The Nature of Being

rethinking the facts of life



Contradictions between Feminist Ideologies: Are Men and Women Really Different?

Feminism, specifically radical feminism, has conceptualized public politics to be ‘intrinsically male’. Along with this conceptualization comes ideals of masculinity, often coded to mainstream politics such as competitiveness, aggressiveness and self-interest. In turn, the other side of this conceptualization suggest a women’s way of conducting politics, or a ‘women’s culture’.  In a well-recognized study done by Carole Gilligan, a feminist psychologist, it was observed that men tended to sway towards an ‘ethic of justice’, whereas women swayed more often towards an ‘ethic of care’. This was explained by the different focusses each gender took when reasoning about moral questions. Where men chose to focus on more abstract rights and rules, women drew on their traditionally set out roles of caregivers to ponder such questions.

The next issue then, is what does this mean for the field of politics? This is where the contestation between different branches of feminist politics takes place. Feminist political scientists can either take a realist ontological stance on this dilemma, or a relativist ontological stance (there are others, but for the sake of simplicity we will focus on these two). Specifically what this means is, where some believe this lays out the particular area women can contribute to the field of politics, taking on a ‘one reality’ perspective; others say this construction of difference between men and women is far too ambiguous to allow to enter the public sphere. Feminists of this mode of thought suggest that it is wrong to ‘universalize’ women’s experience in such a way. On the surface it may seem rational to universalize the female experience, however society is multifaceted and what this perspective does not take into consideration is the racial and economic components of this multifaceted issue. For example, the long lasting ‘segregation’ between African Americans and Caucasian citizens in the United States portrays quite well the fundamental problem with assuming all women carry the burden of patriarchal oppression in the same way.

Mainstream second wave feminism focussed on the norm of women, white middle class, and not the full scope of women and female experiences, failing to recognize the interdependence between race, economic class, and gender on the individual experience of patriarchal social organization. Continuing with the example above, when the first and second waves of feminism first took hold, the event of social activism largely took off without the inclusion of African American women, often times only seeking their participation through the social coding of ‘exotic’-Therefore forcing this demographic of women to constitute their own feminist movement, entitled black feminism. For the realm of politics, this lays out an intriguing instance where the branch of politics that claimed to be a relevant and important source of objectivity in the discourse of political science, can now be seen as in need of re-assessment. That in mind, I will end with the following quote to illustrate my personal beliefs in this branch of political science and its upmost significance for the contemporary, modern political sphere.

“Despite its internal diversity and debates, the feminist perspective is badly needed in political science. The achievements of feminist political science in ensuring a full and discerning account of women as political actors have been substantial, and whilst the limitations of this approach are increasingly recognized, it will go on being necessary.” (Randell, 2010)


Theory and Methods in Political Science-Third Edition: Edited by David Marsh and Gerry Stoker-2010: Published by Palgrave MacMillan


Legitimizing female oppression: Contesting the Distinction Between Public and Private Spheres

‘The personal is political’ is a slogan widely known and effectively used to discuss the core questions addressed by feminist politics; one of the more interesting being, the traditional distinction between public and private spheres. Politicians working under the discourse of feminism have acknowledged this distinction as one way of legitimizing the oppression and exclusion of women from public spheres.

“The real inspiration for new thinking, was radical feminism, which called into question the conventional understanding of the scope and nature of politics, rejecting its distinction between private and public spheres, and highlighting the ubiquitous role of male power or patriarchy and the masculine character of mainstream political institutions.” (Randell, 2010)

Exploring the private and public spheres, feminists have argued that the two are highly interdependent, and thus issues coded conventionally as private have now been brought to the attention of those in the public spheres, such as abortion rights and domestic violence. This has been accomplished using a ‘second order’ methodology, meaning an ‘outside’ perspective, much like that of sociological discourses. For this reason, the relationship between sociology and politics comes to an interesting intersection when looked at from a feminist point of view; many of the same topics such as sexual behavior and family relations are closely analyzed in both fields of academia. This somewhat of a disciplinary ambiguity, results in a rather captivating normative question- should the political expand to embrace the social, or is the problem that of a more fundamental one, specifically in reference to patriarchy? In other words, should mainstream politics evolve so that the border between the public and private spheres is dissolved? Or is the issue raised here only of that with the system of patriarchy- meaning once an egalitarian approach (equality) takes hold, the borders between the public and the private can stay intact?

