Course:ANTH213/2024/topic/Body (Jess, Rachel, Emily, Maddie, Cami)

From UBC Wiki


Bathroom signs are often cisnormative, only including the symbols on the left and right, rarely the one in the middle which represent identities that fall outside of the binary.

Society views the physical body through a binary lens– cisnormativity is the normative nature of viewing bodies. Whether it is medical professionals and parents assigning an intersex infant a sex or transgender people being treated differently, there are many instances in everyday life where society views gender within binary systems. One’s gender identity and the way they express gender effects experiences in their everyday social life as well as in their work life. Due to the binary lens society has obtained in terms of gender and sex, the medical field has categorized infants’ genitals as either “male” or “female” which further perpetuates this rigid binary classification. Accompanying this binary notion, intersexuality has been pathologized by medical professionals, leading to a multitude of misdiagnoses of healthy bodies and labeling them as “abnormal”. Among other ways, the forced and strongly encouraged medicalization of the physical body is one technique used to control the physical body of ‘othered’ individuals, cultural, gendered, and sex. In addition, many widespread discourses have been explored through the concept of autonomy in relation to the human body throughout history. In correlation with reproductive rights, many current and past events have shaped the way autonomy is observable in the 21st century. Ultimately it is evident and visible that history has played a part in sculpting society’s binary lens when it comes to physical bodies.

The Body and Gender Identity

Gender neutral symbol

Gender expression may be used as a tool for individuals to accurately depict their identity and solidify the way they are perceived by others. Through recent years, the scope at which gender identity varies for individuals across the world has shifted dramatically from the traditional expressions of identity throughout history. Whether it’s through physical demonstrations such as clothing, hair and makeup or attitude and comportment, one’s gender identity can be expressed in ways that push the boundaries of what we once considered to be a very black and white definition. More accurately labeled as two distinct sexes, male and female are not the only genders in which individuals may present as. Gender varies across a broad spectrum and more and more people are embracing the wide variety of expressions that match their personal identities. The term gender was introduced in the 1970s as an alternative to the term “sex” with the “purpose of countering the biological determinism” [1] that had existed for far too long. The line between biological sex and gender has been blurred for centuries. Many still regard the two as interchangeable and indistinguishable. While sex itself is viewed as a binary system, given the research and science behind intersex conditions such as 5α-Reductase 2 deficiency, we clearly see that this is not the case. Sex is composed of six markers being chromosomes, gonads, hormones, secondary sex characteristics, external genitalia, and internal genitalia, none of which are binary. Given these facts, the belief that sex is two straightforward categories is nonsensical, especially when throwing gender in the mix as well. Studies show that “human variation is not fully captured by male-female binary designations” and we have begun to see a shift in the designations offered in identity documents for example. This shift in government paperwork towards being more inclusive of individuals with identities that lie outside of the traditional binary system that was once put in place is indicative of the changing attitude towards more diverse and accepted identities.

In the past, gender has been thought of as a binary system, containing only two distinct categories; male and female. While this new mindset is being more and more accepted across the globe, new ways of identifying are not always agreed upon. A way in which individuals encounter discrimination and unfair biases based on their gender identity is embedded in our social encounters of everyday life. Hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity play a huge role in our overall perception of our individual identities. The differences in which women and men are viewed in society create a largely unfair web of biases that often put white cis men at the top of societal systems (hegemonic masculinity), women somewhere underneath them (emphasized femininity), and folks who lie outside of these categories at the very bottom[2]. The process of assuming one’s gender based on their physical appearance is a method of stereotyping that many of us subconsciously find ourselves doing daily. Another major example of these stereotypes that have been assigned to certain sexes are the colors we associate with each gender. We typically view pink associated with femininity and blue associated with masculinity. For example the colors pink and red once symbolized strength and courage. After World War II, pink had become associated with femininity and more specifically homosexuality as it was used as a label for gay men by Nazi Germany, and this is seemingly what has stuck for nearly a century. Seeing how these labels have been thrown around and altered throughout history is an indicator to how artificial and unreliable they truly are. Another way in which gender stereotypes are enacted in society is through gender roles. Certain careers are popularly viewed as geared towards women whereas others are typically thought of to be more fit for men. Physical labor jobs requiring strength and toughness are typically associated with men due to the assumed average body type of each sex as well as the general associations that have been made with masculinity. A job that “requires considerable emotional labor" is typically viewed as more suitable for women, as they are better fit to “provide nurturing and emotional support” to students for example[3].

