Sayegh notes Joan Scott, "Gender"



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****KEY POINT!!! This is a MAJOR MAJOR point for Scott's theory. We cannot claim that women's roles or men's roles have traditionally been what they are because of some innate biological function. We MUST break away from a biologically determined notion of what it means to be male (and what the male sex-role is) and what it means to be female (and what the female sex-role is). In fact, even the sex roles themselves are culturally constructed to a certain extent, because they imply that "normal" men have sex with women for the purpose of proceation, etc.

BUT, there are still some problems. She states that this describes what gender is, and has helped to create a new object of study. However, "gender seems no to apply and so continues to be irrelevant to the thinking of historians concerned with issue of politics and power. The effect is to endorse a certain functionalist view ultimately rooted in biology and to perpetuate the idea of separate spheres…in the writing of history. Although gender in this usage asserts that relationships between the sexes are social, it says nothing about why these relationships are constructed as they are, how they work, or how they change."



HUH??? Didn't the definition just suggest the historicity of this category? Why is she critiquing her own statements? What she's getting at is that while these definitions tell us something about what exactly gender MEANS, they don't get to the heart of how to analyse those meanings. Historians needed a way to get at using gender to explain not just a phenomena about the sexes, but how that phenomena was related to historical change. What we need is a reconciliation between history (praxis) and theory (33).

She then says we should take a look at the theories that have been used (some of them problematically, some of them so hidden in the historical work as to not be present at all). There are three theories that she wants to talk about: Patriarchy, Marxism and psychoanalysis (all of these should be familiar)

1. Patriarchy—the study of the historical subjection of women by men. For some feminists (p. 33), the key was linked to women's biological sex role. Subordination was based on linking women to having babies. For others, sexuality (we should totally know this term!) was the answer. Throughout history, women have been objectified—even in the very description of the heterosexual sex act—women are subordinate to men by a very MATERIAL thing, sex. According to Catherine MacKinnon as filtered by Joan Scott, "although sexual relations are defined…as social, there is nothing except the inherent inequality of the sexual relation itself to explain why the system of power operates as it does." Basically, everything is chalked up to inequality between the sexes—a material, and biologically determined, analysis

2. Marxism—while Scott says that Marxist feminists are more historical (hence her critique of the former), she still opines that they are wedded to a material understanding of the relations between the sexes. Despite the claim by theorists to deny a biological determinism (and other problems), "the search nonetheless for a materialist explanation that excludes natural physical differences" was proving hard to come by (35). There were some critiques within Marxism, but for Scott, the problem was just that…remaining within Marxism's fold. She states that "[Joan Kelly's] commitment to remain within a Marxist framework led her to emphasize the causal role of economic factors even in the determination of the gender system."






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