Gender Systems Essay

            In her chapter on Gender Systems, Fausto-Sterling, in her book Sexing the Body, puts succinctly the basic principles underlying the understanding of gender development. She identified these three basic principles, to wit:  (a) nature and nurture is indivisible, (b) humans are active processes, moving targets, from fertilization until death, (c) no single academic or clinical discipline provides the true or best way to understand human sexuality. By taking this stand, she embarks on an ambitious journey of re-shaping our understanding of the individual’s gender development and variety of modes of sexual expression. Her bold statement pointing to the social nature of the physiological and anatomical functions of our gender summarizes her view that gender as well involves a developmental system. She is looks beyond the complexity of that aspect of human development and brought together diverse forces into a unified system.

Thus the term gender systems. It veers towards an interdisciplinary approach in studying the issues related to gender starting on the infinitesimal activities of the cellular networks that comprise the organism and extending outward to the most external manifestation of the interdependence of the socio-cultural processes vis-à-vis the biology of the individual. Hence, her pronouncement that biology is politics. Laying a political undertone on this concept of gender development is another leap taken by the author, touching serious but realistic issues of gender-related experiences in the social milieu where laws, social norms and religious and ethical considerations abound.

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She dispenses with the overly simplistic discussion on the genetic influence of gender development, saying that to rely to on this scientific sugar-coating will give scientists intellectual cataracts. True, gene factor is one force that influences the course of an individual’s development but to isolate this single factor and transport it from its intercellular context would bring annihilation on the concept of gender systems. This will also runs counter to the basic tenet that we cannot segregate nature from nurture. As to this date, researchers and scientists alike have no way of measuring with precise degree of certainty the extent of influence genes have on our development. Simply put, the genetic factor and the over-all environmental factor have this porous quality which influences encroach into each others’ turfs in such away that both forces alter one another. Now, the interplay of the genes, or to be specific the neural activities of the brain, and the environment, or the social history of the individual creates a dynamic influence on gender development and thus, affecting the vast capacity of the individual to express sexual behavior.  The author likewise delves into the relevant psychological and social theories to back up the concept of dynamic interrelatedness. However, her approach on presenting these gender theories are fashioned in such a way as to highlight its innate inadequacy to fully account the complex developmental processes of gender development and the acquisition of sex-related behavior.

In fine, dissecting the dynamism of human gender development is the crux of this chapter. Human beings are active participants in their development, including their awareness of gender and how they utilize this cognition to adapt in their equally dynamic social environment. We should not place individuals into the box in order to obtain empirically objective analysis of human sexuality. Clinical experimentation has its surgical precision as an advantage but to do so will cut off the organism in its natural world and thus, create artificial findings. The author is correct in saying that scientists and researchers shall take on a creative stance on their approaches, without sacrificing the values of scientific investigation.  Verily, studying human gender development and sexuality is one complex process, full of opposing forces. It now depends on the one who studies the phenomenon to see not this seeming divergence and complexity but the unified whole that lies beneath. This is the essence of the systems theory.

 

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