What does it mean to “have” a gender in our society
Linda Alcoff holds that feminism faces an identity crisis: thecategory of women is feminism's starting point, but various critiquesabout gender have fragmented the category and it is not clear howfeminists should understand what it is to be a woman (2006, chapter5). In response, Alcoff develops an account of gender aspositionality whereby “gender is, among other things, aposition one occupies and from which one can act politically”(2006, 148). In particular, she takes one's social position to fosterthe development of specifically gendered identities (orself-conceptions): “The very subjectivity (or subjectiveexperience of being a woman) and the very identity of women areconstituted by women's position” (Alcoff 2006, 148). Alcoffholds that there is an objective basis for distinguishing individualson the grounds of (actual or expected) reproductive roles:
What are the 12 essential roles of culture in society?
the Islamic Society -- an act whose strangeness can only be explained as [Feminism?], with heavy infusions of victims' mentality.Amanda Foreman, "Five Best: A Personal Choice," , April 2-3, 2016, C10, color added
Young identifies two broad groups of such practico-inert objects andrealities. First, phenomena associated with female bodies (physicalfacts), biological processes that take place in female bodies(menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth) and social rules associated withthese biological processes (social rules of menstruation, forinstance). Second, gender-coded objects and practices: pronouns, verbaland visual representations of gender, gender-coded artefacts and socialspaces, clothes, cosmetics, tools and furniture. So, women make up aseries since their lives and actions are organised around female bodiesand certain gender-coded objects. Their series is bound togetherpassively and the unity is “not one that arises from theindividuals called women” (Young 1997, 32).
How do gender roles benefit our modern society
Uniessentialism is a sort of individual essentialism. Traditionallyphilosophers distinguish between kind and individual essentialisms:the former examines what binds members of a kind together and what doall members of some kind have in common qua members of thatkind. The latter asks: what makes an individual theindividual it is. We can further distinguish two sorts of individualessentialisms: Kripkean identity essentialism and Aristotelianuniessentialism. The former asks: what makes anindividual that individual? The latter, however, asks aslightly different question: what explains the unity of individuals?What explains that an individual entity exists over and above the sumtotal of its constituent parts? (The standard feminist debate overgender nominalism and gender realism has largely been about kindessentialism. Being about individual essentialism, Witt'suniessentialism departs in an important way from the standard debate.)From the two individual essentialisms, Witt endorses the Aristotelianone. On this view, certain functional essences have a unifying role:these essences are responsible for the fact that material partsconstitute a new individual, rather than just a lump of stuff or acollection of particles. Witt's example is of a house: the essentialhouse-functional property (what the entity is for, what its purposeis) unifies the different material parts of a house so that there is ahouse, and not just a collection of house-constituting particles(2011a, 6). Gender (being a woman/a man) functions in a similarfashion and provides “the principle of normative unity”that organizes, unifies and determines the roles of social individuals(Witt 2011a, 73). Due to this, gender is a uniessential property ofsocial individuals.
Where did gender roles stem from, and why does our society still ..
Charlotte Witt (2011a; 2011b) argues for a particularsort of gender essentialism, which Witt terms‘uniessentialism’. Her motivation and starting point isthe following: many ordinary social agents report gender beingessential to them and claim that they would be a different person werethey of a different sex/gender. Uniessentialism attempts to understandand articulate this. However, Witt's work departs in importantrespects from the earlier (so-called) essentialist or gender realistpositions discussed in Section 2: Witt does not posit some essentialproperty of womanhood of the kind discussed above, which failed totake women's differences into account. Further, uniessentialismdiffers significantly from those position developed in response to theproblem of how we should conceive of women's social kind. It is notabout solving the standard dispute between gender nominalists andgender realists, or about articulating some supposedly shared propertythat binds women together and provides a theoretical ground forfeminist political solidarity. Rather, uniessentialism aims to makegood the widely held belief that gender is constitutive of who weare.