Gender Studies

Gender Studies

Gender studies and psychoanalytic theory
 
Sigmund Freud
 
Some feminist critics have dismissed the work of Sigmund Freud as sexist, because of his view that women are 'mutilated and must learn to accept their lack of a penis' (in Freud's terms a "deformity"). On the other hand, feminist theorists such as Juliet Mitchell, Nancy Chodorow, Jessica Benjamin, Jane Gallop, Bracha Ettinger, Shoshana Felman, Griselda Pollock and Jane Flax have argued that psychoanalytic theory is vital to the feminist project and must, like other theoretical traditions, be adapted by women to free it from vestiges of sexism. Shulamith Firestone, in "The Dialectic of Sex" calls Freudianism the misguided feminism and discusses how Freudianism is almost completely accurate, with the exception of one crucial detail: everywhere that Freud writes "penis", the word should be replaced with "power".
 
Jacques Lacan
 
Lacan's theory of sexuation organizes femininity and masculinity according to different unconscious structures. Both male and female subjects participate in the "phallic" organization, and the feminine side of sexuation is "supplementary" and not opposite or complementary. Sexuation (sexual situation) — the development of gender-roles and role-play in childhood — breaks down concepts of gender identity as innate or biologically determined. Critics like Elizabeth Grosz accuse Jacques Lacan of maintaining a sexist tradition in psychoanalysis. Others, such as Judith Butler, Bracha Ettinger and Jane Gallop have used Lacanian work, though in a critical way, to develop gender theory.
 
Julia Kristeva
 
Julia Kristeva has significantly developed the field of semiotics. In her work on abjection, she structures subjectivity upon the abjection of the mother and argues that the way in which an individual excludes (or abjects) their mother as means of forming an identity is similar to the way in which societies are constructed. She contends that patriarchal cultures, like individuals, have to exclude the maternal and the feminine so that they can come into being.
 
Bracha Ettinger
 
Bracha Ettinger transformed subjectivity in contemporary psychoanalysis since the early 1990s with the Matrixial feminine-maternal and prematernal Eros of borderlinking (bordureliance), borderspacing (bordurespacement) and co-emergence. The matrixial feminine difference defines a particular gaze and it is a source for trans-subjectivity and transjectivity. in both males and females.
 
Mark Blechner
 
Mark Blechner expanded psychoanalytic views of sex and gender, calling psychoanalysis "the once and future queer science". He has argued that there is a "gender fetish" in western society, in which the gender of sexual partners is given enormously disproportionate attention over other factors involved in sexual attraction, such as age and social class. He proposes that the words "homosexuality" and "heterosexuality" be given prefixes, depending on the dimension that is the same or different between partners. "Age heterosexuality" would indicate an attraction between people of different ages, for example. What is conventionally called "heterosexuality" (attraction between a man and a woman) would be called "gender heterosexuality".
 
Cultures can have very different norms of maleness and masculinity. Blechner identifies the terror, in Western males, of penetration. Yet in many societies, being gay is defined only by being a male who lets himself be penetrated. Males who penetrate other males are considered masculine and not gay and are not the targets of prejudice. In other cultures, however, receptive fellatio is the norm for early adolescence and seen as a requirement for developing normal manliness.
 
Literary theory
 
Psychoanalytically oriented French feminism focused on visual and literary theory all along. Virginia Woolf's legacy as well as "Adrienne Rich's call for women's revisions of literary texts, and history as well, has galvanized a generation of feminist authors to reply with texts of their own". Griselda Pollock and other femininsts have articulated Myth and Poetry and literature, from the point of view of gender.
 
Post-modern influence
 
The emergence of post-feminism affected gender studies, causing a movement in theories identity away from the concept of fixed or essentialist gender identity, to post-modern fluid or multiple identities.
 
See Donna Haraway, The Cyborg Manifesto, as an example of post-identity feminism.
 
More recently, the relation between post-modernism or post-structuralism and masculinity has been considered. Masculinity can be taken as always in movement and never fixed or stable. See Reeser, Masculinities in Theory (2010) for a comprehensive overview of this approach.
 
The development of gender theory
 
History of gender studies
 
Women's studies
 
Women's studies is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning women, feminism, gender, and politics. It often includes feminist theory, women's history (e.g. a history of women's suffrage) and social history, women's fiction, women's health, feminist psychoanalysis and the feminist and gender studies-influenced practice of most of the humanities and social sciences.
 
Men's studies
 
Men's studies is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning men, masculism, gender, and politics. It often includes masculist theory, men's history and social history, men's fiction, men's health, masculist psychoanalysis and the masculist and gender studies-influenced practice of most of the humanities and social sciences. Key theoretical contributions reconciling the relationship between masculist/feminist interpretation of gender studies include Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men by Dr Warren Farrell and James Sterba, and Gendering, Courtship and Pay Equality by Dr Rory Ridley-Duff.
 
Judith Butler
 
The concept of gender performativity is at the core of Butler's work, notably in Gender Trouble. In Butler’s terms the performance of gender, sex, and sexuality is about power in society. She locates the construction of the "gendered, sexed, desiring subject" in "regulative discourses". A part of Butler's argument concerns the role of sex in the construction of "natural" or coherent gender and sexuality. In her account, gender and heterosexuality are constructed as natural because the opposition of the male and female sexes is perceived as natural in the social imaginary.
 
Responses
 
Historian and theorist Bryan Palmer argues that gender studies current reliance on poststructuralism — with its reification of discourse and avoidance of the structures of oppression and struggles of resistance — obscures the origins, meanings, and consequences of historical events and processes, and he seeks to counter the current gender studies with an argument for the necessity to analyze lived experience and the structures of subordination and power.
 
Pope Benedict XVI has denounced some of the gender theories, warning that they blur the distinction between male and female and could thus lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race.
 
Rosi Braidotti has criticized gender studies as: "the take-over of the feminist agenda by studies on masculinity, which results in transferring funding from feminist faculty positions to other kinds of positions. There have been cases...of positions advertised as 'gender studies' being given away to the 'bright boys'. Some of the competitive take-over has to do with gay studies. Of special significance in this discussion is the role of the mainstream publisher Routledge who, in our opinion, is responsible for promoting gender as a way of deradicalizing the feminist agenda, re-marketing masculinity and gay male identity instead." Calvin Thomas countered that, "as Joseph Allen Boone points out, 'many of the men in the academy who are feminism's most supportive 'allies' are gay,'" and that it is "disingenuous" to ignore the ways in which mainstream publishers such as Routledge have promoted feminist theorists.
  • Recommend Us