Intersex-inclusive pride flag
Caster Semenya

There are countless instances of individuals facing harassment because of their identity particularly based on their physical appearance. While gender identity is not a simple black and white concept, it is still thought of as so from certain close minded members of society. These individuals are unable to view gender as a spectrum that allows people to experiment with while they figure out which identity feels comfortable for them. They often look at these individuals through one lens, judging initially their physical appearance and turning to biological sex as the one and only marker for the gender of the person in question. While the biological factors may help us to distinguish the sex of an individual, gender is typically “used to point to social factors” such as social roles, position, and behavior. The relationship between these factors is often skewed, as the general public regard them as ”concordant”[4]. People will falsely interpret the “outward signs of gender” and immediately tie them to the sex of the individual. One example in which these false connections lead to an immensely harmful situation is the case of Caster Semenya, a South-african runner who was under intense speculation about her sex based on her appearance and performance in the World’s Championships. After being made to undergo sex testing, it was disclosed that Semenya has an intersex condition and naturally high levels of testosterone levels. Semenya was faced with immense backlash and many believed she was at an advantage competing in the women’s running category in the Olympics. Although clinical studies do confirm that testosterone may help build one’s muscle size, strength and endurance[5], athleticism and androgens such as testosterone have not been proven to be linked directly, therefore, the immediate assumption of one’s gender based on these biological factors often leads to false conclusions and discrimination.[6]

Cisgender Versus Transgender Bodies

Transgender symbol

Within everyday life, those who are transgender and those who are cisgender are treated and perceived very differently. If someone is transgender, that means their “gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth at least some of the time”[7] and if somebody identifies as cisgender, their “gender identity corresponds to the sex they were assigned at birth”[7]. Society is built to favor certain traits that are seen as normal, ideal, and healthy. In the case of bodies, cisgender people are seen as the norm; this belief is called cisnormativity. Cisnormative behaviors are very prevalent and many people can have these beliefs subconsciously.

One example of cisnormative behaviors in people and in the medical field is the issue of performing medical procedures to manage intersexed infants, meaning that these babies are “born with genitals that are neither clearly male nor clearly female”[8], to make them into either a boy or girl. Saying that intersexuality must be managed is a very harmful idea as it gives the impression that being intersex is wrong and must be fixed. Medical fields often rely on a strict gender binary and take on a cisnormative belief that male bodies must look like one thing and female bodies must look like another thing; “physicians hold an incorrigible belief in and insistence upon female and male as the only ‘natural’ options” which is absolutely not true[8]. By managing and treating these “abnormalities,” medical practitioners are actually just exasperating cisnormativity and false cultural ideals of how sex, gender, and bodies should be. The truth that makes the management of intersexuality wrong is that “having ambiguous genitals… is not harmful”[8]. Therefore, medical practitioners and parents choosing the intersexed infant’s gender shows that they correspond gender with genitals and the self-image and pleasure that comes with the genitals. This idea also exasperates heteronormativity in the sense that many still see sex as penetration between a penis and vagina.

An example of how society thinks pink is for girls and blue is for boys.

Another prime example of cisnormative behaviors in people and gender coding is dedicating the colour pink for girls and blue for boys. Many decide to get a “newborn baby girl a pink monkey” and a baby boy, “a blue car”[9]. In this example, it is evident that, in addition to devoting certain colours for boys and others for girls, many people believe that certain toys are also gendered. From even the start of one’s pregnancy, society plays out gender stereotypes by wearing pink or blue to the gender reveal party, depending on whether they think the mother is pregnant with a girl or a boy. In addition, for birthdays, adults buy little girls toys that are stereotypically advertised for girls and boys toys that are advertised for boys. Companies advertise certain toys for certain genders “either through explicit labeling or implicitly via the sex of the model shown playing with the toy, or the colour of the product and/or packaging”[10]. Even though they play to the harmful cisnormative beliefs, companies still use gendered advertisements for toys because people still buy these toys and therefore, this idea of gendered toys is a strategic marketing strategy. To add to this idea, cisnormativity is very much tied to hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity. Hegemonic masculinity is the most desired form of masculinity within society– it “describes the series of cultural practices, understandings, and embodiments that legitimize domination– of men over women, of masculinity over femininity, and some forms of masculinity over others”[11]. “Emphasized femininity is often theorized as a reaction to hegemonic masculinity”[12]. Such ideas of gender and the way men and women should act created within society are very harmful and tie in with cisnormativity. Somebody who is a transgender male would not be considered and a hegemonic male and a transgender woman would not be considered as conforming to the idea of emphasized femininity.