Keeping consistent with the relativist ontology decided upon in my previous article, the answer to this questions can only be found within an individual’s own political perspective and agenda. However, as the slogan stated at the beginning suggests, the widespread of feminist political ideology, and scientists, point toward a more homogeneous mix between the public and the private; holding the belief that an increase in fluidity between the two would be in the best interest of the populace. That is not to say that feminist belief holds egalitarian ideals lower on the agenda, on the contrary, ideals of equality are at the most fundamental roots of feminism. It does however point so some complications within the feminist discourse itself, particularity between several nuanced versions of feminism that answer the question-are men and women really different?-in contesting ways. My next and final article will explore this controversy and its importance further.


Theory and Methods in Political Science-Third Edition: Edited by David Marsh and Gerry Stoker-2010: Published by Palgrave MacMillan

Introduction to Gendered Politics: Feminist Jurisprudence and Objectivity

“Feminism is innately political. To the extent that ‘it picks out and problematizes the fundamentally political relationship between gender and power’ (Hojer and Ase 1999: 73), it has had, and still has a great deal to say to political science, although it is not always apparent that mainstream political science is listening.” (Randell, 2010)


This quote written by Vicky Randell extracted out of a collaborated book entitled ‘Theory and Methods in Political Science’, works well to introduce the purpose of this article which is to serve as an overview of feminism as a branch in the diverse sphere of political science, rather than simply an activist movement where it first started, outside the field of academia. First, I would like to draw on the importance of feminist politics, and its significant contributions to the political, by looking at its ontological and epistemological perspectives. For those unfamiliar with these terms, ontology refers to questions surrounding existence-what is true? Is there a ‘real’ world out there, or is ‘reality’ constructed? Where epistemology refers to questions revolving knowledge-what is knowledge? How can we gain knowledge? These questions are important when dealing with natural or social science because  the way in which politicians, scientists and other ‘elites’ or people of ‘knowledge’ make decisions is based on how they decide to interpret the world they are governing or studying.

These ontological and epistemological questions are relevant to the field of feminist political theory because of the innate nature of feminism to ‘expose the misogynist tendencies of traditional political thought’ and when one ‘orthodox’ mode of thought is questioned, other outdated forms of thinking tend to come to light as well. Ontologically speaking, feminist theory tends to sway towards a relativists point of view, meaning that they believe the world is socially constructed and thus no one reality is ‘true’. This in turn suggests their standpoint on epistemology, namely, that knowledge is a contingency, or ever changing. These two belief systems are key for the development of political activism and reform, where the heart of feminist politics is grounded. For this reason feminist jurisprudence, or in other words, governmentality in line with feminist ideologies of equality, is of the upmost importance for the growth of democracy and liberalism. Assuming a perspective of mainstream political science, this then codes feminism as an essential discourse on prosperity and the best interest of the cosmopolitan populace at large.

This, however, is not to say that feminism is a unilateral discourse. To give an insight into the immense diversity that the feminist political branch entails I will briefly mention three of the epistemological phases that it has gone through. Namely, rationalist, anti-rationalist, and post rationalist, which in turn coincided with liberal and radical feminism, Marxist feminism, and post-structuralist feminism respectively. For the purposes of this and my last two articles, I will be focussing on post-structuralist feminism, or ‘second generation’ feminism, because of its roots in consciousness and ideals of reflexivity. Of particular interest is their take on dichotomies such as culture and nature or mind and body, as identified with men and women respectively (Randell). The significance of questioning dichotomies, is that when fundamental principles such as these are shaken from their validity, an entire new notion of perceiving the world must first be established.

