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Biologism And Biological Determinism

  Biologism is a concept which claims to explain human behaviour in terms of physiological processes. Biological determinism uses this model to show that differences between men and women do not originate from culturally imposed gender characteristics but instead derive from physiological differences.

Feminists have taken up many different positions in relation to the biological model. Many would agree that women\'s bodies are different from men\'s and that as a result women\'s experience is different. Some feminists, for example Juliet Mitchell, have identified the main physiological difference between masculinity and femininity as reproduction and criticize the way in which reproduction has, through patriarchy, been seen as a biological reason for women\'s inferiority.

Mary Daly, and other radical, revolutionary feminists, argue that women have biologically determined psychological attributes and are naturally less aggressive than men. However, other feminists argue that the social determination of gender is equally or if not more important. Juliet Mitchell, for example, argues that women\'s ‘lesser’ capacity for demanding work and also for violence is a product of social coercion rather than a ‘natural’ biological tendency.

In contemporary feminist thought the use of a biological model to address female and male difference has come under attack. Parveen Adams argues that when children take up the position of masculinity or femininity they are adopting pre-defined roles within the system of representation of the dominant (patriarchal) order. The biological model is seen by many feminists as supporting patriarchy in constructing male and female difference as a ‘natural’ and ‘provable’ fact. Psychoanalytic feminists, amongst others, have questioned the way in which we categorize biological difference by asking, ‘Whose interest does this serve?’ This question makes what seemed, in biological terms, an easy distinction between men and women more problematic and complex, with the question of gender formation and representation as keys to the formulation of sex difference. TK

Further reading Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectics of Sex; , Juliet Mitchell, Women\'s Estate.



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