Because of the connection between cisnormativity and society, many transgender people do not get the same opportunities as cisgender people do. This is especially prevalent in the workplace. There has been an extensive amount of research done on how men and women are treated differently in the workplace: "Even  the  United  States  Equal  Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC) includes only male and female as gender options, meaning that the EEOC  cannot  identify  who  is  transgender  and  that  nonbinary  transgender  people  (those  whose  gender  identity  is  something  other  than  only  man  or  only  woman)[7].

A chart provided by Davidson showing the differences in rate of employment for nonbinary, transgender, and cisgender people.

It is very clear that there is a lack of knowledge when it comes to how transgender people are treated in workplaces because researchers do not include them in studies. The lack of research is very harmful in itself because it is a way of feeding into society’s belief of cisnormativity. It is revealed that “transgender people have…difficulty securing and maintaining employment as a result of their gender identity and expression”[7]. In fact, the “unemployment rates for transgender people are…twice as high as those for cisgender people”[7]. This information reveals an exponential amount about how most employers view those who are not cisgender. It proves that many workplaces are rooted in cisnormativity which leads to transgender people not even being able to have the equal chance of working for a given workplace. In addition to not being able to get or stay employed, transgender people also voiced that there are many “issues in their workplaces that influence their ability to feel comfortable”[7]. Just a few examples of this issue mentioned in the article are how there is a “lack of procedures for ensuring that others…are aware of how to treat a transgender person who is transitioning”[7], there are no appropriate bathrooms for transgender people use or they get “attacked in bathrooms”[7], and the dresscode are too specific to either women or men which causes much difficulty[7]. These host of serious issues found in professional settings is what the majority of transgender people have to deal with, while cisgender people typically do not have to think twice about things like what to wear in order to feel like their gender or which bathroom to use.

Intersex Bodies and Medicalization

The term “intersex” refers to people who are born with ‘ambiguous’ genitalia or a permutation of sex characteristics. [13] Physicians often look for signs of genital, gonadal, and/or chromosomal variations, which can be visible at birth or develop later in life. [14] [8] Within the confined parameters of the medical field, an infant’s genitals have always been used as a predetermining factor as either ‘male’ or ‘female. Physicians have often configured intersex as “different” because their inherent traits do not align with the “binary.” [15]

The rigid binary classification is a social construct influenced by cultural ideas of gender identity, expression, and roles, according to a comprehensive analysis of all biological elements of sex.[16] This rationale that sex is a fixed, and an innate trait regarding gender has predominantly been heightened through the cultural influences and presumptions all around us. [17] The connection between genitalia and gender identity emphasizes the value that society has always placed on physical distinctions. It is crucial to recognize, however, that intersex is a natural and normal variation of human biology.

To “pathologize” someone is the act of unfairly or wrongly misdiagnosing them as medically abnormal despite being intrinsically healthy. The medical profession has been hastily categorizing healthy intersex cases as anomalies or diseases since the 19th century, completely disregarding the inherent diversity and variance seen in human anatomy.[14] Additionally, we have seen the pathologization of intersex characteristics proliferate between the 20th and early 21st century. In relation to American Philosopher, Judith Butler’s conception of gender performativity, the pathologization of intersex differences reflects society’s fixation on how we should look, and act based on our gender and assigned sex. [18] This implies that social, cultural, and institutional factors have been a precursor to gender identity and expression since the moment we were born. The pathologization of these discrepancies in the context of intersex people, who are born with variances in sex traits that do not ‘fit’ standard binary concepts of male or female, reflects society’s strict adherence to binary gender norms. According to Foucault, a sane incarnation of sex, gender and sexuality entails that a woman should possess a vagina and a man should possess a penis in order to engage in heterosexual interactions, like vaginal penetration. [14] Within Foucault’s framework, the notion that heterosexual encounters necessitate particular genital configurations—like vaginal penetration—reflects socially imposed normative guidelines. These ongoing cultural expectations about genitalia contribute to the pathologization of intersex differences, raising the concern of genital appearance and size. John Money, who was a prominent psychologist, espoused the idea that medical professionals should change genitalia to correspond with the one assigned sex, mostly so that it would assert a sort of relief for the parent and child later on in life.[8] Money’s method has drawn criticism, nevertheless, for its restricted attention to genital appearance and disregard for the long-term psychological and physiological implications of such changes. Furthermore, it ignores intersex people’s autonomy and agency in choosing their own gender identification and expression. Money and Foucault’s approach feeds into the pathologization of intersex characteristics and fosters negative preconceptions about gender and sexuality by placing more importance on the normalcy of genitalia than on the wellbeing and self-determination of intersex people.