This is where the theme of objectivity is deployed; for second generation feminists, the notion of social constructs took its most powerful stance. Under this ideology, the power of definition was taken from the ‘author’ and given to the ‘reader’. Put in more practical terms, the authority of the government to define rationales such as the men-women dichotomy, was passed down to the populace, as legitimated by the new awareness of social constructs. If there is no one reality, no one ‘truth’, then the rational approach would be to give the power of definition to each individual. This sounds much along the lines of the ideals of liberalism and democracy, does it not? In this sense objectivity and feminism go hand in hand, thus feminism can be said to be at the forefront of modern political science. With this article I have hoped to introduce some relevant concepts and terminology for the highly influential political feminist branch and to give some insight into the significance of feminism in political discourse. My next post will be diving deeper into this topic by looking the distinction between public and private spheres, as viewed by feminism.


Theory and Methods in Political Science-Third Edition: Edited by David Marsh and Gerry Stoker-2010: Published by Palgrave MacMillan


Feminism and Hate Culture: Notions of Rethinking Otherness

Otherness is a lesser known concept; it is not taught in schools, or used often in every day language, but it is a concept that shapes nearly all aspects of everyday life. To fully explain what I mean, otherness is a concept of definition, just as black cannot exist with out white, humanity has used societal binaries to define the nature of being in all aspects. Woman is the other of man, animal the other of human, abnormality the other of norm, and as the cogitation dictates, the other, is coded the inferior category.

The power of definition that the concept of otherness provides, is one that allows individuals to identify themselves. People define themselves against an opposition; self identity has a hard time existing without the opposite to facilitate the realization of that identity. This paradigm leads to identity power struggles, because one can not define both the other and themselves, this establishes a notion of superior and inferior.

That said, what I would like to be the emphasis of this article, is hate culture. Due to these power struggles set up by the current method of social construction, these power struggles establish a culture that is defined by the majority/minority complex, where the latter is coded as inferior and the former feels justified in committing unjust actions towards the socially constructed inferior group. This is where feminism comes in; think of feminism as the other to sexism. I say this because in many societies across the globe, sexist societal organization is the dominant source of social construction, coding nearly all norms in many societies. Patriarchy, has been deemed natural and uncontested for centuries, feminism poses the opposition, suggesting an egalitarian form of social construction where the gender binary (as well as all other genders) cease to exist within a power struggle. This is a hard concept to truly understand the gravity of, but it is a concept that would be in the best interest of the global populace to enlighten itself on.

Hate culture is a direct consequence of the use of otherness to facilitate social construction. Rationally, a system based on the establishment of superior and inferior would create social tension and stigma, what is important to keep in mind is it is just that, a construction. Otherness is a choice.  Society has chosen to use the white, upper to middle class, often times christian or catholic, man as the default for judging everyone else against. This otherness is what established other ethnicity, other genders, other religions (or lack of), other economic classes, as the inferior demographic. They are the other to the white business man. This comes with a consequence for the those that fit within the default demographic however. As I pointed out in my previous article, feminist theory has the best interest of everyone in mind, because when using the concept of otherness as your tool for definition, a world full of social problems is created, and social problems are intrinsically intertwining, they effect everyone-yourself and the other.  woman-as-other-the-second-sex

References: -citation for photo

Feminism as it Relates to the ‘Boy Crisis’: Rethinking Masculinity

Men live in a society where being the pinnacle of masculinity is the most prized achievement in life. In sociology masculine is a gender, a self defined identity, however, in commonplace life, masculinity takes a very different meaning and has very strong affects on social organization. For example, because of the masculine ideology, global society has been organized as a patriarchy, causing wage gaps between the gender binary as well as an unequal allocation of resources in various countries around the world. the most prominent issue however, is the hate culture that has been nurtured out of this form of organization (as opposed to an egalitarian form of social organization).

In the United States a term for the initial point of nurturing this hate culture has been coined: the ‘boy crisis’. What this terms means to explain, is the initial point that masculinity is enforced by the people around them, as well as society at large, generally when the boys are very young and first starting grade school. What masculinity has coded for young boys as well as teenagers and adults, is that all other genders are lesser, the masculine gender is far superior, weakness and vulnerability is unacceptable. These three axis of this masculine code have had rippling affects in society. When boys don’t feel that their emotions are valid, anger and hurt is suppressed. This suppression tends to leak out as abuse to others, the other genders (feminine genders in particular), an abuse that is coded as valid because these other genders have been deem lesser then the masculine gender. This is the ‘boy crisis’, a crisis that feminism has a direct impact on.

