W5 Reflection Prompt: Male/Female

Biomedicine is often considered an objective scientific approach that reflects nature.  It is said to be unaffected by outside sources, such as from human influence and culture. However, the lecture reveals that biomedicine is in fact not devout of culture and is a part of western culture. Biomedical knowledge is culturally constructed.  Bioculture is often made up dichotomies, such as sickness and health but nature does not present itself in twos.

I feel my opinion on dichotomies changed and shaped early on in college, due to me taking anthropology classes.  I realized most dichotomies are socially constructed, such as having two ‘main’ genders of male and female. I think the reason we accept gender into dichotomy is that of that most cis women can biologically carry children, where cis men can not. I believe that we use childbearing, fertility, and menstruation as a function to carve out two genders.  Sex is also often determined by chromosomes or the appearance of genetalia, neither of these is a perfect science. We often learn about the two ‘major’ chromosomal sets of XX or XY. Sex is also impacted by hormones, genetics, different chromosomal arrangements or exposure to testosterone or estrogen. Due to this diversity, we have to be conscious of assigning genders to people that they may not identify with, this is also a major argument against surgery on infants who have more ambiguous genitalia.

I feel like my exposure to my anthropology coursework forced me to challenge dichotomies in my own life. I think I am more open to fluidity and exceptions to ‘cultural rules.’  I believe there are an infinite amount of gender identities because the human race is diverse and I believe this is why we need to create a culture of acceptance towards all gender expressions.

4 thoughts on “W5 Reflection Prompt: Male/Female

  1. Looking at the specific dichotomy of male/female, is important to understand that there is a bigger picture of this that has become increasingly important to recognize. The male/female dichotomy was socially constructed and perhaps misunderstood at the time of this creation because the previous meaning of gender focused on “sex” and not the actual meaning. It shows how a primary focus might revolve around the way women can birth children while on the opposite side, the transitioning of a male to a female, cannot have children thus might have placed the meaning of gender focusing on sex. Clinicians need to have an understanding of this dichotomy and how there is a broader context for it and has been shown not to be limited to male or female. By taking this as fact, it opens up the door to having promising discussions with individuals that may feel a different gender than their actual sex and can further help people who feel like this and build trust between them. It shows just how important this topic is and how the dichotomy is changing and has been changing over time. The former notions of gender has changed and now there is an established difference between sex and gender.

  2. I think that your post is very well worded and does a good job of discussing gender as a social construct. I believe that it is important for clinicians to understand this dichotomy since males and females have different hormones and genitalia. Treating a male could be different than treating a female so it is important to make that distinction. Even if the individual was not born as the gender that they identify with, they still most likely are taking hormone supplements if they transitioned. There are many implications if the clinician takes the male/female dichotomy as a fact. One of the most important implications would be offending the patient by incorrectly selecting the gender that they identify themselves as. Also, taking this dichotomy as a fact could potentially play into socially constructed gender roles that may not be true in the patient’s case. A physician could incorrectly assume that a woman wants to have children and treat her to preserve her fertility when in reality she has no desire to reproduce and would rather just be 100% healthy. With the growing prevalence and acceptance of the trans population, now more than ever assuming gender could create many issues. To avoid this, clinicians should be safe and evaluate cases based on sex and not gender.

  3. The dichotomy you chose reminded me of an interesting story I read about an Olympic hurdler from Spain named Maria Patino. She was in the 1988 Olympics, but she accidentally forgot to bring her birth certificate (which verified her gender) with her to the games. Because of this, the officials made her submit to a DNA test to confirm she was a female even though she had a woman’s strength and appearance. After returning for a second examination, she found out she had a Y chromosome in her DNA and that, while she lacked both a uterus and ovaries, she had testes hidden within her labia. They wouldn’t let her participate in the Games and when she returned home, Spanish officials took away her previous awards and banned her from competing ever again. It’s instances like these where there is some major gray area between male and female. While Maria was definitely not male in gender, is she technically male in regards to her sex? I guess it depends on which of her male genes were being expressed and which weren’t.

  4. I think that it is incredibly important for clinicians to understand that a person’s gender may not fall neatly into either male or female. As you pointed out, even biologically, there isn’t always the perfect set of XX or XY chromosomes, and doctors need to be aware of this fact whenever they go to see a new patient. There are a lot of things in this world that aren’t as black and white as people would like them to be, but in fact have quite a few shades of gray in between them. Gender is most definitely one of those subjects. I too think that since I have come to college, I have learned a lot more about this, and I am sure I will continue to learn about and add on the mental definition I have for what gender is. I think that all doctors need to have a similar mindset because they will need to be able to evolve and adapt to how the world is changing around them. This is especially important when it does comes to things like gender, because inside the biological aspect of it, there are really only a few possible variations, but outside of that when you include the social and even physical variations, those different shades of gray really start to increase in number.

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