Women with Disabilities: Essays in Psychology, Culture, and Politics

By Michelle Fine; Adrienne Asch | Go to book overview

4. The Construction of Gender and Disability in Early Attachment

ADRIENNE HARRIS and DANA WIDEMAN

In the first moment of any infant's life, child and culture meet up in the matter of gender. The first social task of the surrounding adults, who up to this point have been engaged in the physical aspects of childbirth, is to deliver the child into the sex-gender system. What this means for a female infant is that from the first moments of life she is ushered into and assigned a place in a system of rules, roles, and meanings. This system is perhaps better thought of as a code with one overriding, relentless feature: a woman's position is denigrated, undervalued, and organized around absence and lack.

Infancy studies in child development give a good picture of the intricate and subtle patterns of interaction through which a gender position is communicated to children. Gender is really one of those powerful prisms through which we see and understand our children. There is a stunning example of this in a research study where half the participants were told that the 15-day-old infant seen on a videotape was male and the other half, that the child was female ( Condry and Condry 1976). Everyone was asked to rate this child on some simple physical parameters. How active, how irritable, how alert did they find this infant? What is striking is that, from the point of view of adults in our culture, gender assignments create major judgments of difference. The label of "boy" or "girl" applied to the same infant produced radically different behavioral ratings. There are different theories to account for how the child comes to understand and experience itself as a gendered person. It is a complex process, never mere passive conditioning, but we must start with an awareness of the power and presence of the sexgender system in the minds and behavior of parents and of the larger culture.

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Women with Disabilities: Essays in Psychology, Culture, and Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction: Beyond Pedestals 1
  • Notes 31
  • References 32
  • I: Bodies and Images 39
  • Notes 40
  • 1. on Embodiment: A Case Study of Congenital LImb Deficiency in American Culture 41
  • Notes 68
  • References 70
  • 2.Sex Roles and Culture: Social and Personal Reactions to Breast Cancer 72
  • Notes 85
  • 3. in Search of A Heroine: Images of Women with Disabilities in Fiction and Drama 90
  • References 110
  • Ii: Disabled Women in Relationships 111
  • Notes 112
  • 4. the Construction of Gender and Disability in Early Attachment 115
  • References 136
  • 5. Daughters with Disabilities: Defective Women Or Minority Women? 139
  • References 170
  • 6. Friendship and Fairness: How Disability Affects Friendship Between Women 172
  • Notes 192
  • References 192
  • 7. Disability and Ethnicity in Conflict: A Study in Transformation 195
  • Notes 213
  • 8. Never-Married Old Women and Disability: A Majority Experience 215
  • Note 224
  • References 224
  • Iii:Policy and Politics 227
  • 9. Women, Work, and Disability: Opportunities and Challenges 229
  • References 243
  • 10. Disabled Women and Public Policies for Income Support 245
  • References 267
  • 11. Autonomy as A Different Voice: Women, Disabilities, and Decisions 269
  • Notes 292
  • 12. Shared Dreams: A Left Perspective on Disability Rights and Reproductive Rights 297
  • Notes 305
  • 13. Smashing ICons: Disabled Women and the Disability and Women's Movements 306
  • Notes 329
  • References 331
  • Epilogue: Research and Politics to Come 333
  • Notes 336
  • About the Contributors and Index 337
  • About the Contributors 339
  • Index 343
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