Androgyny in feminist utopian literature : fictional challenges to stereotypic gender constructions / by Janis Cox
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One emphasis in feminism has been the issue of gender stereotypes, particularly concerning their role in the construction of what are thought to be normative male and female traits and sex roles. The supposed naturalness of these traits has helped allow for and perpetuate gender inequalities. Prevailing views in Western society, primarily based on reproductive roles, can be traced back to Aristotle, and support the idea that women and men are inherently different, men are inherently dominant and superior, and these differences are natural (Bern, 1993, 1). Science supports these positions by offering ‘evidence’ that sex and gender differences are innate in males and females. Feminists challenge these views claiming that women are subordinated by nurture not nature (Schiebinger, 1989, 273-274). Simone de Beauvoir summed up this viewpoint succinctly when she wrote, “one is not born, but rather becomes a woman” (deBeauvoir, 1952, 267). Today many feminists and sociologists concur with de Beauvoir’s position and conceptualize perceived masculine and feminine traits as constructed and assigned to males or females (Vetterling-Braggin, 1982, 152). This perception is an important step toward understanding and challenging the foundations of gender oppression.