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Watch Georgiann Davis in National Geographic's Gender Revolution documentary with Katie Couric A personal, compelling perspective on how medical diagnoses can profoundly hurt, or help, the lived experiences of entire communities Winner, 2016 Donald Light Award for the Applied or Public Practice of Medical Sociology, presented by the American Sociological Association When sociologist Georgiann Davis was a teenager, her doctors discovered that she possessed XY chromosomes, marking her as intersex. Rather than share this information with her, they withheld the diagnosis in order to “protect” the development of her gender identity; it was years before Davis would see her own medical records as an adult and learn the truth. Davis’ experience is not unusual. Many intersex people feel isolated from one another and violated by medical practices that support conventional notions of the male/female sex binary which have historically led to secrecy and shame about being intersex. Yet, the rise of intersex activism and visibility in the US has called into question the practice of classifying intersex as an abnormality, rather than as a mere biological variation. This shift in thinking has the potential to transform entrenched intersex medical treatment. In Contesting Intersex, Davis draws on interviews with intersex people, their parents, and medical experts to explore the oft-questioned views on intersex in medical and activist communities, as well as the evolution of thought in regards to intersex visibility and transparency. She finds that framing intersex as an abnormality is harmful and can alter the course of one’s life. In fact, controversy over this framing continues, as intersex has been renamed a ‘disorder of sex development’ throughout medicine. This happened, she suggests, as a means for doctors to reassert their authority over the intersex body in the face of increasing intersex activism in the 1990s and feminist critiques of intersex medical treatment. Davis argues the renaming of ‘intersex’ as a ‘disorder of sex development’ is strong evidence that the intersex diagnosis is dubious. Within the intersex community, though, disorder of sex development terminology is hotly disputed; some prefer not to use a term which pathologizes their bodies, while others prefer to think of intersex in scientific terms. Although terminology is currently a source of tension within the movement, Davis hopes intersex activists and their allies can come together to improve the lives of intersex people, their families, and future generations. However, for this to happen, the intersex diagnosis, as well as sex, gender, and sexuality, needs to be understood as socially constructed phenomena. A personal journey into medical and social activism, Contesting Intersex presents a unique perspective on how medical diagnoses can affect lives profoundly. Instructor's Guide Ask us about setting up a Skype-in with the author for your class
Examines phantom limb pain and its relationship to prosthetic innovation, tracing the major shifts in knowledge of the causes and characteristics of the phenomenon. (Social Science)
Focusing on intersexuality, having physical gender markers that are neither female or male, the author examines the social institutions that are mobilized to maintain the two seemingly objective sexual categories. She argues that we need to rethink the meaning of gender, genitals and sexuality.
The emergence of symbolic culture is generally linked with the development of the hunger-gatherer adaptation based on a sexual division of labor. This original and ingenious book presents a new theory of how this symbolic domain originated. Integrating perspectives of evolutionary biography and social anthropology within a Marxist framework, Chris Knight rejects the common assumption that human culture was a modified extension of primate behavior and argues instead that it was the product of an immense social, sexual, and political revolution initiated by women. Culture became established, says Knight, when evolving human females began to assert collective control over their own sexuality, refusing sex to all males except those who came to them with provisions. Women usually timed their ban on sexual relations with their periods of infertility while they were menstruating, and to the extent that their solidarity drew women together, these periods tended to occur in synchrony. The result was that every month with the onset of menstruation, sexual relations were ruptured in a collective, ritualistic way as the prelude to each successful hunting expedition. This ritual act was the means through which women motivated men not only to hunt but also to concentrate energies on bringing back the meat. Knight shows how this hypothesis sheds light on the roots of such cultural traditions as totemic rituals, incest and menstrual taboos, blood-sacrifice, and hunters’ atonement rites. Providing detailed ethnographic documentation, he also explains how Native American, Australian Aboriginal, and other magico-religious myths can be read as derivatives of the same symbolic logic.
More than any other altruistic gesture, blood and organ donation exemplifies the true spirit of self-sacrifice. Donors literally give of themselves for no reward so that the life of an individual—often anonymous—may be spared. But as the demand for blood and organs has grown, the value of a system that depends solely on gifts has been called into question, and the possibility has surfaced that donors might be supplemented or replaced by paid suppliers. Last Best Gifts offers a fresh perspective on this ethical dilemma by examining the social organization of blood and organ donation in Europe and the United States. Gifts of blood and organs are not given everywhere in the same way or to the same extent—contrasts that allow Kieran Healy to uncover the pivotal role that institutions play in fashioning the contexts for donations. Procurement organizations, he shows, sustain altruism by providing opportunities to give and by producing public accounts of what giving means. In the end, Healy suggests, successful systems rest on the fairness of the exchange, rather than the purity of a donor’s altruism or the size of a financial incentive.
Putting the ethical tools of philosophy to work, Ellen K. Feder seeks to clarify how we should understand "the problem" of intersex. Adults often report that medical interventions they underwent as children to "correct" atypical sex anatomies caused them physical and psychological harm. Proposing a philosophical framework for the treatment of children with intersex conditions—one that acknowledges the intertwined identities of parents, children, and their doctors—Feder presents a persuasive moral argument for collective responsibility to these children and their families.
Approximately one in every two thousand infants born in America each year is sexually ambiguous in such a way that doctors cannot immediately determine the child's sex. Some children's chromosomal sexuality contradicts their sexual characteristics. Others have the physical traits of both sexes, or of neither. Is surgical intervention or sex assignment of intersexed children necessary for their physical and psychological health, as the medical and mental health communities largely assume? Should parents raise sexually ambiguous children as one gender or another and keep them ignorant of their medical history? Drawing upon life history interviews with adults who were treated for intersexuality as children, Sharon E. Preves explores how such individuals experience and cope with being labeled sexual deviants in a society that demands sexual conformity. Preves frames their stories within a sociological discussion of gender, the history of intersex medicalization, the recent political mobilization of intersexed adults, and the implications of their activism on identity negotiation, medical practice, and cultural norms. By demonstrating how intersexed people manage and create their own identities, often in conflict with their medical diagnosis, Preves argues that medical intervention into intersexuality often creates, rather than mitigates, the stigma these people suffer.
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