you move toward one, you move away from the other. The other view is illustrated by a graph with an x and y axis representing femininity and masculinity as traits that can vary independently of each other and are therefore not mutually exclusive; you can have a lot of both, a little of both, or any other combo.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gergely

    A thorough treatment of how the practices and practitioners of Science and Medicine (in the US and Europe) have used personal and sociocultural investments to shape research into and knowledge production about gender, sex, and sexuality, and how, in turn, the authoritative truth claims of Science and Medicine reinforce normative social and cultural understandings of the same. This book is quite interesting and is a worthwhile read, although it does take some persistence. An undergraduate-level fa A thorough treatment of how the practices and practitioners of Science and Medicine (in the US and Europe) have used personal and sociocultural investments to shape research into and knowledge production about gender, sex, and sexuality, and how, in turn, the authoritative truth claims of Science and Medicine reinforce normative social and cultural understandings of the same. This book is quite interesting and is a worthwhile read, although it does take some persistence. An undergraduate-level familiarity with molecular and evolutionary biology and genetics is kind of a pre-requisite to comprehend the details and detailed explanations found in this book. Moreover, Fausto-Sterling draws heavily on the work of Latour (particularly the actor-network theory laid out in Science In Action) and Haraway. Having read Science in Action recently, I felt Fausto-Sterling's book is an excellent practical application of the intellectual project proposed by Latour. Taken chapter by chapter, the book offers accounts of the scientific construction of knowledge about sex and sexuality that are both fascinating and deeply troubling. One must-read highlight is a treatment on the haphazard history of the discovery, classification, and persistent normalization of testosterone and estrogen as gendered "sex hormones." Another is a comprehensive treatment of the variability of human genitals and reproductive organs at birth, and an account of the disturbing but commonly accepted medical practices of normalizing these "anomalies" through aggressive drug regimens and surgeries which can only be described as genital mutilation.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Evin Hughes

    In my Writing the Body class, we discussed many wonderful things. The focus of our discussion was the idea of the enemy. As I understand it, human emotions are built off of a good/bad system from when we are infants. The “good feeling state” is a state of emotion that we fall into when we are happy, more or less. For example, if I get an A in my Advanced Creative Nonfiction class then I will be happy and in a good feeling state. The “bad feeling state” is just the opposite. For example, if I got In my Writing the Body class, we discussed many wonderful things. The focus of our discussion was the idea of the enemy. As I understand it, human emotions are built off of a good/bad system from when we are infants. The “good feeling state” is a state of emotion that we fall into when we are happy, more or less. For example, if I get an A in my Advanced Creative Nonfiction class then I will be happy and in a good feeling state. The “bad feeling state” is just the opposite. For example, if I got an F in my Advanced Creative Nonfiction class—impossible!—then I would definitely not be happy and therefore in a deep, deep bad feeling state. Furthermore, we place all those negative feelings from the bad feeling state on an object or objects, creating an enemy. In chapter five of Anne Fausto-Sterling’s “Sexing the Body,” Sterling writes, “some psychologists believe that men and women use their brains differently” Note that these are mainly male psychologists that are suggesting that men are inherently smarter than woman. However, the truth is that men, afraid of being called stupid themselves, something that would stir up feelings in that bad feeling state category, place their fear on woman by making such statements—making them enemies. Sterling adds, “If one buys this story…then one can argue that it makes no sense to develop a social policy calling for equal representation of men and women…” In this scenario, men has used a defense mechanism, to combat their fears, called projecting. Ask yourself—how does racism play into this? Sexism? What is Devil but an object of which we place all of our bad feeling states. God?

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tinea

    The strength of Sexing the Body was its author's interdisciplinary approach, based out of her experience as a queer feminist microbiologist. The book is first, I think, a commentary on the social and political nature of "science." It is also a history of how the establishment has created controlling definitions of gender and sexuality by sticking spectrums of genitals, chromosomes, hormones, and brain structures into narrow boxes that served some other purpose (like upholding patriarchy for exam The strength of Sexing the Body was its author's interdisciplinary approach, based out of her experience as a queer feminist microbiologist. The book is first, I think, a commentary on the social and political nature of "science." It is also a history of how the establishment has created controlling definitions of gender and sexuality by sticking spectrums of genitals, chromosomes, hormones, and brain structures into narrow boxes that served some other purpose (like upholding patriarchy for example). This book is way too heavy with academic jargon! The author attempts to make jokes and includes comic drawings, but they don't really help. The first few chapters on intersexuality were really helpful to me, and I recommend reading them (do it! this affects so many people!), but feel free to skip right to the conclusion after that. I thought the stuff in the middle was way too technical for the lay reader. This book includes a lot of data from animal testing, with no commentary on the exploitation of these animals, often for the purpose of further exploiting humans.

