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This chapter has some interesting viewpoints on gender. It reaches into the unconscious to describe gender roles, and also looks at a significant relationship between language and gender. The first section of the chapter describes Freud’s views on gender. Freud developed the concept of the ‘Oedipus complex.’ Although there is clearly some logic behind it, the concept is extremely odd. In analysis of the Oedipus complex, some have reached the theory that the male “rejection of ‘femininity’ may go a long way to explain some of men’s mixture of longing for and fear of women and their need to dominate and control them” (T.G. 44). It is weird to me that gender roles and inequalities may originate from the male unconscious.
A common criticism, typically from women, on the Oedipal emphasis of the penis is that this is simply a defense of men. Critics argue that the “over-valuation of the penis was perhaps a defensive way of protecting himself from the anxieties about the authenticity of his own ‘masculinity’” (T.G. 51). Although the emphasis of the male perspective is slightly bothersome to me, it should be considered that this concept was introduced by a male who is unfamiliar with femininity and who is simply trying to make sense of the conditions of society.
The second section of the chapter discusses Lacan’s views. His major argument is that gender and language are linked, resulting from the need to ‘sex’ things. In opposition to other languages, the English language is not typically seen as associated with gender. Lacan’s theory goes far beyond the surface of language as he concludes “rational thinking and the subjectivity it creates through language are effectively phallic and therefore ‘masculine.’ The ‘feminine’ in language therefore becomes what is absent and lacking” (T.G. 51). This reminded me of the hierarchy we discussed at the beginning of the semester between opposites, such as the sun and the moon, light and dark, men and women, and other “opposites.” The sun is the source of light, while the moon is only a reflection of the sun’s light, lacking the ability to produce its own light. Light is a form of brightness, and dark is the lack thereof. In this sense, women lack the phallus and society becomes highly problematic as women enter culture as “an absence or a lack” (T.G. 53).
The next section has both an important point about family and emotions. The first, being that “parenting should be fully shared between men and women” (T.G. 58). This idea greatly appeals to me, as I believe the male role in parenting is equally important as the female role. However, there are some issues in this, such as the fact that women receive maternity leave, and therefore have more of an ability to spend time with the child. The second point is that women have more emotional connections than men. It is more socially acceptable for women to express their emotions than for men to. This is significant because typically, injustices for women are the ones emphasized and recognized. The issue with men being denied the privilege of expressing emotion is that “they may become contemptuous of those people, women, who can express emotional needs, as a way of denying their own” (T.G. 60). This is a good explanation of why women are accused for being irrational and emotional. In comparison to men, it may appear that women are more emotional; however, this would simply be due to the fact that men work to cover their emotions.
One of the first statements that really struck me was “we make our own gender, but we are not free to make it however we like” (Connell 74). The text accredits gender practice as the cause of this. My analysis is that society has a huge driving force on every individual’s development, and since gender is a great part of the individual, this is highly effected by the ideals of society.
The section then categorizes gender into four dimensions. The category of power largely discusses the injustice of gender practice. Men are considered the dominant sex class, and this concept is entirely derived from gender practice. Women are typically the gender subjected to rape as this is a means of men asserting their power over women. This disgusts me beyond belief… even just reading it and typing it. However, the fact that men pull this off does establish the idea that men are dominant and possess the control, while women are then perceived as weak. This is only further emphasized as women are also typically the victims of sexual and domestic abuse. Men use physical force to express their power over women. I truly question why people put up someone who consistently attempts to demonstrate their power over them. A valid explanation is that some who attempt to stop this, or speak out about it do not receive proper attention for it and never obtain true justice. The text provides an example of “a woman in Saudi Arabia who had been attacked and raped by a group of men; they were given light sentences, and she was sentenced to a gaol and whipping for having been alone with a man to whom she was not related. When she appealed against the men’s lenient sentences, her punishment was doubled.” (S.I.G. 77). This story is absolutely shocking, but it does support the aforementioned concept. There is a little hope provided in this section, however. The idea that gender roles are changing provides the chance for reform.
The next dimension of gender (production, consumption, and gendered accumulation) recognizes that there are certain roles that tend to be gender specific, however, those in charge of the domestic roles should not be scrutinized for focusing on such tasks. “Domestic ‘consumption’ requires work, just as much as factory-based ‘production does” (S.I.G. 80). Housewives do not sit around, so it is wrong to accuse them of being lazy and incapable of doing work. Following this dimension is emotional relations. This touches a lot on homosexuality. One of the points brought up in class was mentioned. The argument that homosexuality is biological is invalid, as no homosexual gene has ever been discovered. Furthermore, as expressed before, gender partially develops as a consequence of environment; so it amazes me how certain individuals and groups can have so much anger towards homosexuals. The abuse they inflict on homosexuals, simply because they are different, is horrific.
The final dimension (symbolism, culture, discourse) is the one I found most significant. These concepts are the ones that people tend to overlook when discussing gender, but possess great value. The discussion about context brought me back to the entire idea of understandings. For instance, the section explains “When an American football coach yells at his losing them that they are ‘a bunch of women’, he does not mean that they can now get pregnant” (S.I.G. 83). Although it is clear that he does not think they can get pregnant, this could have several implications depending on one’s understanding. The coach says this as an insult; however, depending on one’s understanding, this could be a compliment. There are plenty of women that could excel in football in my opinion. Any gendered statement can be left to interpretation.
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