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Approaches Gender Biological Difference Notes

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Approaches Revision Notes: GENDER: Biological difference:

1. What can historians learn about the relationship between biological difference and gender?Bodily functions formed a key part of early modern understanding of the world:Things viewed as affecting you externally.E.g. witchcraft.E.g. 1677 e.g.: Staffordshire iron-smith apprentice - gangrene. Villagers blamed sins e.g. whoring, buggery, bestiality.E.g. C18th England, believed that being on your period when a child was conceived = red hair.Believed that women were "possessed of an aggressive sexuality" and that they could suffer from too little sex, whereas men suffered from too little.Writers like Havelock Ellis concluded that women were on a constant "biological rollercoaster" (Lacquer): 'periodically wounded in the most sensitive spot in their organism'. Uses metaphor of 'gnawing worm'."Synecdochic leaps of the imagination seem to view women as the uterus" (Lacquer).And, indeed, beyond the EM period: French Rev = key e.g. of "symbolic significance of bodies as sites of political meaning" (Sonya Rose).
- E.g. Dorinda Outram study: heroic images from Greek classical works used to encourage men's particip and discourage women's.
- It is clear that physical weakness has been linked to femininity:Suggests there is a link between biological diff and gender roles.E.g. Chidley, devon, 1611: fight in pub, John Pulford treated Robert Lyle 'as if he had been a woman'. Called a 'whore, her'.
- Lynda Gowing suggests that this emphasises how vulnerability, property and possession could become feminine concepts.Emotions have played an important part in human history, and have definitely been believed to be shaped by/linked to biological factors.E.g. witches could not cry - could be said to be inversion of ideal women.Ulrika Rublack's argument.A concentration on 'manhood' can be very revealing:It becomes very clear that 'manhood' is central to the masculine psyche - can ask why this is. Key issue = POWER.

- E.g. 'forgotten man' of Great Depression - could not provide for family, looked poor & skinny. Felt powerless."Masculinity needs constant validation; its pursuit is relentless".Can reveal things about class.Different classes had particular ideas about images of 'manhood', for example.
- Gregory Kaster's analysis of the language used in C19th American labour organising shows how propagandists "created an idealised notion of WC manhood as resolute and heroic" (A Baron).
- E.g. MC/UC fashion - inconspic colours, not tight fitting, business dress hid muscles. Good way of distinguishing between them and WC.
- MC were then criticised by WC for being effeminate.
- Muscles became eroticised in the C20th - A Baron argues that by being spectators to these bodies, the MC were empowered. Can look quite primitive. "Biology...
served as the dividing line between 'civilised' MC men and their inferiors" (Baron).Can also illuminate ideas about race.MC body described above contrasted with those of immigrants, who had to do more manual labour.Robin Kelley talks of how this contributed to the "racialization of jobs".Chinese men's 'braided plaits of hair' and loose clothes ?
"sexually ambiguous" (Erika Lee).
- Bodies central to women's political activism. E.g. Kathleen Canning: female textile workers, Weimar Germany, mid-'20s, demanded >state maternity protections.A focus on ideas about the body can help us to understand why certain events had the impact that they did.E.g. Technological advances during the 1970s demasculinised builders by reducing their need for physical strength. "A remarkably macho and aggressive hardhat culture arose" (A Baron).Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska: WW1 meant motherhood was "redefined as a patriotic duty" - empowering.
- Also ^ emph on female orgasm and health, e.g. 1919 issue of 'Health and Strength' mag X men who misused wives' bodies.Perceptions about the body could have an empowering, as well as a negative, impact on women.E.g. Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska's argument about the interwar period in Britain: women taking part in athletics, health etc. enabled them to gains some control.

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