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The Mind Has No Gender

Updated on June 24, 2018

In Londa Schiebinger’s writing, The Mind Has No Sex, she describes the role of women in science by specifically focusing on the advent of modernity during the eighteenth century. Her book somehow gives an insight on the issue of gender identity during this period. It is noted that women originally took part in science but their involvement in this field has diminished progressively. The paper, thus, aims to enlighten the readers by discussing the relationship that exists between gender and knowledge as a recurring issue in scientific history (Schiebinger 2). The mind is the same for both genders, thus, is a statement used to assert the fact that there should be equal contributions to scientific development. However, women are historically perceived as having contributed less towards science and technology in the past. The aim of this discourse is to dismiss the notion that gender is a notion created in the mind, as most people believe it is.

Women, at times, undermine their potentials when compared to men because of their physical attributes. However, this is wrong. Social categories have been in existence since time immemorial; one is stratified before they are even born. These are the sentiments of Monique Wittig. Known as a radical lesbian feminist, the writer of the book, The Straight Mind, elaborates that the category of women is not the only social classification in existence. To the author, women are further grouped as lesbians based on their sexual orientations. She argues that, according to the view of the society, lesbians are not women because they are seen as fugitives from the other groups of women (Harvey 11). In some instances, they are referred to as a representation of heterosexuality.

Considering the events of the 19th century as stated by Sarah Nicolazzo, there are four issues to ponder. First, not all the individuals who took part in these marriages considered anatomy as the true basis of gender. It is noted that some wives sometimes referred to their husbands as women as seen in the Female Husband stories. However, these women used a notion of the heterosexual marriage as a way of attaining social legitimacy as well as financial independence. In the modern world, this is a lesbian relationship. However, some wives of the female husbands viewed their partners as men. There is no evidence to suggest that all the American women during the nineteenth century believed that a particular anatomical arrangement was required for social maleness considerations (Hamilton 13). Making such assumptions would not be true for this discussion.

Similarly, some wives of the female husbands viewed their partners as different groups of people or gender category. In fact, this categorization is difficult to tap into the current vocabularies of gender. However, it is possible that in certain scenarios, female husbands never became intimate with their spouses. Nonetheless, there is no strong evidence to support this fact. On the other hand, some of the female husbands got intimate with their wives but lack of evidence also makes this theory lame (Hamilton 13).

Still, on the matter of sexuality, it is not known to many people that heterosexuality was a term that was coined in the days gone by. In fact, Michael Foucault argues that the concept was invented as late as the nineteenth century. This does not mean that before people used to have sex randomly. Instead, it means that the categorization of sex life as heterosexual and homosexual was created to make degenerative sexual behavior appear worse against the normal practices. Coming up with such terms was a way of making people with homosexual behaviors appear as outcasts in the society (Lanser 13).

Another scholar who came up with issues concerning sex was Judith Butler who once stated that gender is not real because its performance lacks originality. She termed this as the heterosexual matrix where she asserted that sex and gender are both socially constructed issues. The art of drags confirms this notion because gender can be seen as an unstable category that does not have any origin or even philosophical bases.

The issue of gender, for a long time, has been termed as a personal problem that affects mainly women. However, Carol Hanisch considers these sentiments wrong because she feels that any personal problem often grows to become political. In her essay dubbed The Personal Is Political, she asserts that personal challenges normally grow into political problems. Her essay that was written during the 1960s was meant to dispute the fact that women’s therapy was carried out to raise consciousness rather than being a political action. During the liberation movements spearheaded by women, these people often met in groups to deal with their oppression (Trumbach 33). Because women joined forces to fight this kind of inequality, Hanisch feels that it qualifies the personal problems that were affecting women to be viewed as political.

On the same issue, it could be stated that class, gender, race, and sexuality are inseparable. In the world where people live, categories of identity have social constructions but that does not mean that people stop caring about such issues. However, nobody can be just one thing. For instance, when somebody is classified as a white male, his race and gender have already been stated even though one cannot tell his class and sexuality. The basic idea learned from this is that identity categories depend on each other. Once people talk about one issue, the others come up naturally because of their connections. When talking about the legitimacy of affirmative action, it is normally stated that people should have the class-based assenting action which means that special preferences should not be made when a person’s gender or race is quoted. However, this is not true, when people talk about a black woman. It would be assumed that she is also a heterosexual as well as being poor. These are notions people have because the black race is often considered inferior to the white race, thus, there are higher chances of a black woman being poor than rich (Richardson and Monro 42). Moreover, most black cultures do not allow the practice of homosexuality. Therefore, it would be safe to assume that any stated black woman is a heterosexual. For this reason, it can be deduced that the four social issues are naturally related.

When it is stated that the mind has no gender, it is clear to say that people are free to become what they want to be if they have the determination to achieve such things. The issue of the mind having gender was a notion created by early male scholars to dwarf the development of women, particularly on the technical subjects. The issue, which began almost five centuries ago still, affects most women in the society until today. Currently, no constraints prohibit women from pursuing courses of their dream. However, statistics reveal that the female fraternity is still underrepresented in the technical subjects. Notably, the issue is created by stereotyping. The majority of women believe that they are not good enough to perform certain tasks in society because such are only better suited to males (Birke 136). This has greatly hindered their development over the years.

Today, the question of gender identity is nothing new because it started in the era of the popular culture. Since in the past these people were not allowed to express their genders because it was viewed as a social mishap, they had to devise ways in which to coexist peacefully with others in society. Currently, things such as female husbands do not exist because of the freedom that has been offered on the gender identity. People can become what they wish to be so long as they feel comfortable. The society does not really seem to care much about one’s gender identity as it almost three centuries ago.

Works Cited

Abelove, Henry. "Some Speculations on the History of Sexual Intercourse during the Long Eighteenth Century in England." Genders, Volume 6, Issue 1 (1989): 125-300. Birke, Lynda. "Gender in science." Science as Culture, Volume 4, Issue 1 (1993): 134-141.

Findlen, Paula, Wendy Wassyng Roworth and Catherine M. Sama. Italy's Eighteenth Century: Gender and Culture in the Age of the Grand Tour. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009. Print.

HAMILTON, Mary. The Female Husband: Or, the Surprising History of Mrs. Mary, Alias Mr. George Hamilton, who was Convicted of Having Married a Young Woman of Wells, Etc. [By Henry Fielding?]. London: M. Cooper, 1746. Print.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Harvey, Karen. Reading Sex in the Eighteenth Century: Bodies and Gender in English Erotic Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Print.

Lanser, Susan S. The Sexuality of History: Modernity and the Sapphic, 1565-1830. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. Print.

Richardson, Diane and Surya Monro. Sexuality, Equality and Diversity. Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print.

Schiebinger, Londa. The Mind Has No Sex?: Women in the Origins of Modern Science. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991. Print.

Trumbach, Randolph. Sex and the Gender Revolution, Volume 1: Heterosexuality and the Third Gender in Enlightenment London. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. Print.


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