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Biological sex is a distinctive characteristic of living organisms of flora and fauna. It is determined by reproductive cells produced by reproductive system, which are spermatozoa in males and ova in females. Biological sex mainly predetermines reproductive characteristics of living things and the part that each of these living things has to play in the process. Living organisms generally have one of the two types of cells: sperm in the male reproductive system and ova in the female reproductive system. However, there exist organisms that have both systems in their bodies. On the other hand, there are also organisms that reproduce asexually using other means such as spores in ferns.
Gender is basically determined by sexual characteristics, which are influenced by culture and society and not biological sex (FAO 24). According to the Oxford dictionary, gender is the state of being male or female. It further notes that the word is associated with social and cultural organization. Based on this, it is possible to deduce that gender is a psychological role constructed in the mind by prevailing notions, traditions etc. Masculinity and femininity are words used to describe gender.
Like gender, gender roles are defined by the society and are based on its culture. These roles may be a reflection of the abilities of men and women, which are dictated by the strength that each has. However, it does not mean that one gender cannot do the tasks associated with another gender. A compelling example can be found in western culture, where it is believed that mowing the lawn is a man’s job, but it does not mean that a woman cannot mow the lawn.
In Plato’s work ‘The Republic’ he describes men in a cave chained to the ground facing the wall. Behind them are the puppeteers, and behind that is fire. The light from the fire casts shadows on cave's wall from the objects held up by the puppeteers. Prisoners would look at the shadows and shout what they see, for example book, but they are not referring to the book but to the shadows.
As we know, puppeteers would hold up props such as wood and iron to create things in the shadows. The prisoners see nothing else but the shadows and hence interpret them as reality and respond with answers that reflect it. “And if they could talk to one another, do not you think they would suppose that the names they used applied to the things they see passing before them?” (Plato 229). Plato’s allegory of the cave can be used to critique gender roles. Traditionally, men are depicted superior to women. They are perceived to be more intelligent, more talented and stronger in everything. They are thus placed in positions of leaders at home and in the society rather than partners of women. Women, on the other hand, are thought to be more emotional, gentle, and weak. They are thus confined to domestic duties such as doing household chores and taking care of children.
The allegory shows that what people may perceive as real may be inaccurate due to the nature of things when we are born. We are tied down by set rigid traditions. The shadows are the inaccurate beliefs and perceptions which present an inaccurate reflection of reality. If the prisoners are set free, they will rise and see the props with the help of light. It is possible to say that light represents the true nature of things and allows to see that people are all equal.
Nancy Tuana has showed various challenges for those perceived as women when reading philosophy in many of her publications.
In her book “Women and the History of Philosophy” she reviews works of various philosophers to show these challenges. Most of the challenges are associated with normative perception of gender roles. Women are demoralized by the inferiority that is inflicted on them. She talks about John Locke who has somewhat liberal view towards women. He highlights the role that women play in the education of children but downplays this role with the view that women function as caretakers. Furthermore, he shows no connection with the role played by women to their husbands as contributing to the functioning of the government. George Hegel discusses the domestic realm where he places a higher value on women in this arena. In her another book “Feminism and Science” Nancy Tuana shows female domination in the copulation process. “In one image we see fertilization as a marital gang rape, the members of the masculine army lying in wait of the passive egg” (Tuana 56). Furthermore, the egg is first viewed as a whore becoming virtuous only after the sperm has penetrated it. In “Feminism and Plato” she discusses a part of Plato’s liberal views. “He explicitly argues against sexual discrimination in education for guardian women” (Tuana 27). He is also not like Locke and Hegel, who are confined to the domestic realm. Plato recognized cultural, social, and political factors in the forming what is regarded as normal in gender roles (Tuana 27).
It is thus evident that women are demoralized the inferior nature that they take in the discussion that they hold in these philosophy publications as they also do in reality.
“The Matrix” is a science fiction movie, the plot of which is a creative manifestation of imagined possible development of the future. Computer technology and people as shown by “The Matrix” are able to exist in a virtual realm which is not in present reality. Kim Edwards asserts that normative gender roles, clothes, and behavior play pivotal roles in the film.
In the movie we see that both genders have an equal role to play. Even though, Trinity is the only woman who is seen to be actively fighting against evil, she does it effectively. All characters are seen wearing black leather, dark sunglasses, and using firearms with spectacular mastery. They are seen working together to fight the agents. Feminine aspects are seen in various parts of the movie. The Oracle is a calm wise character, who offers advice to three main characters. This can be compared to the role of women in the domestic setting where they give advice to men who take on the active part of work. Unlike other characters, Trinity is seen wearing sexually appealing skinny clothes which reveal the shape of her body. This underlines femininity and captures female sexuality. Furthermore, female caring nature is shown in Trinity when Neo is shot dead by the agent. She reveals that the Oracle had foreseen that she would fal in love with ‘the one’. She then removes the bullet and revives Neo, who then proceeds to fight with the agent. We also see that she escapes with no help, unlike Morpheus, who requires help from others.
From this, it is possible to see how gender bending and normative gender roles are portrayed in “The Matrix”. Women are able to take equal roles to those of men unlike general perception and to some extent are portrayed stronger and better yet still able to maintain their gentle and caring nature.
Dani Cavallaro makes a controversial argument about what is superior among human body and mind. However, the case is difficult to understand due to the following reasons.
