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Reinventing the Sexes: The Biomedical Construction of Femininity and Masculinity
Indiana University Press
Margaret Van Den Wijngaard
"Reinventing the Sexes" reveals the influence of traditional perceptions of masculinity and femininity on investigations into sex differences in the brain. This book describes the history of scientific thought about sex differences and raises excellent grounds for questioning the results. John Money and Anke Ehrhardt's research on the long-term effects of prenatal hormones on the behavior of pseudo-hermaphrodites and DES children remains relevant for practicing psychologists and sexologists. The resulting treatments have turned traditional views of the sexes into self-fulfilling prophesies. The wave of popular scientific articles about these studies have convinced readers that male and female behavior arises from differences in the brain. This archeological exploration of research on sex differences begins in 1959, before masculinity and femininity became controversial.Investigations into the biological underpinnings of homosexuality focused on identifying the causes of maleness in brains and sexual behavior. Central actors included hormones designated as androgens and estrogens, which were regarded as messengers of maleness and of femaleness, respectively. In the 1970s, women researchers entered the field of behavioral neuro-endocrinology and made their male colleagues, such as Frank Beach, aware of the one-sided nature of their interest in male development. After 1975, researchers expanded their scope to include female sexual development. Simultaneously, the rise of feminism shifted the research focus from the causes of homosexuality to sex differences in behavior. Feminist researchers such as Eleanor MacCoby and Carol Jacklin participated in this effort. Feminist intellectual thought generated a new vision of the relation between masculinity and femininity. The model that viewed masculinity and femininity as binary opposites made way for a research design that enabled such qualities to emerge independently in a single individual, a scenario that was hardly compatible with the organization theory that had guided all previous research. This book demonstrates the impact of changing ideas about the sexes on scientific practice and the resulting modifications of scientific truth. The actions take place in the gray area between sex and gender and questions modes of differentiation.