NWSA Journal

NWSA Journal 12.3, Fall 2000

Special Issue: The Science and Politics of the Search for Sex Differences

Guest Editors: Mary Wyer and Laura Severin

Guest Editorial Board: Carol Burger, Donna Cookmeyer, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Cheryl Ney, Sue Rosser, Bonnie Spanier, Banu Subramaniam, and Marta Wayne

Articles

    Roberts, Celia, 1947-
  • Biological Behavior? Hormones, Psychology, and Sex
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Sex differences (Psychology)
    • Hormones, Sex.
    • Human behavior.
    Abstract:
      Contemporary behavioral endocrinology and biological psychology claim that sex hormones play an important role in the production of sex differences in human and other animal behaviors. This article critically examines these claims, which range from simple biologically determinist arguments through to more complex attempts to theorize the connected roles of the hormonal and the social. In each case, these sciences rely on a social/biological distinction. Analyzing contemporary feminist work on the body as lived, and innovative scientific views of biology's "co-action" with the environment, it is suggested that this distinction is limiting and requires rethinking. Rather than accusing science of essentialism and rejecting the role of the biological outright, it may prove more fruitful for feminism to theorize the "interimplication" of the biological and the social in attempts to understand sex differences in behavior.
    Messing, Karen.
    Lippel, Katherine.
    Demers, Diane L.
    Mergler, Donna.
  • Equality and Difference in the Workplace: Physical Job Demands, Occupational Illnesses, and Sex Differences
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Sex role in the work environment.
    • Sex differences.
    • Sexual division of labor.
    Abstract:
      Struggles of women for safe and equal integration in the workplace confront discourse on biological differences as well as the reality of job/worker interactions. Biological specificities cannot be easily dismissed from consideration, particularly in blue-collar, manual jobs. Extreme job demands may be incompatible with the physical dimensions and capacities of most women. The authors, who have expertise in genetics, ergonomics, law, and physiology, argue that consideration of biological differences between women and men is necessary in order that the workplace be adapted to the physical dimensions and capacities of both sexes. The alternative to adapting jobs may be risks to women's health and employment possibilities. However, resistance to integrating women has, in the last analysis, little to do with biological differences and must be overcome by political action. The authors have arrived at suggestions for action by consulting working women in the context of a partnership with labor unions.
    Herzig, Rebecca M.
  • The Woman Beneath the Hair: Treating Hypertrichosis, 1870-1930
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Hypertrichosis.
    • Women -- Identity.
    • Sex differences.
    Abstract:
      Seeking to elucidate understandings of sexual difference held in the past, this article examines the emergence of one disease, hypertrichosis. Prior to 1930, hypertrichosis ("excessive hairiness") was a disease defined, in part, by a confusion of sexed appearances. Diagnosing and treating this condition, then, necessitated some operative definition of sex, an index of the normal against which to distinguish the truly pathological. The standard of normal female identity that emerges in discussions of hypertrichosis centered not (as one might now expect) on a distinguishing physical characteristic; rather, physicians represent sexual identity as revealed in their patients' yearning for hairlessness, their desire to "run true to the female type." Patients and their physicians were both left to struggle to achieve this "female type," an ideal which fluctuated with fashion, age, and culture. Historical analysis of hypertrichosis thus extends feminist scholarship which challenges the presumed universality and timeless permanence of "the female body." Rather than presuming the nature of the "women" experiencing this woman's disease, this essay attends to the specific kinds of work involved in dividing hairy bodies into two distinct sexual categories.
    Miller, Heather Lee.
  • Sexologists Examine Lesbians and Prostitutes in the United States, 1840-1940
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Sexologists -- Attitudes.
    • Lesbians -- United States -- Public opinion.
    • Prostitutes -- United States -- Public opinion.
    Abstract:
      This article illustrates correlations that sexologists made between prostitutes and lesbians in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States. Examining medical writing and sexological discourse in both the United States and abroad, the author creates a tentative framework in which to understand shifts between 1840 and 1940 in sexologists' specific concerns and questions about prostitutes and lesbians as well as changes in sexological research methodologies and social and medical explanations for relationships among these two groups of "deviant"women. Ultimately, however, the article concludes that sexologists--and society's--underlying fears about female sexual deviance remained static, fueling continued discussion about potential parallels between prostitutes and lesbians in the mid- to late twentieth century.
