Our bodies are not the same

We started this module with a video from the SciShow in which host Hank Green explored research on biological sex development and differentiation. His main point is that although biological sex seems straightforward, it’s actually a lot more complicated than “high school diagrams” (or as Emily Martin points out, textbooks) seem to imply. In our lesson, we learned to think critically about the cultural narratives that provide straightforward explanations for the ways that biological sex, gender identity, and sexual desire are connected to one another.

For feminist biologist Anne Fausto-Sterling, who has spent her research career exploring the complexities of sex and gender, it’s important to recognize and appreciate biological diversity: our bodies are not the same! It’s also vital to recognize that there is no simple answer to the question of whether our preferences are determined by nature or by nurture. Though feminist scholarship in WGS has often landed on answers that are more closely aligned with nurture than nature as an explanation for our myriad differences, feminist biologists suggest that there are better ways to look at the issue. Indeed, Fausto-Sterling argues persuasively deterministic models ought to be replaced with dynamic models, which is to say models that view none of the categories in the matrix as stable and unchanging.

Test Yourself

The following quiz tests your recollection of Hank Green’s Sex is a Social Construct.


CHALLENGE ONE: Check out this article from Quanta Magazine: Choosy Eggs May Pick Sperm for Their Genes, Defying Mendel’s Law. Analyse this article using the language and logic in the articles that we read this week.


CHALLENGE TWO: Find a biology lesson online or from an old textbook you have. Does the lesson reinforce the sleeping metaphors that Martin is problematizing? If it does, rewrite the lesson with the aim of dismantling the stereotypes being presented. Reflect on the value of revisiting biological narratives in this way.

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