Variation: Culture & Biology, Gender & Sex 1. Sex versus gender 2. Intermediate sexes and developmental issues 3. “Third genders” 4. Gender as a linguistic category 5. Transgender/transsex 1. Sex versus gender We have been talking about the relationship between biological variations in the realm of race to cultural variations; a key biological difference recognized in virtually every culture is sex. Classic definitions within anthropology: sex = the biologically-based differentiation between male and female. gender = culturally prescribed differentiation between roles grounded in the biological differentiation between the sexes. This distinction still widely accepted but more recently challenged. We’ll use it as working distinction to be investigated. Biological differences between the sexes: Categorical • Different genitalia • Cyclical versus non-cyclical brain (I.e., menstruating versus non) Statistical • Body hair • Stature • Skin color • Voice pitch What do the biological differences have to do with roles and statuses? • anthropologists observed that, in society after society, where there is a gender-based distinction of subsistence activities between hunting and gathering, it is the men who tend to hunt, the women who tend to gather. Is there a biological basis for this cultural distinction? Yes. However, culture can overturn it. • in society after society, where there is a distinction along gender lines between child-care-givers and non-care-givers, it is the women who tend to be the care-givers. What is a “role” anyway? Role = bundle of rights, duties, and expectations; • right = what you can demand of others; • duty = what you must do in relation to others; • expectation = how you should be; Status = a position (associated with a role) within a structure of such positions; Recruitment = rule for selecting who occupies what status How are you expected to conduct yourself if you are “male” or “female”? Are you “male” or “female”? How did you get to be “male” or “female”? Do biological propensities explain the existence of gender roles and statuses? Do biological propensities explain the existence of gender roles and statuses? Rights, duties, and expectations refer to socially recognized ideas about proper comportment. Biological characteristics of stature, strength, etc. are clinally distributed. Why try to impose a duty on someone or expect something of them if that is not their tendency independently of the cultural rule? Do biological propensities explain the existence of gender roles and statuses? Rights, duties, and expectations refer to socially recognized ideas about proper comportment. Biological characteristics of stature, strength, etc. are clinally distributed. Why try to impose a duty on someone or expect something of them if that is not their tendency independently of the cultural rule? Also, observe that many of the gender role rights, duties, and expectations (about clothing, hairstyle, body ornamentation, speech patterns) are so variable as to indicate that they have no biological basis. Yet cultures are interested in those aspects of gender roles as well. Conclusion: the biological differentiation between males and females does not explain the existence of socially recognized gender roles. We need another kind of explanation for those roles, if indeed we find that there are near universal distinctions between male and female genders in different cultures. Conclusion: the biological differentiation between males and females does not explain the existence of socially recognized gender roles. We need another kind of explanation for those roles, if indeed we find that there are near universal distinctions between male and female genders in different cultures. Gender distinctions are, in part, a mechanism for organizing the complexity of individual differences into a small number of social actors (for example, males and females, though we’ll complicate this later). It then becomes a simpler task to conceptualize how those few actors can be put together to form a cohesive collectivity (for example, through sex and marriage as social glue). Gender role orientation Males = Females Gender role orientation At the same time, it is possible to see why, if people are divided up into exclusive categories of males and females (i.e., if the cultural categorization is taken as a prior condition), it makes sense to attribute to males those expectations which are in keeping with average male biology, and to females those expectations in keeping with average female biology. At the same time, it is possible to see why, if people are divided up into exclusive categories of males and females (i.e., if the cultural categorization is taken as a prior condition), it makes sense to attribute to males those expectations which are in keeping with average male biology, and to females those expectations in keeping with average female biology. Culture could assign the expectations in the opposite way (male gender role expectations to female biology; female gender expectations to male biology), but this would be relatively harder, that is, it would require relatively more cultural inculcation of the roles. Therefore, it is relatively easier to assign gender role expectations in accord with the average biological propensities of males and females. However, because role expectations are assigned to gender statuses on the basis of typical (or mean) biological characteristics, while the characteristics themselves are distributed clinally, it still requires cultural inculcation to get individuals to conform to the expected norms. 