The reductionist viewpoint that medical diagnostic labels force on intersex people is emphasized by Simone de Beauvoir’s concept of biological determinism.[17] The focus on physical distinctions upholds gender norms and stereotypes, sustaining the notion that a person’s bodily genitalia dictate their aptitudes, passions, and social standings in this world.[17] Because of this, people whose gender identification does not correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth may be subject to increased scrutiny and discrimination, underscoring the importance that society places on them and their physical differences. Pathologizing intersexuality can compromise individuals’ autonomy and well-being, leading to inappropriate medical interventions and the erasure of intersex experiences.[8] Additionally, these strict societal conventions surrounding gender and genitalia causes shame and psychological anguish for intersex people whose genitalia do not match traditional male or female standards.

Medical interventions have long been commonplace, involving procedures used to change the genitalia of intersex children in order to comply with conventional norms. Psychological arguments to medically “normalize” intersex characteristics, particularly through birth operations, have heightened in the mid-20th century.[13] Medical personnel have always made decisions about the treatment of intersex infants, in a way that has unreflexively evaded a child’s own bodily autonomy. [14] [8] As predetermined, this act further perpetuates a system that prioritizes conformity to binary gender norms over individual agency and self-determination. Medical techniques include: cytologic screening, chromosomal analysis, serum electrolyte testing, study of hormones and gonadotropin, steroid analysis, digital examination, and radiographic genitography.[14] The goal of these diagnostic processes is to ascertain the biological traits of intersex people in order to inform choices about medical interventions and available treatments.

In The Medical Construction of Gender: Case Management of Intersex Infants, the medical professionals interviewed agreed that gender assignment should be done quickly, firmly, and irrevocably in order to give the idea that the baby’s genuine, natural “sex” has been identified and confirmed.[8] Moreover, they believed that surgical correction was necessary and that it should happen as soon as it is feasible, despite the infant having no aptitude to provide informed consent.[16] Corrective procedures such as “penis repair” for male-assigned infants were strongly urged to happen within the first year of life, while “vulva repair” for female-assigned infants were encouraged to happen within the initial three months.[8] Delaying such surgeries raises the possibility of unpleasant recollections, according to theorist John Money, especially in the case of castration in infants classified as males, despite possible negative psychological and physical effects.[8]

The medicalization of intersex traits exacerbates feelings of alienation, body dysphoria, and identity confusion among intersex individuals. Recent qualitative research has shown that genital procedures performed on children offer no proven benefits and lead to mental and physical health issues in the long-run, as indicated by the intersex individuals that were interviewed.[16] In other aspects, the medicalization of intersex rarely provides parents or doctors with a greater grasp of how gender is socially constructed. Rather the belief that gender is innate conceals both the responsibility of society and the individual. These cases underscore the failure of Western society and doctors to recognize that intersexuality reflects nature’s variability. Instead of acknowledging this, they have utilized biological “sex” to manage and construct gender in alignment with hegemonic ideals, revealing a lack of imagination and perpetuating narrow understandings of gender.[19] [8]

Society should strive to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all people, regardless of their biological traits, by increasing understanding and fostering acceptance of intersex identities. Implementing a legislative ban on pointless, non-consensual interventions on infants’ sex characteristics would help sustain their own intrinsic rights and bodily autonomy, nonetheless.[16] [13] This is particularly important in light of the alarming lack of comprehensive multidisciplinary scientific research regarding variances in sex traits as well as the pervasiveness of professional and parental prejudices, concerns, and stereotypes employed in our society. A restriction of this kind would guarantee that decisions and surgeries performed on a minor’s body would be made with informed consent and in their best interests, protecting them from potentially damaging and irreversible surgeries. [16]