What I find to be generally lacking in society, is the understanding of the social interconnection between all demographics. For many people, issues such as violence against women is a woman’s problem, however, the same normative behavior that codes violence against women, also codes bullying in high schools, stigma against mental illness and various other social problems. For this reason it is the mindset of feminism, with its goals set at equality for everyone, that is best suited for analyzing and restructuring society in a way that will benefit the well being of all genders. For the sake of inclusiveness I would like to mention that there are many different branches of feminism, with slightly different modes of interpreting social organization, however,  radical feminism is the branch in particular which is the most useful to reference for my purposes.

Radical feminism is a branch of feminism that seeks a radical restructuring of society. This restructuring defines all genders as equals and promotes gender as a self defined identity. What feminism does is it questions current forms of interacting with one another, it questions why rape is coded as female and why media has stereotyped men in a way that only strengthens tensions, social gaps, and abuse between the gender binary. It also goes further then questioning, and poses alternative forms society could function and supports those forms with ways in which everyone has benefited from previous waves of feminism. For example when the female demographic in the workplace increases to half of the total work force (meaning its equal to that of males), then GDP will rise in several countries. A specific case is Italy, which would see an increase of 21% according to The Economist. There has also been numerous direct benefits for the masculine population due to radical feminism. One of my favorite being that it demands media to change its representation of men. Most are familiar with the ‘love your body’ campaign for females, however, feminism has brought to light the need for media to change the way in which it depicts men as well, arguing that the strong, muscular, and flawless image portrayed in media is hurtful to the well being of the masculine demographic. Masculinity, as it is used in society today, is a strong ideology that has the power to organize society in both beneficial and harmful ways. What feminism does is it rethinks the facts of life that have coded those harmful ways, and actively seeks to improve and restructure society in a way that benefits all genders across all spheres of societal organization. maculinity

Women Earn 24% Less Than Men on Average, U.N. Report Finds

Feminism: The Current Controversy and Importance

I would like to use this post as an intro into my new research topic. For the next four or five post I will be discussing feminism and using it as a mode of analyzing social organization of western and/or industrial countries (keeping in mind these issues may pertain to other societies as well),  with a keen interest on how feminism relates to masculinity. To illustrate why I have chosen this topic, I would like to present a few of the more common controversies as well as some important modes of thought to keep in mind on how feminism (as it is coined today) has impacted societies in various places around the world.

To start, a definition of feminism, from the perspective I will be referencing from now on: Feminism is a notion towards equality for all, not just females. It is the perspective that all genders have the basic human right to equality in all spheres of society; some of which include economical, health, employment, family responsibilities, the list is endless. Feminism brings to light equality issues of ethnicity, economic class, disabilities, again, the list is endless. To create an overall image, feminism, as I will be referencing, is about rethinking otherness, and questioning a social structure that takes aim at minorities and historically disadvantaged groups.

Controversies over feminism have been largely coined from the waves of feminism in the 20th century, where strong females leaders faced large amounts of hate crimes and prejudice. Many anti-feminists buy into the ‘man-hater’ image and  the ‘crazed women’ notion of ideology. In fact, it would be very challenging to find a single feminist (of any gender, sex or sexuality) that fits this description. What these demographics fail to see is that with every leap forward, the feminist wave addresses more and more issues for the male sex. Just as many as it does with the female sex in fact (as well as all other sexual identities). Some examples include paternity leave or the social acceptance of male nurses and teachers.

My keen interest on feminism comes from the mode of analytic thought that this perspective facilitates. When engaging in feminist thought, you are engaging yourself in far more questions then just those that concern women. What I mean to emphasize with this, is that there really isn’t a single issue that just concerns women, we (all genders, not just the normative gender binary) as a society can only exist together, therefore, when one gender benefits from a moment of social restructuring, all genders do, including the masculine gender. My next post will be looking at this in more detail. feminism

Burrnesha: A Third Gender Inspired by Social Conditions

The burrnesha are the third gender of Albania, and unlike my previous articles, are centered on the masculine woman as opposed to the feminine man. This is because the burrnesha (derived from burra, translated to man from Albanian) is inspired by the social climate of women centuries ago when society was organized by patriarchy and women had very few to no rights.

