Sunday, April 13, 2008

Nature, Culture, & Desire

Articles From NIKK Magasin:

New Perceptions of Gender and Reproduction

This article, written be Merete Lie, deals with the issues revolving around the many new "biotechnologies" being used to assist people with either gender or reproduction "dysfunctions" and possible influences of nature and or culture that play a part in these "biotechnologies". More and more couples are in need of "artificial reproductive technologies" or as it is currently being called "assisted reproductive technologies" because they are having fertility trouble. Why are more and more couples having trouble? Because they push pregnancy/conception later in life in order to get a steady foundation in order to raise a child. More and more women want to start a career first and think about children later but this consequently causes biological problems. The need for reproductive assistance is becoming much more common so much that our society is changing the language to make it more socially acceptable to receive "artificial assistance" to promote pregnancy.

Because of this shift in reproduction, many are even considering changing the definition of what human conception is in order to make it appear more "normal" and acceptable. (6) Lie explains that before these reproductive technologies became popular it was consider very unnatual and almost looked down upon. But now it is more being definded as a "re-naturalization" rather than a "de-natrualization". (4) These technologies help by making the "dysfunctional" bodies with biological problems do what it is naturally supposed to do, therefore justifying that it is natural. I can see how making this reproductive process more socially acceptable is good as a whole but I also think this is a very common thing to happen in our society. We make our medical practices fit our current standards of good, ethical, and normal in order to justify them.

Ghost Hunt?: Understanding "Biology" in Gender Research

This article, by Tora Holmberg, describes the issues that arise under the the topic of gender research in terms of its relationship to the sciences, primarily biology. Often nature is left out of the picture or an after thought in the social sciences and conversely, culture is often an after thought throughout the world of natural sciences. Because of this preference toward one or the other, nature or culture, there is a great disparity and even animosity between gender research and biological research. These differences are heightened by gender researchers tendency toward the theory that bodies are "socially constructed" and that biology is historically gendered and patriarchal. (9) While this is true in many ways, what Holmberg wants to emphasize is the importance that biology can hold for gender researchers. And vice versa, the theories of gender researchers can be beneficial for biologists.

Holmberg, and other gender researchers, suggest there be a "third way" for discussing and researching human biology in order to better conceptualize gender and the body. It is important not to forget that the body and the "biological" is very important in terms of gender research. Holmberg states that in gender research the "biological" often disappears and that gives it its "ghost-like" qualities. I think Holmberg summed up her article very well in the end stating that it "may be useful to follow the ghost back to biology and make use of the insights of feminist biologists, medical gender researchers, feminist science scholars or other cross-border characters." (11)

Gendering Animals: Representation, identification and the demise of simplicity

This article, by Mans Andersson, was by far my favorite because it talked about animals (especially birds!!!) and how in the past there was a great deal of attention put on the action of the males and never much consideration of the females role in the reproduction and life itself. Firstly, science has ignored the importance of Darwin's theory of sexual selection until the 20th century, because this theory did not fit with the male dominant society. It seems that the information and research done on animals has been based off of our own societal beliefs of supposed human interactions. It was always assumed that only male animals were the competitive and aggressive ones. And if any female animals showed these more "masculine" characteristics they were either ignored or joked about as "PMS" or something to that degree.
It was believed for very long that males birds were the ones deciding on their mates but it turns out it's actually the females. This makes more sense especially when you look at the beautiful plumage of male birds. They are only more decorated in order to catch the eye of the female.

Also, any other species that did not fit our "human standard" in terms of sex was considered "outside the general logics of sex" (15) which again proves that we were defining the animal kingdom in terms of our own societal and biological beliefs. I think it is interesting how information and research that is collected can be manipulated in order to fit out human standards. No matter what we find, be it species with 15 different sexes or "mating-types" or female hyenas with penises, we can somehow ignore it or make it fit our perceptions of gender and sex. When really these "unusual" findings can be very helpful when talking about transgender or intersexed people, or any one else that doesn't fit our "standard."

One last article:

Birds Do It. Bees Do It. People Seek The Keys To It

This article from The New York Times by Natalie Angier, discusses the many complexities of human desire. We actually read this article for our class "It's About Sex: Gender & Sexuality" with Mary Titus...actually I think a guest speaker sent it to us to read before she came and talked to us about gender, etc. Anyway. This article talks about the research and surveying of many in the field of human sexuality in order to understand the concept of desire. This issue of Desire is so interesting to people because we all have different definitions of it and we all experience desire in different ways. What some researchers found is that our bodies are "primed for sex before the mind has had a moment to leer." Sexual desire and arousal isn't always a conscious act on our parts. We may be aroused at times and not even know it!! (I don't think I have this problem...)
The article goes on to describe the different brain activity that males and females experience when exposed to certain images. They found that men are either one or the other and only become physically aroused on concrete grounds. While women are more likely to be aroused by anything related to sex, even images of animals having sex. Another article that I read for the Gender & Sexuality class stated that women have no sexual orientation. This does not necessarily surprise me. I wonder how others feel about such a statement.

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