Gender/Sexuality/Class/Age/Ethnicity: A Unified System


Typological Model: 

  • Masculine v. Feminine 
  • Hetero v. Homosexual 
  • Middle v. Lower Class
  • Age grades [weak] 
  • Distinct cultures

Topological Model: 

  • all traits by degree
  • all traits compatible
  • a single semiotic
  • hi-D cultural clusters
  • different gender identities by class, age, sexuality, etc



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Before we can consider how academic discourse is gendered, or how it serves to help constitute gendered identities, we need to understand in a more fully theorized way just how the social caste category of gender is itself defined in relation to less abstract and more directly observable traits and behaviors of persons, defined as meaningful and as relevant to gender categorization, by a culture. In particular we must distinguish between what the culture says gender is: a bipolar contrast pair of universal categories (masculine vs. feminine) rooted in dichotomous biological difference (male vs. female) and how it actually construes gender categorizations semiotically out of other meaningful traits and behaviors it recognizes.

Gender differences are construed out of complexes of traits and behaviors that are multi-dimensional and quasi-continuous matters of degree, rather than bi-polar or categorial distinctions; real human beings always exhibit some degrees of traits that are stereotypically, or in their extremes, considered markers for idealized masculinity and for idealized femininity; the distribution of all humans in such a trait-space shows a number of overlapping patterns of correlation (gender sociotypes), which are themselves social-cultural artifacts (as explained in the previous frame).

= The correlational patterns for high gender-loading traits are distinctive for persons of different sex, but also for persons of different age, social class, sexual orientation, and ethnic culture; each of these latter variables is also no more than another such multi-dimensional correlation pattern among some of the same as well as many other traits, and all are also socio-cultural constructions, both as salient cultural categories and as objective correlational phenomena

= Semiotically, gender, sexuality, class, age, and ethnic-culture/race form a single system of interdependent meaning-alternatives and meaning-degrees.

= The simplest possible adequate gender system would need four categories: +masc/-fem, +fem/-masc, +fem/+masc, and -masc/-fem. In practice, these should be fuzzy categories with membership-by-degree. The first corresponds most closely to traditional masculinity, the second traditional femininity, the third to androgyny (usually in weak degree on both axes), and the last to neuter. Real people usually have some positive degree of membership in both masc and fem.