Gender Projects Essay, Research Paper
Gender biases are prevalent in today s scientific world, although they are not always seen by society. To increase awareness on gender biases, Suzanne Kessler and Emily Martin write two independent articles on how gender stereotypes permeate the scientific community. Suzanne Kessler s article looks at how society sees gender as either male or female. While, Emily Martin looks at how scientific writings include hidden gender stereotypes.
In Suzanne Kessler’s, “The Medical Construction of Gender”, she claims that gender is culturally constructed. To illustrate this, she brings up case studies of intersexed infants. She defines an intersexed child as a person born with genitals that are neither clearly male nor clearly female. First to ground this issue, Kessler points out that it is very hard to diagnose an intersexed infant. She states that if a doctor sees the male genitalia than he or she assumes that the infant is male, otherwise it is female. Another ground for her claim is how a physician determines if the intersex child should be transformed to a male or a female. The doctors try to choose the sex of the child, such that there is minimal transformation. She suggests that the criteria for choosing the sex is based on the way her/his genitals look or could be made to look . (13) Both of these grounds show how society wants to define these intersexed children as either male or female. This strict societal definition is why Kessler claims that gender is culturally constructed.
Kessler also grounds her argument by the fact that doctors tell the parents not to disclose a gender for their newborn. She claims that this will keep the doors open for the decision of the new gender of the baby. If society knows the gender of the baby before it is determined, society will treat the baby differently depending on its sex. The author states that the overall goal of the physicians in charge of an intersex infant is to reconstruct genitals so that they look normal and function normally once the patient reaches adulthood” (19). The physicians definition of normal is how our culture has defined normal . Therefore gender is indeed defined by culture as stated in Kessler s claim.
Another article which deals with the issue of gender relations is The Egg and The Sperm by Emily Martin. She claims that the scientific descriptions of egg and the sperm are stereotypical. The stereotypes imply that female biological processes are less worthy than their male counterparts. To prove this point she quotes many current scientific articles as well as textbooks. For example she finds scientific authors who describe the female egg as large and passive and inversely the male sperm as strong and efficiently powered (489). These quotes create the impression that the sperm is masculine just like a male and the egg is feminine like a female. She continues to state that scientific researchers explain that the sperm is the aggressor and moves to the egg, which is a passive component to the puzzle. However she uncovers evidence that this is not true. The science community actually finds that the egg has enzymes that attract the sperm to it and the sperm doesn t really try to burrow itself into the egg, whereas the enzymes do all the work. Once Martin lays out the evidence she states that this stereotypical language does indeed have social ramifications. Society could use it this language in their own writings and can lead to naturalization of gender stereotypes.
These two readings have multiple similarities between them. Both of the articles function as gender projects. By gender projects I mean that these articles were written to make the public aware of these stereotypes present in our society. Without these writings, society would not have necessarily been aware of the stereotypes or their ramifications they have caused.
In Kessler s essay, she tries to convince us that society is bound to the idea that there is only two genders and that there are stereotypes that go along with each. She says in her article that doctors are very concerned about changing an intersexed child into a male or a female. This is due to society s impression that gender is either male or female. She goes on and states that the parents of an intersexed child cannot release a gender of their baby because society will stereotype that baby and if the baby changes sexes then the intersex person will be a victim of stereotypes.
Emily Martin s essay is more explicit in describing her essay as a gender project. She would like everyone to realize that we use these stereotypical terms everyday, even in writings, which are objective as in a scientific journal. She explicitly states that if society uses gender stereotypes in the scientific writings that these stereotypes will become naturalized.
However, these two readings took different approaches to achieve the aims of gender projects, Kessler challenges that society s definition of gender is that a male has a penis and females do not. However, Kessler tries to influence readers that deviation from the norm is acceptable. On the other hand, Martin proves that stereotypical terminology about gender is everywhere, and society needs to be aware of these stereotypes. If society does not change the result is that these stereotypes will be naturalized.
These articles truly make us think of what terminology and gender prejudices we use in our everyday lives. Are we truly gender biased, favoring the one gender? Do we really put a slant on our writing to include these gender prejudices? These gender projects successfully achieved their goal of making us be aware of this topic and maybe to make a change in our lives.