  26. 4 out of 5

    simon

    this book is really boring. but if you've never heard of intersexed anything ever, maybe you could skim it. i would just read the Intersexed Society of North America's (ISNA) web page instead. fausto-sterling shows us, and very well, that medical gender is constructed, that scientific knowing is premeditated by social precepts, and that the most accute way to show these truths is by looking at every single medical horror practiced on intersexed people in the name of upholding the sex binary. the this book is really boring. but if you've never heard of intersexed anything ever, maybe you could skim it. i would just read the Intersexed Society of North America's (ISNA) web page instead. fausto-sterling shows us, and very well, that medical gender is constructed, that scientific knowing is premeditated by social precepts, and that the most accute way to show these truths is by looking at every single medical horror practiced on intersexed people in the name of upholding the sex binary. the method is a mix between scientific study and investigative journalism, but she neglects to really talk to any intersexed people in the process. she tears apart these medical studies, but still has enough investment in "science" to not say we should completely revamp the way we look at bodies and medical intervention. and then she does this thing which unfortunately happens all over where she chastises transsexuals for upholding the gender binary while congradulating transgender people for breaking it down. for this, my entire class fired her.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kendra

    The last paragraph ends with a quote from Donna Haraway: "biology is politics by other means," and that serves as an excellent summary of the argument of the book. Fausto-Sterling recaps the scientific literature on sex difference, showing how our constructions of sex are just as tied to social notions of difference as our constructions of gender. If you want an in-depth scientific description of rat mating behavior to use to explain to someone that their notion of sexual behavior and sex differ The last paragraph ends with a quote from Donna Haraway: "biology is politics by other means," and that serves as an excellent summary of the argument of the book. Fausto-Sterling recaps the scientific literature on sex difference, showing how our constructions of sex are just as tied to social notions of difference as our constructions of gender. If you want an in-depth scientific description of rat mating behavior to use to explain to someone that their notion of sexual behavior and sex difference is as easy to complicate as their notion of gender, this is the book for you. (Seriously, though, the rat chapter is kind of boring.) I would recommend Sex/Gender by Fausto-Sterling as a better primer. This book is definitely for those who delight in the literature itself. Be warned: the book's discussion of trans people is super dated and can read either a bit naive or accidentally transphobic.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nitika Mummidivarapu

    The intellectual worlds of science and gender studies collide in this scholarly monograph. Fausto-Sterling goes as far as to question the moral qualms in defining gender and the degree to which knowledge is definite. In Sexing the Body, Anne Fausto-Sterling addresses multiple levels of issues in defining biological sex: genetics, anatomy, psychology, etc. These elements are appropriately addressed in a metaphor of the Russian doll, which is used to represent the interrelating factors and their i The intellectual worlds of science and gender studies collide in this scholarly monograph. Fausto-Sterling goes as far as to question the moral qualms in defining gender and the degree to which knowledge is definite. In Sexing the Body, Anne Fausto-Sterling addresses multiple levels of issues in defining biological sex: genetics, anatomy, psychology, etc. These elements are appropriately addressed in a metaphor of the Russian doll, which is used to represent the interrelating factors and their influences on the creation of a framework for gender. To conclude her book, Fausto-Sterling uses this metaphor to state that one must factor in all these elements in order to develop a complete understanding of gender and sex. Through this book, Anne Fausto- Sterling pushes her readers to be wary about scientific knowledge claims and to factor knowledge from other fields of study before coming to any conclusions.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Niamh Macey

    Extremely interesting insights into the way culture and science interconnects to the point where even the binary of biological sex (and other dualisms) can be shown to be somewhat of a "lie" as well as a fiercely protected aspect of life. It felt like Fausto-Sterling's conclusion didn't really...conclude, as such; the ending sort-of fizzled out. However, I largely enjoyed this book despite its reliance on scientific materials due to the relaxed writing style, and the use of illustrations did hel Extremely interesting insights into the way culture and science interconnects to the point where even the binary of biological sex (and other dualisms) can be shown to be somewhat of a "lie" as well as a fiercely protected aspect of life. It felt like Fausto-Sterling's conclusion didn't really...conclude, as such; the ending sort-of fizzled out. However, I largely enjoyed this book despite its reliance on scientific materials due to the relaxed writing style, and the use of illustrations did help make it seem less daunting as well. It's clearly well-researched, as more than half seems to be Notes at the back! A strongly-recommended read, particularly if you are interested in the ethics of the medical, psychological or sociological community with regards to experiments on sexuality and gender.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chelsey

    I read this entire book for my Psychology of Gender class. This book changed my perspective on sex, gender, sexual identity, gender identity, and just binaries of sex/gender/orientation as a whole. Anne Fausto-Sterling approached this topic in the best, most direct way possible. She illustrates all of her arguments with examples and sound logic. She presents completely novel concepts that I had never even considered. This book humbled me. I thought I knew quite a lot about feminism, gender, sex, I read this entire book for my Psychology of Gender class. This book changed my perspective on sex, gender, sexual identity, gender identity, and just binaries of sex/gender/orientation as a whole. Anne Fausto-Sterling approached this topic in the best, most direct way possible. She illustrates all of her arguments with examples and sound logic. She presents completely novel concepts that I had never even considered. This book humbled me. I thought I knew quite a lot about feminism, gender, sex, etc, but it turns out there is always more to know and room for thought. I now consider gender and sex completely differently than I did four months ago. I think anyone with an interest in sex, gender, identity, psychology, or just new ideas should read this book. If it doesn't change your perspective, it will at least challenge you and make you think a bit deeper about your own beliefs.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...