Boys & Girls: Gender Differences in Technology Usage
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A Feminist Biologist Discusses Gender Differences In …
Betty Friedan's (1963) well-known work is a case in point of white solipsism. Friedan saw domesticity as the main vehicle of gender oppression andcalled upon women in general to find jobs outside the home. But shefailed to realize that women from less privileged backgrounds, oftenpoor and non-white, already worked outside the home to support theirfamilies. Friedan's suggestion, then, was applicable only to aparticular sub-group of women (white middle-class Western housewives).But it was mistakenly taken to apply to all women's lives — amistake that was generated by Friedan's failure to takewomen's racial and class differences into account (hooks 2000,1–3).
Gender differences in suicide rates have been shown to be significant
For Butler, sexed bodies never exist outside social meanings and howwe understand gender shapes how we understand sex (1999, 139). Sexedbodies are not empty matter on which gender is constructed and sexcategories are not picked out on the basis of objective features ofthe world. Instead, our sexed bodies are themselves discursivelyconstructed: they are the way they are, at least to a substantialextent, because of what is attributed to sexed bodies and how they areclassified (for discursive construction, see Haslanger 1995, 99). Sex assignment (calling someone female or male) is normative (Butler 1993, 1). When thedoctor calls a newly born infant a girl or a boy, s/he is not making adescriptive claim, but a normative one. In fact, the doctor is performing an illocutionary speech act (see the entry on ). In effect, the doctor'sutterance makes infants into girls or boys. We, then, engage inactivities that make it seem as if sexes naturally come in two andthat being female or male is an objective feature of the world, ratherthan being a consequence of certain constitutive acts (that is, ratherthan being performative). And this is what Butler means in saying thatphysical bodies never exist outside cultural and social meanings, andthat sex is as socially constructed as gender. She does not deny thatphysical bodies exist. But, she takes our understanding of thisexistence to be a product of social conditioning: socialconditioning makes the existence of physical bodies intelligible to usby discursively constructing sexed bodies through certain constitutiveacts. (For a helpful introduction to Butler's views, see Salih2002.)
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