    Briggs, Laura.
    Kelber-Kaye, Jodi I.
  • "There is no Unauthorized Breeding in Jurassic Park": Gender and the Uses of Genetics
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Spielberg, Steven, 1947-, dir. Jurassic Park (Motion picture)
    • Crichton, Michael, 1942- Jurassic Park.
    • Niccol, Andrew, dir. Gattaca [film]
    • Genetics in mass media.
    Abstract:
      This article relies on close readings of Jurassic Park (the book and the film) and Gattaca (film) to argue that a great deal of the opposition to new genetic technologies expressed in contemporary popular culture is grounded in a profound anti-feminism. Both of these science fiction stories suggest that genetic manipulation is "unnatural," and call for a return to a romanticized "natural" motherhood. In Jurassic Park, genetic science is figured as a threat to the white nuclear family, producing "Third World" female dinosaurs whose reproduction cannot be stopped, whose existence threatens white American children. Gattaca aligns the "unnaturalness" of genetically modified offspring with homosexuality and communism, and calls for the return of democracy, individual striving, and motherhood. Together, the article argues, these two texts suggest some of the pitfalls for feminism in contemporary discussions of reproductive technology and genetic determinism.
    Hausman, Bernice L.
  • Do Boys Have to Be Boys? Gender, Narrativity, and the John/Joan Case
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Gender identity.
    • Sex change.
    Abstract:
      "Do Boys Have to Be Boys?" examines the famous "John/Joan" case of twin sex reassignment in order to comment upon the way that gender as a concept operates in the nature vs. nurture debate concerning the development of gender identity. I use basic elements of narrative theory to investigate how scientific assumptions about what gender is ignore the ways in which stories about gender overdetermine what counts as a legitimate way to be a sex. In the end, I challenge scientific and medical uses of gender that promote simplistic ontologies of gendered being, and demonstrate that utilizing an epistemological approach to gender allows the researcher to destabilize and undo the "natural attitude" toward gender that supports traditional gender ontologies.
    Wayne, Marta L., 1966-
  • Walking a Tightrope: The Feminist Life of a Drosophila Biologist
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Women scientists -- Employment.
    • Feminism and science.
    • Science -- Political aspects.
    Abstract:
      Despite widely reported success in increases of the number of women enrolling in graduate school, the androcentric focus of science remains present in biology at every level: from what questions are asked, to what answers may be considered, to who may ask/answer the questions. This is an increasing problem for me both personally, as a woman who is a scientist and a feminist; and politically, because of the ever-increasing presence of science (particularly my field, evolutionary genetics) in people's lives. The continuity between the ways that assumptions of the male as norm occlude my field from the interpretation of data to the training of women scientists is discussed. The growing scholarship in feminist science studies offers the hope of a better science and a better climate for feminist scientists, but communication between women's studies and life sciences professionals is as yet at an early stage.
    Kraus, Cynthia.
  • Naked Sex in Exile: On the Paradox of the "Sex Question" in Feminism and in Science
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Sex determination, Genetic.
    • Feminism and science.
    • Science -- Political aspects.
    Abstract:
      Is there anything left to "sex" that is not the "gender construction of biology"? With the fruit fly, this article seeks to rethink the substance of sexual difference--here called "naked sex"--as that part of sex which rebuffs the gender microscope. Naked sex haunts the terms by which feminist scholars have deconstructed the (un)scientific construction of sex, and have challenged biological determinism and gender biases in science. The sex-determining genes appear as the minimal bundle for this returning residue which secures the epistemology of gender that is naked sex. The experimental history (1976-1979) of the Drosophila sex-determining gene, Sex-lethal, displaces the insistent question of "what is real/biological about biological sex" toward an inquiry into the "realization" of sex through sexing and unsexing research practices, wherein sex becomes scientifically performative. Unexpectedly, sex never emerges as naked sex throughout this singular exploration of "How to Do Scientific Things with Sex" in the lab.

