Sex and Gender
Arianna Stassinopoulos wrote in the 1973 book The Female Woman: "It would be futile to attempt to fit women into a masculine pattern of attitudes, skills and abilities and disastrous to force them to suppress their specifically female characteristics and abilities by keeping up the pretense that there are no differences between the sexes" (Microsoft Bookshelf). In her statement we see a cultural feminist response to the dominant liberal feminism of the 1970s.
Liberal feminism de-emphasized gender differences, claiming that women were the equals of men and that this would be obvious if only they were offered the same opportunities as men with no special privileges necessary.
On the other hand, cultural feminists such as Stassinopoulos claimed that women's unique perspective and talents must be valued, intentionally emphasizing the differences between men and women. A third type of feminism, post-modernism, is represented in Sexing the Body by Anne Fausto-Sterling. Post-modern feminism questions the very origins of gender, sexuality, and bodies. According to post-modernism, the emphasis or de-emphasis of difference by cultural and liberal feminists is meaningless, because the difference itself and the categories difference creates are social constructions. Fausto-Sterling's post-modernism, however, depicts this social construction in a unique manner; she attempts to illustrate the role of science in the construction of gender, sex, and bodies. In doing so she discusses three main ways in which science aids in the social construction of sex: first, new surgical technology allows doctors to literally construct genitalia; second, socially accepted biases affect the way scientists design, carry out, and analyze experiments and results; and third, bodies can be physically changed by the social conditions of their environment.
In her first chapter, Fausto-Sterling points out that sex was defined by John Money and Anke Ehrhardt in 1972 as "physical attributes . . . anatomically and physiologically determined" (3). It might seem strange then that Fausto-Sterling, or anyone for that matter, would suggest that the physical attributes of sex might be constructed by anything other than nature. Indeed, most children when being taught the basic differences of sex are told "boys have a penis, girls have a vagina." The implication is that there are two categories which are opposites; hence all people must fully fit into one category and not the other. Fausto-Sterling points out, however, that in 1.7% of births the babies do not fit into just one category; these intersex births occur when babies are born with some combination of both female and male genitalia and/or chromosomes or are born lacking some of the genitalia/chromosomes of one sex while showing none of those of the other sex (i.e., Turner syndrome) (51-52). Here, then, Fausto-Sterling makes an apparently simple, yet significant and controversial, point: that nature sometimes...