Sunday, April 7, 2013

Lessons on sex / gender

Teaching introductory cultural anthropology, I spend a bit of time explaining the analytical distinction between "sex" (as biological difference) and "gender" (as the cultural and social significance that becomes attached to biological difference). It is an important distinction to recognize, I tell my students, because it is a reminder that biology does not determine who or what you are or what we can and will do.

So, as I was taking a break to look at the March 11th New Yorker and read the profile of Ruth Bader Ginsburg - who to me as a former Duranie is so totally, like, the Nick Rhodes* of the Supreme Court - I was struck with this passage:

Ginsburg's secretary at Columbia, who typed her briefs, gave her some important advice. "I was doing all these sex-discrimination cases, and my secretary said, 'I look at these pages and all I see is sex, sex, sex. The judges are men, and when they read that they're not going to be thinking about what you want them to think about,'" Ginsburg recalled. Henceforth, she changed her claim to "gender discrimination."
* So my favorite! Or was at the time that I spending a lot of time listening to "Rio." 

The profile of Ginsburg, by Jeffrey Toobin, is worth the break from prepping one's courses. Whether or not you are a follower of SCOTUS or not :)