By ‘normative unity’, Witt means the following: given oursocial roles and social position occupancies, we are responsive tovarious sets of social norms. These norms are “complex patternsof behaviour and practices that constitute what one ought to do in asituation given one's social position(s) and one's socialcontext” (Witt 2011a, 82). The sets of norms can conflict: thenorms of motherhood can (and do) conflict with the norms of being anacademic philosopher. However, in order for this conflict to exist,the norms must be binding on a single socialindividual. Witt, then, asks: what explains the existence and unity ofthe social individual who is subject to conflicting social norms? Theanswer is gender.
More recently, Mikkola (2011) has argued that the sex/gender distinction,which underlies views like Rubin's and MacKinnon's, has certainunintuitive and undesirable ontological commitments that render thedistinction politically unhelpful. First, claiming that gender issocially constructed implies that the existence of women and men is amind-dependent matter. This suggests that we can do away with womenand men simply by altering some social practices, conventions orconditions on which gender depends (whatever those are). However,ordinary social agents find this unintuitive given that (ordinarily)sex and gender are not distinguished. Second, claiming that gender isa product of oppressive social forces suggests that doing away withwomen and men should be feminism's political goal. But this harboursontologically undesirable commitments since many ordinary socialagents view their gender to be a source of positive value. So,feminism seems to want to do away with something that should not bedone away with, which is unlikely to motivate social agents to act inways that aim at gender justice. Given these problems, Mikkola arguesthat feminists should give up the distinction on practical politicalgrounds.
Social Restaurant – Welcome to Social!
In order to better understand Butler's critique, consider heraccount of gender performativity. For her, standard feminist accountstake gendered individuals to have some essential propertiesqua gendered individuals or a gender core by virtue of whichone is either a man or a woman. This view assumes that women and men,qua women and men, are bearers of various essential andaccidental attributes where the former secure gendered persons'persistence through time as so gendered. But according to Butler thisview is false: (i) there are no such essential properties, and (ii)gender is an illusion maintained by prevalent power structures. First,feminists are said to think that genders are socially constructed inthat they have the following essential attributes (Butler 1999, 24):women are females with feminine behavioural traits, being heterosexualswhose desire is directed at men; men are males with masculinebehavioural traits, being heterosexuals whose desire is directed atwomen. These are the attributes necessary for gendered individuals andthose that enable women and men to persist through time aswomen and men. Individuals have “intelligible genders”(Butler 1999, 23) if they exhibit this sequence of traits in a coherentmanner (where sexual desire follows from sexual orientation that inturn follows from feminine/ masculine behaviours thought to follow frombiological sex). Social forces in general deem individuals who exhibitincoherent gender sequences (like lesbians) to be doing theirgender ‘wrong’ and they actively discourage such sequencingof traits, for instance, via name-calling and overt homophobicdiscrimination. Think back to what was said above: having a certainconception of what women are like that mirrors the conditions ofsocially powerful (white, middle-class, heterosexual, Western) womenfunctions to marginalize and police those who do not fit thisconception.
Process of Socialization: Socialization
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Socialization is important in the process of personality formation
Most people ordinarily seem to think that sex and gender arecoextensive: women are human females, men are human males. Manyfeminists have historically disagreed and have endorsed the sex/gender distinction. Provisionally: ‘sex’ denotes humanfemales and males depending on biological features(chromosomes, sex organs, hormones and other physical features);‘gender’ denotes women and men depending onsocial factors (social role, position, behaviour oridentity). The main feminist motivation for making this distinctionwas to counter biological determinism or the view that biology isdestiny.