Gender and Society: Essays Based on Herbert Spencer Lectures Given in the University of Oxford
Colin Blakemore, Susan D. Iversen
Oxford University Press, 2000 - Sex - 205 pages
In this eclectic collection of essays, distinguished scholars from different and specialized disciplines discuss aspects of sex, gender, and gender and society. In his contribution to this series of essays on Gender and Society, Peter Goodfellow states, 'sex, the biological separation intomale and female, is controlled by DNA and is determined by DNA. Gender, the arbitrary social division between masculine and feminine, is a social construct that involves interaction between an individual and society.' The definition of gender offered by Goodfellow is cogently developed by GermaineGreer in her essay on women as victims of rapeDSone of the newest and most controversial aspects of modern criminology. Susan Watkins suggests that the understanding of gender has influenced the analysis of population change, the efforts by activists to ensure reductions in fertility internationally,and the acceptance of birth control in local communities in Kenya. This analysis is complimented by Michele Le Doeuff in a discussion of the complex interplay between reduced fertility, increased literacy, and the function of work in the 'everyday life of every woman whatever her social class orlevel of education.' The question of how the sexes differ in their perception and processing of information about their external world is tackled by Lucia Jacobs within a biological and evolutionary context. She proposes that sexual selection should be given credit for the rapid evolution of ourunique abilities and complex culture concluding that 'it is the female that is the smaller, the "ecological" sex, best adapted to survive in the ecological niche of the species, and it is the male who carries the heavier burden or handicap of sexual selection, his fitness dependent on arbitrarytraits that reduce his competitive ability as a human being, although they are all too necessary for his competitive ability as a man.' The contribution of the sociobiologist Sarah Hrdy focussed on sexual selection, drawing on a wide range of research on the physiological and behavioural responsesof subhuman primates but, appropriately, drawing her inspiration from Spencer's own writings on physical beauty and its consequences for posterity. The chapters in this book were originally delivered as The Herbert Spencer Lectures in 1995 at Oxford University.
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