Gender Thinking

Gender Thinking

Copyright Date: 1992
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Gender Thinking
    Book Description:

    How can we accept the gender system in view of its ills? Yet, are we really at liberty to abolish gender differences, "when the gender system gives us benchmarks of personal identity and worth along with primary channels in which to pursue the rewards of love?" With this double question, Steven G. Smith introduces his inquiry into the idea of gender and how it is implicated in love, respect, equality, and personal character.Gender Thinkingis the first comprehensive philosophical exploration of the concept of gender Asking the question, what is gender?-that is, what sort of thing do we take femininity and masculinity to be?-Smith considers how gender thinking is interwoven with ideas about human nature. He suggests ways in which ideas about race, class, culture age, temperament, and sexual orientation can be understood from clues found in gender thinking. And he calls for a renegotiated procreative partnership between women and men as the key to the redemption of gender.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0440-4
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    Steven G. Smith
  4. A Prologue on Democracy
    (pp. 1-4)

    Human differentiations are all burning issues because a certain communal project is underway. For that project, the most potent name we know is Democracy. The name has been invoked for different programs and has borne different connotations, yet it always points somehow to the universal sharing of power or rule.

    Although “people’s rule” is in the first place a political principle, it applies to more than what we call politics: it is a way of maintaining and advancing a culture. It is the first thing we should think about if we are to understand the significance, for us, of human...

  5. Chapter 1 The Two Sides of Gender Thinking
    (pp. 5-22)

    Gender thinking in Western culture runs in two quite different channels, which I propose to call positive and critical. Positive gender thinking both assumes and trades on what it takes to be an apprehensible differentiation of human character by sex. It might do this in a crude and popular way (“Boys will be boys”) or in a finely elaborated or exceptional way. Goethe’s line at the end of Faust, “The Eternal Feminine draws us on,” is an extreme form of the positive thought of gender: while it embodies a great deal of reflection and abstraction and belongs to a larger...

  6. Chapter 2 On Conceiving the Human
    (pp. 23-40)

    Questions about gender have very different weights and implications depending on the intellectual context in which we ask them. Gender in linguistics is one thing, in sociology another, in a beer commercial something else. This chapter defines the context in which gender questions have the greatesttheoreticalimportance, the context I propose for our thinking. It is traditionally called philosophical anthropology. The shape that our curiosity takes, in the frame of philosophical anthropology, is: How does gender pertain to human nature? How would such a thing as gender be involved in the most profoundly definitive shaping of our lives?


  7. Chapter 3 Gender and Humanity
    (pp. 41-84)

    How is it that some people can see in gender a crushing impairment of humanity while others see in it a human glory? Does gender get in the way of properly respecting human beings? Is it possible to respond to a person’s gender and to her or his humanity at the same time?

    If we are to have satisfying answers to these questions, we require a definition of gender (with a careful redrawing of the sex–gender distinction) that makes clear the logical relationship of gender to humanity. This is a point on which critical gender thinking often diverges widely...

  8. Chapter 4 The Sex “Basis” of Gender
    (pp. 85-138)

    In each of the next three chapters we approach an aspect of the gender problem by first taking one large step backward into a more general philosophical problem. Here the question we want to be able to answer is, How is gender “based” on sex? The distinction between a gender’s central meaning of character qualities and its center of meaning in facts of sexedness yielded clarity at one stage of our investigation, but it also opens up new questions. We said that the central gender meaning “refers to” the sex center of meaning in the sense that it is eminently...

  9. Chapter 5 Gender, Valuation, and Selfhood
    (pp. 139-204)

    We shift now from the bodily center of meaning to the intentional central meaning of gender, which consists of character qualities. It was a concern with defining gendered character qualities that produced the first wave of modern gender theory in the eighteenth century. Early gender theorists like Burke, Rousseau, and Kant were aware that differences of character type had important implications for what are now called “value” issues-they knew, indeed, that deep differences in character are precisely deep differences of valuing and of valuableness, and they made it clear that the genders belong to human nature as metiers) or ideals...

  10. Chapter 6 Gender and Duality
    (pp. 205-253)

    The goal of this chapter is to understand the basic logical and ontological reasons why our thinking sometimes takes the form of dichotomy and to see the relevance of these reasons to gender thinking. One indication that an important part of the cogency of gender thinking lies in the formal duality of the gender scheme is Simone de Beauvoir’s powerful attack on the gender system, which premises the identification of masculinity and femininity with the logical positions Same and Other. What is vicious in the Western gender system, according to this line of criticism, derives ultimately from improper attributions of...

  11. Chapter 7 Gender and Procreation
    (pp. 254-302)

    If gender is the humanizing of sexedness, then the best reason we could have to affirm the gender principle or some optimal realization of gender would be that we want or need to affirm sexedness. The companion point is that if gender is intolerable, then we had better explicitly negate our sexedness, just as some of the most lucid radical critics of gender (Ti-Grace Atkinson, Shulamith Firestone, Monique Wittig) have recommended. But negating our sexedness would require us either to abandon the whole enterprise of procreation or to devise a different means of pursuing it. The first alternative is unthinkable,...

  12. Conclusion: Realizing Sex
    (pp. 303-320)

    The genders have often been conceived as psychic exfoliations of sex—as though the feminine and masculine intentional styles and their variants are directly stamped by female and male body structures and hormonal balances, and as though physical interactions among sexed bodies transfer directly into the interintentional realm. This thought is probably not entirely false, but it misses the mark. Its ineptitude is betrayed in one way by all our information about gender’s cultural and historical variability and in another by our insight into the distinction between gender and sex; yet we remain dialectically captive to it when we draw...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 321-374)
  14. Index
    (pp. 375-381)