Review Essay

    Warren, Catherine A.
  • A Fertile Grounding: Cultural Studies Meets Women's Health
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Treichler, Paula A. How to have theory in an epidemic: cultural chronicles of AIDS.
    • Clarke, Adele, ed. Revisioning women, health and healing: feminist, cultural, and technoscience perspectives.
    • Olesen, Virginia L., ed.
    • Feminist Health Care Ethics Research Network. Politics of women's health: exploring agency and autonomy.
    • Sherwin, Susan, 1947-
    • Jordanova, L. J. Nature displayed: gender, science, and medicine, 1760-1820.
    • AIDS (Disease) -- Social aspects.
    • Women -- Health and hygiene -- United States -- Sociological aspects.

Book Reviews

    Adams, Alice E. (Alice Elaine), 1957-
  • The Visible Woman: Imaging Technologies, Gender, and Science (review)
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Treichler, Paula A., ed. Visible woman: imaging technologies, gender, and science.
    • Cartwright, Lisa, 1959-, ed.
    • Penley, Constance, 1948-, ed.
    • Women -- Health and hygiene -- Social aspects.
    Prescott, Heather Munro.
  • Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, and: Conduct Unbecoming a Woman: Medicine on Trial in Turn-of-the-Century Brooklyn (review)
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Dreger, Alice Domurat. Hermaphrodites and the medical invention of sex.
    • Morantz-Sanchez, Regina Markell. Conduct unbecoming a woman: medicine on trial in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn.
    • Hermaphroditism -- Treatment -- France -- History -- 19th century.
    • Gynecology -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
    Clift, Elayne.
  • Silicone Survivors: Women's Experiences with Breast Implants, and: Silicone Spills: Breast Implants on Trial (review)
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Zimmermann, Susan M., 1966- Silicone survivors: women's experiences with breast implants.
    • Stewart, Mary White, 1945- Silicone spills: breast implants on trial.
    • Breast implants -- Complications.
    Horowitz, Rosemary.
  • The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction (review)
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Maines, Rachel P. Technology of orgasm: "hysteria," the vibrator, and women's sexual satisfaction.
    • Women -- Sexual behavior -- History.
    Whitten, Barbara.
  • Women Scientists in America: Before Affirmative Action, 1940-1972, and: A Matter of Choices: Memoirs of a Female Physicist, and: Lise Meitner: A Life in Physics (review)
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Rossiter, Margaret W. Women scientists in America: before affirmative action, 1940-1972.
    • Ajzenberg-Selove, Fay, 1926- Matter of choices: memoirs of a female physicist.
    • Sime, Ruth Lewin, 1939- Lise Meitner: a life in physics.
    • Women scientists -- United States -- History.
    • Ajzenberg-Selove, Fay, 1926-
    Franks, Suzanne.
  • Asking Different Questions: Women and Science, and: Women in Science: Meeting Career Challenges (review)
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Basen, Gwynne, 1949-, dir. Asking different questions: women and science [video]
    • Buffie, Erna, dir.
    • Pattatucci, Angela M., 1951-, ed. Women in science: meeting career challenges.
    • Women in science.
    Penn, Michael.
  • Common Science?: Women, Science, and Knowledge, and: Feminist Science Education (review)
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Barr, Jean, 1944- Common science?: women, science, and knowledge.
    • Birke, Lynda I. A.
    • Barton, Angela Calabrese. Feminist science education.
    • Science -- Study and teaching -- Philosophy.
    • Science -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- United States.
    Spears, Jacqueline D.
  • Women's Science: Learning and Succeeding from the Margins (review)
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Eisenhart, Margaret A. Women's science: learning and succeeding from the margins.
    • Finkel, Elizabeth.
    • Women in science -- United States.



[Project MUSE] [Search Page] [Journals] [Journal Directory] [Top]