Sexing the Body

Sexing the Body
Based on watching the NOVA program “Life’s Greatest Miracle” what have you learned about biological sex and the develoipment of a human organism? Also, keeping in mind the articles we have read so far on gender and intersectionality how would you critique this video? Consider things such as the choice of actors and the way gender and sex are presented in the film, the tone of the narration and the way family is represented. What is the film telling us about sex and gender in a broad social context based on how it was produced?

Explain how you understand the term “intersex.” Do you think that being born with ambiguous genitals creates a problem for a child? Should a child with ambiguous genitals, complicated chromosomes or other characteristics that make M/F sex unclear be assigned a specific sex at birth? Who should make such decisions — doctors, parents, community or medical boards? What should be done to ensure that a child grows into an assigned gender identity? What are the risks and benefits of allowing a child to grow up without a clearly defined gender in our society? How do you answer the question after an intersex baby’s birth, “is it a boy or a girl?”

Transgender identites and the concerns of transgender people have become public in recent years in ways that are challenging the status quo around sexual identity for everyone. Trans identities threaten gender regimes that depend upon a strict division of the sexes and enforce adherence to social structures based on sexual dimorphism (penis=male=man=masculine and vagina=female=woman=feminine behavior). What are the main issues that transgender people say are most important concerns for them? What are the attitudes and issues in society at large that make transgender identities so difficult for some people and insititutions?


WRWC: Chapters 4 and 5

FILM: NOVA Life’s Greatest Miracle

Hines, Melissa. Gender Development and the Human Brain in Annual Review of Neuroscience (2011) 34:69–88.

Rosalind Petchesky, “Fetal Images: The Power of Visual Culture in the Politics of Reproduction,” Feminist Studies (1987).

Emily Martin, “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society (1991).


Anne Fausto-Sterling, “Dueling Dualisms,” Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality (2000).

Colligan, Sumi,“Why the Intersexed Shouldn’t Be Fixed,” Gendering Disability (2004).

Tamar-Mattis, Anne, “Exceptions to the Rule: Curing the Law’s Failure to Protect Intersex Infants” in Berkley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice (2006). 21-56.

Transgender Identities

Susan Stryker, “An Introduction to Transgender Terms and Concepts,” Transgender History (2008).

Julia Serano, “Pathological Science,” Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity (2007).

Jennifer Finney Boylan’s Website

FILM: Diagnosing Difference

Scott-Dixon, Krista. “Public Health, Private Parts: A Feminist Public-Health Approach to Trans Issues,” Hypatia vol. 24, no. 3 (Summer, 2009): 34-55.

New York Magazine, “The Trans Everything CEO,” by Lisa Miller. Published 9/7/2014.

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