In her book titled Myths of Gender: Biological Theories about Women and Men, Anne Fausto-Sterling points out on pages 16 - 17 that in scientific (and philosophical) literature, female is typically...

In her book titled Myths of Gender: Biological Theories about Women and Men, Anne Fausto-Sterling points out on pages 16 - 17 that in scientific (and philosophical) literature, female is typically defined "as a lack or absence." What is the cumulative result of this perspective, and why does it matter?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Scientist Anne Fausto-Sterling uses her book titled Myths of Gender: Biological Theories about Women and Men to point out how the study of biology and other sciences throughout time have been used to enforce the perspective of biological differences between genders. One example can be seen in the fact that she demonstrates science has defined female "as a lack." More specifically, even on page 81, she demonstrates that science has defined female as an "absence of testosterone" and then even more generally "as a lack."

As Fausto-Sterling argues in the very first chapter of her book, using science to underscore differences in gender, such as defining female "as a lack," using science to prove that men and women think differently, or using science to assert that differences in hormones creates behavioral differences, also serves to justify social injustices that society has created all throughout time. Science has been used to prove that inequity exists in order to justify unequal treatment.  Among the social injustices she points out in her first chapter include the disparity in women's income levels. To prove her argument, she points out that "currently two out of every three impoverished adults are women" (p. 5). Hence, Fausto-Sterling demonstrates that the cumulative result of defining women "as a lack" or of any science used to underscore differences is maintaining society's longstanding belief that the sexes are unequal that women should be treated differently from men.

Instead of looking at biology as a root cause of differences between genders, Fausto-Sterling takes the stance now held by many scientists that behavior cannot stem from one identifiable "root cause" but rather stems from a "web of interactions between the biological being and the social environment" (p. 5). She argues that biology can lead to certain conditioned behavior but also that behavior can have a direct impact on an animal's biology.

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