First, the case is confusing due to knowledge biology. The body only follows the mind’s instruction. This results from data input that is acquired from the environment. For example, when one is solving arithmetic problems, one views the problem, thinks of how to arrive at the solution, and then writes the solution down. The mind then directs hands on what to write. From this, the body is an interface between the mind and the environment. Second, is the aspect of the borders of the body. The author presents the scenario where one is surfing the web. One is surprised by how much time passes because his mind is engrossed in the virtual world. However, this is the same case when one is doing something he/she enjoys or something mentally demanding. For example, when one takes annual vacation and its time is about to end, one feels that time went too fast. In this case, what world is one’s mind engrossed in? Lastly, as Nietzsche says, “the body is everything as it is only through it that we are made aware of the world the self and others” (Nietzsche 23). We should also ask what is the body without the mind. Indeed, the body is just a shell as the force behind it is gone. It is like having computer hardware without having a processor.
This does not mean that the body is not significant. The body and the mind complement each other. None can function without the other though the mind is somewhat superior owing to its functions.
Masculinity and femininity are different in terms of how they relate to violence. According to normative gender perception men are physically stronger and more aggressive in nature thus they are more violent. Women are emotional and gentle and will not take part in violent activities.
As depicted in the movie “Full Metal Jacket” violence is a necessity in male’s life. Lack of violence will make one look like not-a-man or gay. We see Private Pyle who is just this type of character. The drill instructor is harsh to him and assigns one of others to help him keep up. As a motivation, the others are being punished when Pyle messes up. He got beaten when he was asleep and that pushed him to the edge. He was reserved but eventually he becomes a man. This is a classic portrayal of Darwin’s theory of adaptation.
Violence is associated with men, and this is the cause of elevation. As depicted in the movie, their guns are their weapons and instruments of violence. They use them to attain victory over enemies. Predisposition to violence of men is seen in various aspects. This perhaps is due to testosterone, the hormone responsible for many masculine traits.
Stories of Neda Agha-Soltan and Marjane Satrapi share different themes that tell us much about the social construction of gender among the upper classes in contemporary Tehran. This is reflected on the circumstances that surround the various occurrences in their lives.
Neda withdraws from school because of to her westernized dressing style. This causes her trouble with her family. This shows that the culture of Iran expects women to be adherent to their cultural norms. Their culture relies on normative gender roles. Individuals who deviate from these norms are looked down upon. In her book “Persepolis” Marjane Satrapi tells about her life. From the book it is possible to pick more clues about the culture of the Iranians. In Vienna Marjane is happy to shop for her own food. This tells us that women were not allowed to go shopping, and in addition men were in charge of finances. She is also surprised when her friend Julie openly talks about sex. This tells us that they were not exposed to sexual relationship and even when it happened, it was not talked about. Marjane feels tied to her culture and she continues to resist it.
From the lives of these two women we are able to see that the culture is based on superiority of men with women taking a more subordinate supportive role to the men.
In today’s world we have many renowned artists who have created works that are still marveled upon by all those who hold art close to heart. However, we note that there are no women who contribute to such works. Linda Nochlin attempts to give a reason tp this.
According to her, there are no famous female artists because modern famous artists are lucky. They were born male and by have been favored by circumstance to become famous. The idea of thinking that the artist is a genius is wrong for the same reason. Modern artists are in their present position due to sheer luck.
Looking closely to this remark we see that Nochlin is somewhat acknowledging the superiority of men as far as art is concerned. Being lucky to be born as men insinuates to the masculinity being a contribution to one being a famous artist.
John Berger describes the differences in the situation in the painting and photos between men and women. He says that women watch themselves being looked at and are thus likely to look more authentic.
In the picture we see the truth in this. We see a woman who is naked and looks at the camera in an inviting manner. Her look is more authentic. The stance and position as stated by Berger assumes a male audience and thus pulls him in using his masculinity. Next to her, there is a black woman whose sexuality is not revealed. It is possible to assume that she is a slave since it is a historical painting. She is thus likely to have a male actor’s stance. She is rather robotic in her look partly owing to the nature of her work.
This rather explains the reason as to why women are preferred in roles that involve public relations. They are more conscious of the image they portray to third parties. Men on the other hand are stiff. They are fixated on the bottom line say, getting the client to buy a product in the case of sales persons while not giving much attention to the appearance that the client has of them.
Roland Barthes uses a method to interpret works of art using the sign signifier and signified. The sign is the painting or the work itself which is supposed to convey a certain message. The signifier involves identifying the constituents of the work. signified is the interpretation of the constituents and what message is encoded.
The painting shows people in various situations. At the centre there is a sculpture. To its left there is a man who is kneeling or, perhaps, bowing to it. We also see a woman who is holding up a baby. We also see a canopy and a building far away. To the right we see a man with chains on his feet being pushed by another man dressed in English clothes.
I think the painting illustrates slavery in the society. The man being led in chains is a slave with his master. The women are enslavers’ wives happily enjoying life while another bows to the sculpture, a god perhaps, for relief from misery. The canopy shows the place with a forest, perhaps in Africa. The buildings signify modernization.
The painting is a depiction of slavery and the ferrying of people away from their homes to places where there are new aspects of civilization uncommon in their ancestral homes. They are faced with cruelty and are depressed and unhappy desperately looking for hope that could reverse their present situation.