Developments In The Field Of Anthropology Regarding Gender

3688 words - 15 pages

Prior to my enrollment at the University of Manitoba I, like many other individuals, interpreted gender as a synonymous word to sex. This false interpretation stems from my upbringing in a French Catholic community where I was taught to interpret gender as a static and bounded binary concept with two fixed options: male or female. Consequently, I have yet begun to understand the multidimensional arrays of gender identity, gender expression, and gender roles. Non-binary gender expressions exist all over the world, and have been recorded throughout time by historians, sociologists, and anthropologist. Due to my lack of knowledge on the topic of gender I have decided to do a ...view middle of the document...

The feminist project intended to fill in the gaps in anthropological literature resulting from a male bias, a bias that stemmed from women being outnumbered in the field of anthropology as well as the tendency of researchers to depend on male informants during fieldwork.
In the early phases of the feminist project two large arguments quickly arose that intended to explain the positionality of female individuals in our society. While ‘‘one argument maintained that neither female oppression nor exclusive male power was universal, the other grew out of an assumption of universal male dominance and female subordination’’ (Pine 2000: 320). By perusing these hypotheses and spending a great deal of time investigating what women said and did feminists were able to reject the presumed idea that biology was a basis for sex role differentiation and suggested that human social life was determined by the gender of the individual. This new perspective on human differentiation allowed the early feminist to talk about difference without assuming universal dichotomies between male and female. In turn, researchers began to understand that an individual’s role in their community was far more complex than once presumed as gender roles were not fixed but rather socially constructed and monitored by one’s society through an individual’s personhood and kinship. This was a breakthrough moment. By the end of the 1980s feminists and many postmodern thinkers spent a great deal of time deconstructing difference and challenging western or monolithic assumptions about women and the experience of gender (Pine: 2000). Furthermore these researchers slowly incorporated men and masculinity in the study of gender. These changes in the field of anthropology permitted the development of new anthropological disciplines such as gender studies and sex and sexualities which are currently highly important and influential fields.
Given the complexity of gender it is important to understand the terminology associated with this concept, especially as many terms are used together but have very distinct meanings. Gender identity is understood to be ‘‘one’s innermost concept of self as male or female or both or neither-how an individual perceives themselves and calls themselves’’ (Gender Spectrum 2014). Thus, an individual’s gender identity may or may not correspond to the sex of that human being. It is believed that an individual becomes aware of their gender identity during infancy and their perception of self is, in most cases, reinforced during adolescence. This being said it is important to keep in mind that gender is not fixed at birth, ‘‘ both psychological and societal factors contribute to the early establishment of an individual’s core identity, which is modified and expanded by societal factors as the child matures’’ (Encyclopedia Britannica 2013). Depending on the individual and their experiences gender identity may be fluid through time however, it can also constant flux and...

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