Dueling Dualisms, Fausto-Sterling
if you want a link to a pdf of the chapter, message me, its really interesting. i’m reading it for my beyond heterosexuality class.
summary: social norms influence what scientists look for - they place people in “male” and “female” as closely as they can because society says there are two biological boxes - not because these boxes actually scientifically exist.
when doctors choose to label, for instance, a visibly intersex baby, they typically do so by hazarding a guess at which organs it will eventually use to reproduce with. this is also how they label acceptably dyadic babies, though this doesn’t ever follow medical intervention. this reproductive labeling has nothing to do with the baby’s gender, and certainly doesn’t mean that said label implies any inherent gender biologically. doctors use the tools that society gives them - if we shout, “check a box,” they comply.
an easy example of how this manifests in society is how the olympics performs “sex testing” as a way to police gender. this was begun in an attempt to mollify those who feared that women’s participation in sports & competition threatened to turn them into “manly” creatures (its not actually based on “what if men get an unfair advantage,” fyi - the only time thats ever happened was when a male member of nazi youth tried it AND came in 4th behind 3 women anyway). initially they made competitors parade in front of a board of male examiners to visually check for the existence of a vagina and breasts. athletes complained that this was highly degrading, so they switched to chromosome testing in the 60’s.
however… they quickly discovered that sex is simply too complex to categorize medically. there is no either/or. rather, there are shades of difference. labeling someone either male or female at birth is an entirely social decision.