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Level 6

Chapter 6A: Sex & Gender

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Binary Logic
Are either/or structures, create a power structure - assumption of right or wrong, better or worse, clean or unclean
Nature/Nurture Debate
Looks at whether we acquire many of our traits through 'nature', which claims that our environment plays the largest factor on our development, or 'nurture’ which states family and society are biggest influence.
Nature Side of the Debate
An investigation of the biological basis of social behavior using evolutionary principles: your genetic make-up is what causes you to behave in a certain manner, rather than your upbringing or other outside elements; the idea that your genes/biological make-up is a key factor in your behavior.
Nurture Side of the Debate
We are enculturated and socialised since birth (and even in the womb): Behaviour is learned without even realising it.
Coming of Age in Samoa
By Margaret Mead (1928): Presented the Samoan society as characterized by a lack of conflict, neuroses, and difficult situations. The ethnographic case study of Samoa offered a clear example supporting the thesis that teenagers are psychologically healthier if they engage in sexual activities with multiple partners before marriage.
Feminism Perspective
Notes distinction between sex and gender
Universal, biological differences between males & females: nature, biology
Various social roles and identities attributed to individuals and groups on the basis of their biological sex: upbringing (nurture), culture
Are of South Asia – India, Pakistan, Bengal - Biological male who adopts a feminine gender identity: wears women's clothes and adopting other feminine gender roles - Hijras, in the main, are born with typically male physiology, only a few are born with male and female genitalia - Only small percentage of Hijras have genital modification to make them nirwaan or castrated (Statistics from Mumbai Health Organisation indicate less than 10%) - Term eunich is incorrect for Hijras as most are not castrated - Transgender is a term adopted by some Hijras (between or across gender)
Ardhanarishvara (Shiva-Parvati)
Half male, half female: Harmonised in the one body; Symbolic of both masculine & feminine
The Ramayana
Rama’s Journeys: As Rama sets out on his journey of exile his devotees follow him into the forest. Rama tells them not to mourn, and that all the "men and women" of his kingdom should return to their places in Ayodhya. Rama then leaves and has adventures for 14 years. When he returns to Ayodhya, he finds that the hijras - being neither men nor women - have not moved from the place where he gave his speech. For their devotion, Rama grants hijras the boon to confer blessings on people during auspicious ritual occasions like childbirth and weddings. This is the origin of badhai in which hijras sing, dance, and give blessings.
Hijra Geneaology
Becoming a hijra is a process of enculturation into a "hijra family" - A relationship of chela "student" to guru "teacher” - Leads to a gradual adoption of femininity - Mostly each guru lives with at least five chelas - A Chela will take the surname her guru and is considered part of her lineage (non-biological notion of genealogy) - Chelas are expected to give their income to their guru, who manages the household - Hijra families are close communities, they often have their own houses.
Hijra Cultural Roles
Hijras perform religious ceremonies at weddings and at the birth of male babies, involving music, singing, and sexually suggestive dancing to bring good luck and fertility. Hijras are most often uninvited, but the host usually pays the hijras a fee. - Believe that the newborn male baby will be blessed if exposed to the Hijra's manhood. Many fear the hijras’ curse if they are not appeased, bringing bad luck or infertility. Hijras are often encountered on streets, trains, and other public places demanding money from young men. If refused, the hijra will often embarrass the man into giving money, through obscene gestures, profane language, or sexual advances. Some work as prostitutes.