The aspect of sexuality comes into play with a vow that must be made to be accepted as a man in Albanian society. This vow is one of celibacy- a promise to remain a virgin for their entire lives-made in front of twelve community elders- in exchange for the freedoms of men. Once this vow was made then that person was allowed to live the life of a man and allotted the status of ‘the man of the household’ when their father passed on.

As I was conducting this research my mind focused on one question- why virginity? The symbolic and historical nature of the innocent woman is one most people are familiar with, so why to be deemed a man in society does a vow to remain a virgin need to be made? This is the aspect that truly makes the burrnesha a unique case of third genders. For the third genders I have studied previously, sexual partners were an option, often times a profession, for the individual. My personal analyses of this draws on the line between virginity, nature and superiority as well as the hypersexualization of women. It would seem rational that to be accepted as a man one must first make themselves perceived as the opposite of a woman. Hence if women are hypersexualized, to be accepted as a man you must completely desexualize yourself. Another analyses could draw on the strictly conservative social organization of Albania both 500 years ago and today. In Albania, sexualities deviant from that which supports the nuclear family (supportive being heterosexual and deviant being homosexual), is considered unnatural and is associated with a very intense stigma. Therefore, for this ‘cheat loop’ in society to be coded, a guarantee against ‘unnatural’ behavior must be made.

To give a full historical picture- This practice dates back to before 15th century and was officially coded into society with a set of rules called the Kanun, which set in print all of the freedoms born women could gain if they vowed to remain a virgin and live as a man, which included owning property and socializing with other men. This may seem ridiculous to some, however, in an era where women were not permitted to earn a living, if for some reason all of the men in the family died, there would be no one to provide for the other females in the household. Such instances required the eldest daughter to take the vow and become the man of the household.

The burrnesha of Albania is a very unusual instance where social climate has shaped third sex social organization, instead of the more common observation in history, where social organization shapes, and often time oppresses, the notion of a third gender. For the burrnesha the third gender gave them a way of escaping their born reality to be free. It was less about sexuality and more about the social construct and rights awarded to the masculine gender. For this reason, the choice of freedom at the price of chastity, was for many, an easy decision.

“It began hundreds of years ago, deep in the Albanian Alps—an unusual tradition where women, with limited options in life, took the oath of the burrnesha.”


Burrnesha – source of quote.

The ‘Two Spirited’ People of Indigenous North America: an Insight into Canada’s Historical Gender Spectrum

In Indigenous communities of North America (Canada and United States), before the time of European rule, four genders were recognized in their social structure, which translated, combine the English terms that reference gender as well as sex; the feminine woman, the masculine man, the feminine man and the masculine woman. The latter two of this list would be those considered ‘two spirited’. In this organization of society it is the identification feminine and masculine that codes the individual’s role in society, not the physical sex.

The ‘two spirited’ people were highly regarded as important people in society because they were thought to be able to view the world through the eyes of both males and females. It was also thought they had a greater sensuality, meaning all five senses were heightened and many identified these third/fourth gendered people as having an innate creativity. For this reason ‘two spirited’ people were coded into historical indigenous societies as healers, intuitives, and teachers of orphans-in general, individuals of power.

To be deemed a ‘two spirit’ a variety of rituals (determined by the specific tribe) must take place when a child is first noted to be sexually deviant of the first two genders recognized in society. Only after the rituals are passed and the elders give permission is the ‘two spirit’ status awarded. However, once awarded this status, the entire tribe is accepting and fully acknowledge this status. One of these rituals consisted of a ‘man’s’ bow and a ‘woman’s’ basket in the middle of a circle. The circle would then be set on fire and the child would be told to run in and grab one item; whichever item the child chose to save would be how he/she would be raised and how they would contribute to society. It is important to note that this differs from homosexuality in that a man or a woman who is homosexual still takes the roles of their physical sex, where the ‘two spirited’ people take the roles of the gender they have chosen to identify with.