2. Intermediate sexes and developmental issues In contemporary U.S., we speak of an individual as being either male or female. That is, there are two gender statuses. How do individuals come to occupy one of those statuses? Typically by externally observable genitalia; traditionally this was determined at birth; now have ultrasounds through which the fetus in utero can be can be observed; can refer to this principle of recruitment to gender status as phenotypic sex. Typically by externally observable genitalia; traditionally this was determined at birth; now have ultrasounds through which the fetus in utero can be can be observed; can refer to this principle of recruitment to gender status as phenotypic sex. However, also have amniocentesis, as well as other tests through which genetic composition can be ascertained; this allows determination of genotypic sex, and we’ll be interested in this distinction. However, phenotypic sex is not always automatically determined by genotypic sex. Stage 1: Embryo development after fertilization through approximately day 40 of gestation; genotypic sex is lacking phenotypic manifestations; Stage 2: [Only in genotypic males with the Y chromosome]; Y chromosome contains a gene that codes for H-Y antigen; this allows for the development of the sexually undifferentiated structures in the direction of male testes; Stage 3: [Only in genotypic males with the Y chromosome]; Testes secrete hormones (androgens) that prevent the internal development of the uterus and vagina. The external genitalia of males and females derive from the same primitive phallus, with the clitoris the analogue of the penis. Development of the penis depends on the presence of the male hormones. So Y chromosome contains gene coding for H-Y antigen; H-Y antigen enables development of the testes; Testes secrete hormones (androgens) which: 1. Suppress uterine development; 2. Stimulate external male genitalia. Many things can cause phenotypic development to diverge from this model: If you castrate a normal XY male in utero, it will develop as a phenotypic female; If a developing XY male is insensitive to androgen, it will develop as a phenotypic female; If a developing XX female is exposed to high levels of androgen, it will develop in the direction of a phenotypic male; Etc. Add to these developmental possibilities various genetic outcomes that diverge from the normal XX or XY mode, for example: Klinefelter’s syndrome: XXY or XY/XXY mosaic; Turner’s syndrome: X or XX/X mosaic; True hermaphroditism: XX or XY or mosaic, but both testes and ova develop; It is evident that even phenotypic sex is, in some measure, clinally distributed. There are phenotypes that are intermediate between male and female; • total incidence of intermediate types unknown, because so much secrecy surrounds them in the contemporary U.S. and Europe, and because it is impossible to draw precise boundaries in the case of hormonal effects, producing different sizes and shapes of genitalia; • medical practice in the U.S. has varied, but has regularly involved making a choice between whether the child should be male or female. • surgical and other procedures developed and used to try to align biological sex with a dichotomous, culturallyconstituted gender system. 3. Third genders? A question we have to pose as anthropologists is whether the two-gender system found in the contemporary U.S. and Europe is universal. Considerable debate over this issue, but in the last twenty years mounting research that many other cultures have developed what appear to be “third genders,” that is, a gender status that is neither male nor female, but something in between. What is interesting for present purposes, because it demonstrates the cultural character of gender as role, is that these third genders may be recruited through choice. That is, individuals born with the genitalia associated with biological male or female sex choose to be in the third gender. In some, but not all, cases this involves surgically altering the genitalia. Now evidence on thirds genders from many areas around the world, although the concept is still being debated. I’ll mention only two: 1. Hijras of India; 2. “Two-spirits” (also called berdaches) found traditionally in North American Indian communities. The Hijras are found especially in Northern India; They may be born with ambiguous genitalia, or they may be males who undergo surgery to remove their penis and their testicles. However, they do not undergo surgical procedure to form a vagina. They are associated with the Mother Goddess, Bahuchara Mata, whom they worship and serve. Evidence of their culturally-recognized status. They are also ceremonial performers after the birth of a child, for weddings, and at temple festivals. There is even a mythological explanation of their origin. Here is one such origin myth of the Hijras, told by Hindu from South India (from Nanda, Serena, Neither Man Nor Woman, Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1999, p. 13): [Ram’s] father commanded Ram to leave Ayodhya [his native city] and go into the forest for 14 years. As he went, the whole city followed him because they loved him so. As Ram came to the banks of the river at the edge of the forest, he turned to the people and said, “Ladies and gents, please wipe your tears and go away.” But those people who were not men and not women did not know what to do. So they stayed there because Ram did not ask them to go. They remained there 14 years and when Ram returned from Lanka he found those people there, all meditating. And so they were blessed by Ram. “Two-spirits” found in traditional North American Indian communities; • Different from S. Asian third gender; • No genital surgery; most are phenotypic males who choose the twospirit role; • May marry and carry on responsibilities of a wife, though they are distinguished from females; [On-line photos can be found at Will Roscoe’s website.] 