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The Politics of the Natural: The Case of Sex Differences

  • Sandra Harding
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 22)

Abstract

It is difficult these days to talk intelligibly about what is really natural or unnatural, normal or abnormal, about sex differences, human sexuality or the human body. The distinction between natural/unnatural or normal/abnormal presumes a standard for what is given us by biology and what by culture. But contemporary feminists argue convincingly that women, like men, appear in everyday life as a socially constructed sexual class, not primarily as a biologically distinct group. Of course males inseminate and females incubate and lactate. There are male and female developmental processes that account for this reproductive difference and are defined in terms of five biological criteria: genes or chromosomes, hormones, gonads, internal reproductive organs, and external genitalia ([40], p. 11). However, behavioral differences between the sexes overwhelmingly appear to be the consequence of relevant social differences. As Simone de Beauvoir wrote:

One is not born, but rather becomes a woman. No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society: it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch ([12], p. xiv).

Keywords

Human Sexuality Male Dominance Radical Feminist Cultural Constructionist Feminine Gender 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra Harding
    • 1
  1. 1.University of DelawareNewarkUSA

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