To illustrate how this would look in practice I am going to present some examples I have come across during my research. The first of which is one less discussed in transgender research, the masculine woman. A masculine woman contributes to society as a man, often taking a wife, and is not expected to have a relationship with a man to produce an offspring, because they contribute in other ways such as ‘military like’ positions. Furthermore the feminine man acts in society as a woman, wearing woman’s clothing, taking on care-taker positions and often takes a husband but is not expected to. Note that this is not rigid and that this can vary across First Nations societies. For example in some societies the biological masculine qualities of a feminine man would still be embraced, such as strength, however, in other societies the biological masculine qualities were overshadowed by over exaggerated feminine qualities such as face painting, braided hair and jewelry.

The historical organization of First Nations peoples gives a very unique insight into how possible societies in the future could organize themselves in a way that takes into account the identity of each individual. For many western cultures the binary of male/female gender is a way of coding the population into roles thought to be beneficial to the common interest of society. The belief in the nuclear family has been used to justify this binary and simultaneously suppress the natural identities of many transgender, third gendered or ‘two spirited’ people. A look at the First Nations fluidity towards gender is valuable for pursuing the main goal of sociologists, a goal I think is summed up the best in a quote, to find the general in the peculiar and the strange in the familiar (source of quote can be found in references below).



Hijra (to leave one’s Tribe): A Look at the Third Gender of India

The roughly 4000 year old story of the hijra community, which is that of an estimated 6 million people today, is a complicated entanglement between acceptance and non-acceptance, fulfilling a niche in society and living as an outcast. As the title of the article points out, hijra is translated from Semitic roots hyr meaning to leave ones tribe. This term is rather fitting considering the life style nearly all hijras are forced to live, as they are usually shunned from their families at a very young age.

To explain the complex area of society that the hijras occupy, I am going to discuss the same three factors that also served as common themes in my previous posts- religion, colonization/politics, and self-identity- all of which have been significant contributors to the entanglement of hijra society.

To start, religion has coded the hijras as possessing spirituality and thus providing them with the niche of spiritual being-giving blessings to Hindus. This idea originates from some Hindu gods that have both female and male genitalia-what would be considered ambiguous reproductive organs in today’s western society. This gives hijras an intersex status in society as well as a guru status for the older and well known hijras-who make several hundred dollars for each blessing they do at weddings, business openings, and naming ceremonies. The majority of hijras make very little income however (and have to give much of what they do make to the gurus they work under), which leads to the entanglement of acceptance/non-acceptance. This is because many hijras supplement their income with prostitution and many leave home so young that they do not have the education or parental guidance to have proper communication skills; another reason why the rest of society has coded the hijras as not just a third gender, but also a third class.

That in mind, the political climate the hijras are living in today is much different than it once was, with the new bill passed by the Indian Federal government which officially recognizes the hijras as a third gender and protected class; hijras now have the right to vote and go to university. This is a big leap from British colonial times, when the hijras were stripped from their high class status as spiritual beings and criminalized as homosexuals, prostitutes and sexual deviants. This criminalization was justified on the basis of the belief in the nuclear family and the rigid two gender system of the much more conservative British culture. The criminalization of hijras lead to a hyper-sexualisation, which in turn, lead to the hijras being coded as both societal outcasts as well as simultaneously acting as an indulgence for the British, leading to their complex status today. The hijras have been organized into society in many different ways over the centuries as everything from first class to third class, to highly regarded individuals to criminalized prostitutes, but they have always kept their place in society as an ancient spirituality.

With this understanding of how the hijras have come to find their current social status-the most important question arises-how do the hijras view themselves? To answer this question I have done a great deal of research reading interviews of individual hijras done by journalists and I have come across an interesting fact. Many (but not the majority) hijras were not born wanting to be a hijra, but rather joined the society because it offers a niche in life to exist within, and a way of attaining money. After some time these individuals, who felt they had no other choice but to become a hijra, then started to feel the embodiment of this third gender. This acts as proof that gender truly is a social construction and that it is the right of each individual to define that construction for themselves and continually redefine it through out an individual’s life if they choose to do so.



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