1895 photo of Charlie Weaver, Navajo (right) with friend. We'wha (Zuni) demonstrating weaving on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Mask of Ko'lhamana, Zuni two-spirit kachina FindsThem-andKillsThem (Crow), 1928 He’emane’o, Cheyenne male two-spirits (on right), leading the scalp dance Cheyenne hetaneman or female two-spirit in a ledger drawing ca. 1889 4. Gender as a linguistic category Gender roles manifest themselves in languages around the world in different ways. American English, differences between male and female speech in: • pitch contours; • turn-taking in conversation; • the pronunciation of certain sounds, e.g., [s] • word choices Etc. In other languages, find situations where: • A special morpheme is applied to words to indicate whether the speaker is male or female; • There are alternate vocabularies depending on whether the speaker is male or female; • In some bilingual situations, especially with linguistic exogamy, husbands and wives may speak different languages; they mark their differences by the language they speak. Considerable amount of recent research on language and gender issues, which we cannot even begin to review here. Want to mention only one issue, which many of you will be aware of: gender as a grammatical category of nouns. “the” sing. masc. French: Spanish: Portuguese German le el o der “the” sing. fem. la la a die “the” neuter das These are called noun classifiers. Every noun has to occur with one of the classifiers. English lacks them. Some languages, like Navajo, have an elaborate classifier system: “long objects,” “round objects,” “containers,” etc. These are called noun classifiers. Every noun has to occur with one of the classifiers. English lacks them. Some languages, like Navajo, have an elaborate classifier system: “long objects,” “round objects,” “containers,” etc. These are called noun classifiers. Every noun has to occur with one of the classifiers. English lacks them. Some languages, like Navajo, have an elaborate classifier system: “long objects,” “round objects,” “containers,” etc. “Male” and “female” are only two possibilities for noun classifiers; not found in every language that has classifiers, and many languages lack classifiers altogether. So gender as a grammatical category of nouns is not the norm. However, it is common in Indo-European languages, like French and German and Russian, etc. Important point: There is a general correlation between grammatical gender and gender roles or biological sex. For example, in French, you do say la femme (the woman) and le homme or (l’homme) (“the man”), and you say le roi (the king) and la reine (“the queen”). However, the correlation is not perfect. French, for example, assigns grammatical gender to nouns that have no gender role or biological sex correlates. For example, la pierre (“the stone”), which is categorized as feminine. And then there are some gender contradictions: for example sentinelle (“sentry” or “guard,” a typically masculine gender role) has feminine grammatical gender. And modele (“model,” as in “fashion model”), an archetypally feminine role, takes masculine grammatical gender. In fact, much of the grammatical gender ascriptions have more to do with the phonological shape of words (e.g., nouns ending in “ion” with feminine) than with gender roles or biological sex. Gender role (Culture) Gender grammatical category (Language) Genetic or phenotypic sex (biology) 5. Transgender/transsex The idea in the contemporary U.S. is that everyone should be of one or the other of two sexes, one or the other of two genders. What happens when people feel that they don’t fit the gender or the sex to which they have been assigned? The experience of not fitting has been labeled gender dysphoria. Resultant idea: people with gender or sex dysphoria should change their gender or sex. Transvestites: dressing in accord with the clothes and make-up of the gender opposite to which one has been assigned by virtue of phenotypic sex. Transsexual: person who desires to be of the opposite sex to that assigned to them by virtue of their phenotype, and who usually undergoes sexual reassignment surgery. CHERYL I started college and tried my best to fit in with the other males in my group. I made lots of new friends there and enjoyed college very much. All through this time I took my crossdressing no further, I still dressed in private but only on my own. I longed to be able to have the confidence to meet and have other friends like myself. I had friends, but only those who did not know the real me so you can never perhaps be as open with them as you would like to be. CLAIRE I went to college at 16 to study mechanical and electrical engineering and soon joined a group of girls called Katie's gang who I would sit with and go out with in the evenings. The all male class that I was a part of would sometimes spray me with perfume usually obtained from a member of Katie's gang. I wasn't exactly bullied just noticed for my differences. We had an Arab in the class who was very likable, he had a brother called Talal who fancied me and called me 'xaneth' (it means boy-girl). I declined his offers although he did buy me my first alcoholic drink in pub. I found that the gender dysphoria got the better of me around 1989 when I was 32, I could no longer pretend to be feminine for a laugh as I had done all my life. I became very depressed and would go to the TV/TS group in London on a Wednesday afternoon telling my wife I had a London chauffeur job. It didn't really help and I went to my GP who arranged an appointment with a local psychiatrist who was fascinated but unhelpful. I then told my wife one evening, she was devastated, here was her 6'7" fifteen stone husband telling her that he had wanted to be woman all his life and had been to a psychiatrist. We had two young sons and I was the only breadwinner. Our relationship changed overnight I was not allowed to touch her anymore. Concluding question to ponder: Is the two-sex, two-gender dichotomy natural or better adapted than the three (or more) gender or sex model?