What Is A Woman? and Other Questions We Don't Know The Answers To

Apr 2, 2015

Credit healthmeup.com

This episode recognizes the complexity of women, gender, and sexuality with a discussion from contemporary and historical perspectives. Our discussants share what they’ve learned from their respective research projects while exploring how privilege and power function when it comes to constructions of gender and sexuality.

Ultimately, they agree that listening with empathy to each other’s needs and desires demonstrates mutual respect and can allow us to have greater faith in our individuality.

**The following contains a frank discussion about gender and sexuality.**

The Discussion

Lisa Moore is a professor of English and Interim Director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at UT-Austin. In Sister Arts: The Erotics of Lesbian Landscapes, she explores how women of the Eighteenth Century used the natural world to create artworks that celebrated their bonds with each other. In this episode Moore helps us to deconstruct the notion of “woman” as part of a vast gender spectrum.

Thinking about the intersectional nature of identity, she asks: How do we determine who counts within various gender and sexuality categories?

Suzy Spencer is the author of New York Times bestseller Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality. She brings frankness to the discussion of sex and desire, based on interviews with American men and women of different ages and sexual orientations regarding their experiences. Here, Spencer emphasizes the need for empathy and acceptance of alternative sex practices and unconventional attitudes about sex.

Ward Keeler is a professor of Anthropology and Women’s and Gender Studies at UT-Austin. He conducts field research in Burma, studying masculinity and transgender identities. Keeler’s understanding of Burmese norms of gender and sexuality expands the conversation beyond the U.S. context in useful ways.

He calls attention to the fact that in some Southeast Asian cultures, sexuality is not a central point of identification as it often can be in the United States.

What’s your perspective?

As we continue to struggle to achieve equal rights and protections for women and LGBTQ persons, it's necessary to have more conversations like this one about what gender and sexuality mean in the United States and internationally.  The issues brought up here are not new ones, but they remain urgently important if we are to develop a mutually respectful, compassionate and empathetic society.