Study Questions: Chapter 9
1. Define gender. Explain how it is different from sex.
Answer: Gender is different to sex. British sociologist Ann Oakley formally distinguished the two when she stated that sex refers to “the biological division into male and female,” while gender refers to “the parallel and socially unequal division into femininity and masculinity” (Oakley 1972). Gender, in other words, is a sociological term that refers to the roles and characteristics society assigns to women and men; it typically carries with it notions of men and women’s inequality. Sex refers merely to anatomical or biological characteristics of women and men. At the individual level, we could say that sex is what you’re born with, but that gender is how you choose to see yourself, and how you live your life. (pp. 229–230)
2. Explain feminist essentialism. Compare it to feminist postmodernism.
Answer: Feminist essentialism (or essentialist feminism) looks at differences between the way women and men think, and argues for equality—or female superiority—in that difference. Women’s morality (Gilligan 1982) and their “maternal thinking” (Ruddick 1989) involve social norms that are more or less “natural” to them. Feminist postmodernism (or postmodernist feminism) takes the strongest social constructionist position, a position almost diametrically opposed to that of feminist essentialism. Some postmodernists even contest the widely held view that all women are biologically all female, and all men are all male. Feminist postmodernists refer to women more as subjects than as objects of sociological study, allowing the perspective of the women studied to guide their research. (pp. 233, 235)
3. What is the feminization of an occupation? Give contemporary and historical examples.
Answer: The feminization of an occupational sphere occurs when a particular job, profession, or industry comes to be dominated by or predominantly associated with women. Since the start of the First World War, when women began to work outside the home in greater numbers, many occupations have become feminized, including bank teller and secretary (or, now, administrative assistant), but there are instances of job feminization occurring well before that. (p. 238)
4. How may gender and immigration be related? Use historical and/or contemporary examples when explaining this issue.
Answer: There have been several instances in Canadian history when only the men or the women of a particular ethnic group were permitted or encouraged to immigrate. Chinese and South Asian women were effectively blocked from entering Canada for significant parts of the twentieth century. Filipino immigration to Canada is distinctive in that women have been the “pioneers”—arriving first before their husbands and other male family members, sending most of their money together with care packages of bargain-hunted goods back home to their families, sponsoring relatives and providing them with a place to stay. (p. 249)
5. Speculate about the existence of extremely polarized stereotypes of racialized women. For example, the “Lotus Blossom Baby” versus the “Dragon Lady” or the “Indian Princess” versus the “squaw” or the asexual “Black Mammy” figure versus the highly sexualized and objectified women of music videos.
Answer: There is a tendency to stereotype visible minority women into two extremes. So, for example, Renee Tajima (1989) writes about how an East Asian woman may be stereotyped either as the Lotus Blossom Baby or as the Dragon Lady. In Tania Das Gupta’s words, the former stereotype “encompasses the images of the China doll, the geisha girl and shy Polynesian beauty. The latter includes prostitutes and ‘devious madams’” (Das Gupta 1996: 27). (p. 245)
6. Explain who the Famous Five are and what their relationship is to the “Persons” case.
Answer: “The famous five” is the name given to five Canadian women who fought for equal rights during the first half of the twentieth century. They are Henrietta Muir Edwards (1849–1931), Nellie McClung (1873–1951), Louise McKinney (1868–1931), Emily Murphy (1868–1933), and Irene Parlby (1868–1965). Among their distinguished achievements is their successful campaign to have women awarded the status of “persons” under British and Canadian law. (p. 242)