Nancy Gish wrote:
> Eliot is a dead poet and a topic of debate and study, not a participant
> in the debate.
> Gender does not mean sex, and its separate meaning is one of those that
> has become quite distinct in usage. It is not a euphemism for sex,
> which does not need a euphemism anyway, as in academic terms it refers
> to biological difference as distinguished from social roles. Read any
> current or recent texts on gender.
Considering how fixed the distinction between sex and gender is I'm
amazed that any literate person isn't familiar with it.
Even after making the distinction (gender = social; sex = biology) there
still remain problems: Up until a couple centuries ago (this is debated
by some of course) the model was one sex, two genders: the difference
between men and women was a difference of degree -- women were
incompletely 'cooked' men. See Thomas Laqueur, _Making Sex: Body and
Gender from the Greeks to Freud_ (Harvard UP, 1990). See also a fine
review by Stephen Jay Gould, "The Birth of the Two-Sex World," NYRB,
June 13, 1991.
Gould emphasizes that in terms of biology there are equal arguments for
the one-sex and the two-sex models. Politically I have held elsewhere
that probably the most desirable model is one-sex, many genders. But
that _is_ a POLITICAL not a biological or medical issue. The biology is
quite neutral on the topic.
From Gould's review:
The "two-sex model" replaced this concept of woman and man as two clumps
on a graded continuum with a notion of two fundamentally distinct
entities, bearing different organs that imply divergent behaviors and
aptitudes; (divergent perhaps, but still eminently rankable, for sexism
is the one invariant in this history of transition). Laqueur writes:
Thus the old model, in which men and women were arrayed according to
their degree of metaphysical perfection, their vital heat, along an
axis whose telos was male, gave way by the late eighteenth century to a
new model of radical dimorphism, of biological divergence. An anatomy
and physiology of incommensurability replaced a metaphysics of
hierarchy in the representation of woman in relation to man.
Why did this transition occur, and why over a broad stretch of time
centered on the early eighteenth century? The answer cannot lie in any
simplistic notion of empirical discovery wrested from nature by
triumphant science (quite a set of male images). I shall return to the
role of empirics among other causes of transition later in this review,
but a simple reason suffices to debar factual adequacy as a primary
agent of the switch: neither model is "correct" by any morphological
standard; both capture elements of anatomical reality.
Both models have supported male-supremacist ideology, but in different
ways, which can be crudely summarized as hierarchical vs "scientific."
Gould's review discusses that contrast also.