Embodiment essays on gender and identity

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.

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Embodiment: Essays on Gender and Identity: …

Representing the theoretical and methodological diversity of feminist studies in art history from its second decade, Broude and Garrard both identify the effects of “postmodernist” theories of authorship, the gaze and the social construction of gender in art history, while contesting the tendency to polarize feminist scholarship between modern and postmodern, essentialist and constructivist, traditionalist and theoretical. They advocate incremental change in the discipline and argue for a continuing acknowledgement of the importance of studies of women’s authorship in art.

Embodiment, Gender, Identity, P erformance

Defining art history as an ideologically impregnated discourse, the authors track stereotypes of femininity (mindless, decorative, derivative, dextrous, weak) negatively invoked to sustain an unacknowledged masculinization of art and the artist. They critique the gendered hierarchy of art versus craft and assess the strategic interventions into the representation of gender difference, body, and identity of artists from the Middle Ages to the late 20th century.

Thapan (ed.) Embodiment: Essays on Gender and Identity, pp
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Since women are socially positioned in various different contexts,“there is no gender essence all women share” (Alcoff 2006,147–8). Nonetheless, Alcoff acknowledges that her account isakin to the original 1960s sex/gender distinction insofar as sexdifference (understood in terms of the objective division ofreproductive labour) provides the foundation for certain culturalarrangements (the development of a gendered social identity). But,with the benefit of hindsight

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In order to better understand Butler's critique, consider heraccount of gender performativity. For her, standard feminist accountstake gendered individuals to have some essential propertiesqua gendered individuals or a gender core by virtue of whichone is either a man or a woman. This view assumes that women and men,qua women and men, are bearers of various essential andaccidental attributes where the former secure gendered persons'persistence through time as so gendered. But according to Butler thisview is false: (i) there are no such essential properties, and (ii)gender is an illusion maintained by prevalent power structures. First,feminists are said to think that genders are socially constructed inthat they have the following essential attributes (Butler 1999, 24):women are females with feminine behavioural traits, being heterosexualswhose desire is directed at men; men are males with masculinebehavioural traits, being heterosexuals whose desire is directed atwomen. These are the attributes necessary for gendered individuals andthose that enable women and men to persist through time aswomen and men. Individuals have “intelligible genders”(Butler 1999, 23) if they exhibit this sequence of traits in a coherentmanner (where sexual desire follows from sexual orientation that inturn follows from feminine/ masculine behaviours thought to follow frombiological sex). Social forces in general deem individuals who exhibitincoherent gender sequences (like lesbians) to be doing theirgender ‘wrong’ and they actively discourage such sequencingof traits, for instance, via name-calling and overt homophobicdiscrimination. Think back to what was said above: having a certainconception of what women are like that mirrors the conditions ofsocially powerful (white, middle-class, heterosexual, Western) womenfunctions to marginalize and police those who do not fit thisconception.

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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).