Theorizing Feminism: Parallel Trends in the Humanities and Social Sciences

By Anne C. Herrmann; Abigail J. Stewart | Go to book overview

PART TWO
Sex, Sexuality, and Gender

The section "From Sex to Sexuality" reopens the question of the relationship between biology and the social construction of gender by considering the impact on the sex-gender system of surgical technologies in the United States and theatrical practices in Japan. Suzanne J. Kessler, an ethnomethodologist (Chapter 7), and Jennifer Robertson, a cultural anthropologist (Chapter 8), consider the constructedness of sex through medical intervention and the naturalness of playing male gender in Japan's all-female Takarazuka Revue. The first essay is about gender assignment when sex (i.e., the genitals) appears ambiguous at birth; the second is about the implications of "putting on" the other gender for the state regulation of female sexuality through theater for a mass audience. Kessler examines the case management of intersexed infants based on interviews with physicians; Robertson analyzes articles in the Japanese mass print media between 1900 and 1945 and from the 1960s onward.

As an ethnomethodologist, Kessler is interested in how physicians make the decisions that transform ambiguous genitals into irrevocable gender assignments and discovers that although medical specialists are claiming to discover an infant's "real" gender, they in fact are artificially producing it based on sex, specifically the size of the micropenis and its future potential to satisfy a (heterosexual) partner. Thus, instead of reducing the complexity of gender to two biological sexes, a two-gender culture is maintained by denying the complexity of biology.

Robertson, as historical anthropologist, is interested in the history of Japanese theater that in its incarnation as Kabuki and as the Takarazuka Revue beginning in 1913, makes no claims for masculinity and femininity as the province of male and female bodies. "Takarasiennes" are assigned "secondary genders" based on physical and sociopsychological characteristics (not genitals) in order to perform as men. The

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