In the Realm of the Sexes

By Bronski, Michael | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), March 14, 2000 | Go to article overview

In the Realm of the Sexes


Bronski, Michael, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


In a bold new book, biologist Anne Fausto-Sterling challenges science on its prejudices about gender

We've come a long way from believing that sugar and spice, snails and puppy dog tails separate little girls from little boys. But according to Anne Fausto-Sterling--professor of biology at Brown University, historian of science, social theorist, and life partner of playwright Paula Vogel--we still have a long way to go.

In her just released Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the construction of Sexuality, Fausto-Sterling takes a long, hard look at how science, stuck in the mire of gender stereotypes, replicates these biases in its research. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde's famous maxim about truth: Science is never pure and rarely simple.

"Science can't be `pure,'" Fausto-Sterling declares. "It is a particular kind of cultural activity; it is not neutral. And I want to understand how the world we live in influences and becomes part of the science we do. Certainly history is filled with examples of women, people of color, and gay people losing out because of uncritically accepted `science.'"

Fausto-Sterling may have a world-class academic rep, but she emphatically does not live the ivorytower life. Outspoken and irreverent, she's an expert at generating controversy. Seven years ago she made headlines--and enemies--when she suggested in The New York Times, with some humor, that there are not, two sexes but five. "I was attacked by everyone from the conservative Catholic League, who took an ad out in the Times refuting me, to transsexual expert Dr. John Money," she remembers with a rueful laugh.

What started Fausto-Sterling on her quest for scientific honesty? "In the 1970s," she remembers, "I would be attending meetings where the issue of feminism would come up. And other scientists would say, `What about rats? We know male rats are more aggressive,' and I'd think, Well, what about rats? Do we really know this about male rats?" Fausto-Sterling analyzed rat behavioral studies and showed--surprise!--that scientists brought their own gender prejudices to the maze.

Since then Fausto-Sterling has brought a wide range of scientific studies under her intellectual microscope--genes, brain physiology, the history of "sex hormone" research--and detailed her findings in the now-classic 1986 book Myths of Gender. But her most recent work in Sexing the Body examines the incredible variations that exist in human biology life, and experience. Questioning the idea that there are two clearly defined sexes, Fausto-Sterling ponders the lives of intersexual people--formerly labeled hermaphrodites--born with amazing varieties of male and female chromosomal, hormonal, and, genital characteristics.

Shifting from science to activism once again, Fausto-Sterling strongly advocates--against now-accepted medical opinion--that children born with multiple or ambiguous genitals not be "assigned" to a "correct" gender through surgery. "This science is at such a rudimentary level that you don't go cutting things out until we know more about the bodies and lives of intersexed people," she says. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

In the Realm of the Sexes
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.