Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Follow up: Anne Fausto-Sterling Sexing the Body: “Gender and Genitals” and “Should There Only Be Two Sexes?”

“Gender and Genitals”
Fausto-Sterling writes about the surgeries that doctors will perform on babies when their sex is not perfectly clear. She clearly disagrees with this practice for multiple reasons. She talks about how doctors will not tell the parents all the details about the surgery done to their child. I think this is wrong. A parent should be able to receive all the information about what is happening to their child. By not telling the parents, it is allowing the doctor to make choices about a child that is not theirs. Fausto-Sterling goes on to talk about the debate with nature vs. nurture and why the doctor does not tell the parents about their child’s surgery in more detail. I do think that nurture is usually more important than nature. Your parents could be murders, but that should not reflect on you. Still that is not an excuse for not telling the parents.
I was shocked when I read about how doctors choose what sex to make the intersex babies. The pole vs. hole line was awful. I agree with Tira that it is encouraging a patriarchal society. I think that a penis size should not be the deciding matter of what sex to make the baby, but I am not a guy.
This chapter really made me wonder what I would do if I suddenly found out that I was an intersex baby. It is a crazy idea to think and I am curious if parents usually tell their children or not.

“Should There Only Be Two Sexes?”
In this chapter Fausto-Sterling talks a lot about how she thinks things should change. (I have to admit I was happy to see she had suggestions…) I am curious about the part where she mentions how medical students traumatize children by sitting in on their medical examinations. I thought that patients had the right to tell the doctor that they only want the doctor to be in the room? Also, a medical examination might be uncomfortable for any sex, let alone someone who is intersex or someone who had surgery to change their intersex state. It is not that I am disagreeing with Fausto-Sterling’s points, but I do think that it is interesting.
One point in the chapter really caught my eye. It was when Fausto-Sterling talks about how Americans argue against genital mutilation in different cultures, but it occurs within our own. This reminded me of the book Cosmopolitanism by Kwame Anthony Appiah, which every freshman (2014) had to read before coming to Colgate. In Cosmopolitanism Appiah writes about genital mutilation and how Americans should not be so judgmental, that we did not understand the culture so we could not understand the practice. If we look at the intersex surgeries from a cultural view then we learn a lot about our society. Perhaps the reason we want sex to be either male or female is because men and women are treated differently. So when we participate in a patriarchal society what happens to the person who is neither a man to be placed higher nor a woman to be placed lower?


  1. Molly,

    I think you bring up a great point about the nature vs. nurture debate. While I do agree with you that nurture does trump nature, there are cases where nature becomes more important than nurture (for example the incident Fausto-Sterling explains about Jane/John). We have to question to what extend does nature and nurture plays in the development of a child. I do think that nature and nurture both contributes to a child's growth and gender behavior, but to what extend is not clear.

    I like how you made a text to text connection with Fausto-Sterling and Appiah. He is completely correct that America should not be judgmental about genital mutation. As we have discussed in class how Americans do condone alteration of body parts from plastic surgeries to changing the sex of intersex babies, America cannot be judgmental of other culture's practices. However, as an ethnocentric society the United States is, it does denounces countries that do practice genital mutation.

    Lastly, I like your reasoning to why society does not accept a wider spectrum of gender. Your idea that our binary gender system scribe gender treatment and produces a power dynamic between men and women is legitimate. Not only is our society not fond of ambiguity, it is also not fond of deviating power. I predict if we were to admit intersex into your gender scale then, they will be the sex that is the most inferior. Society's negative point of view on intersex will only fester a greater discrimination against them. However, this is not a discouragement to not expand out gender scale. America just likes to put different groups of people as the target and minority of society. I hope that once intersex is apparent in more conversation people will be more knowledge and acceptance of another sex.

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