The Body and Control

The concept of the Other and of Otherness was a term that “took the geographical world by storm beginning in the 1980s”. [20]As defined by Jean-Francois Staszak in his paper “Other/otherness”, “Otherness is the result of a discursive process by which a dominant in-group (“Us”, the Self) constructs one or many dominated out-groups (“Them”, Other) by stigmatizing a difference - real or imagined - presented as a negation of identity and thus a motive for potential discrimination.” [20]

The Other is a being created by the discourse of the individual perceiving them, implementing criteria allowing the division of humanity into two distinct groups, the first which “embodies the norm and whose identity is valued”, and the second which is “defined by its faults, devalued and susceptible to discrimination”. [20]The first distinct group involved in the making of the Other is made up of individuals who find themselves part of the dominant group, the group that holds the power to “dominate or exterminate [the Other] to the margin of humanity”. [20]An individual's otherness has been noted to be impacted by spatial marginality, as methods of spatial organization, such as segregation, allow the accentuation “between the Self and the Other”. [20]However, the Other and their Otherness is not always unvalued, as sometimes the Other is valued through exoticism and sometimes even fetishization.

When controlling the cultural Other, techniques involving the Other’s body have been adopted and implemented historically and presently. Historically speaking, one of the most notable methods of control used was the concubinage employed during colonialism. A description of concubinage is as follows “Concubinage is a contemporary term which referred to the cohabitation outside of marriage between European men and Asian women; in fact, it glossed a wide range of arrangements which included sexual access to a non-European woman as well as demands on her labor and legal rights to the children she bore.”[21] Although the quote specifically mentions Asian women, concubinage was the cohabitation between a male from a dominant group, primary European men during colonialism, and a female Other. As a means of control, concubinage provided control over the whole population of the cultural Other. The female Other was dominated by European men, while their interactions with the male Other were limited due to concubinage. It was observed that in these colonial times, “sexual submission and possession of Oriental women by European men "stands for the pattern of relative strength between East and West". In this "male power-fantasy," the Orient is penetrated, silenced and possessed.”[21] This observation displays that the female Other is seen as a whole cultural Other, rather than an individual, showing that through sexual control of the body of the female Other, the European man was able to control and dominate the cultural Other. Not only did the European man hold control over the bodies of the female population of the Other, but they also held control of their offspring and what happened to them. If the children appeared to have European enough traits, they were treated as part of the in-group, the Europeans, however, if the children appeared to have more local traits, the child remained a part of the Other, displaying that the bodies of the cultural Other were also used as a means for control in that if the physical bodies and traits of the “mixed-bloods” determined whether they would be welcome to assimilate to the in-group.[21]

Unlike the cultural Other, when controlling the gendered Other through their bodies, the primary way in which that is done is through medicalization. An example of this is the hyper-medicalization when an intersex child is born. When an intersex child is born, medical practitioners undergo the making of many different decisions when assigning a gender to an intersex infant.[8] Amongst these decisions, some of the influencing factors behind deciding whether to go through with certain medical or surgical decisions are based on the perception of how the body of the intersex child will develop, for example, whether the child will have a large enough phallus once they are fully grown. If the child’s body does not develop as expected, it has been observed that doctors will encourage medical and surgical changes, with the backing that it will improve the child's quality of life; “more infants will be assigned to the female gender than to the male”.[8] Through this medicalization, the binary majority, controls the gendered Other, as for intersex infants, medically and physically changing their bodies is the encouraged treatment for them to better assimilate to the binary, although the intersex traits are not in and of themselves life-threatening. Additionally, medicalization is also a control method used in competitive situations, where intersex individuals are deemed as having an advantage due to their condition. A specific instance of this is the forced medicalization when female athletes born with intersex conditions are suspended from their sports because of intersex traits present, such as higher levels of androgens.[5] Androgens are “a class of hormones responsible for developing and maintaining masculine characteristics”, an example being testosterone.[22] In competitions for female sports, hormone testing that occurs in order to see if their hormones are within the specified range. If an athlete has an androgen level reading that exceeds the normal levels seen in women, they undergo further examinations, upon which, if an intersex condition is disclosed or discovered, oftentimes, the recommended method of approach involves hormone management and even surgical intervention before they can once again compete.[5] These regulations act as a channel through which the binary majority can control the gendered other, intersex adults, into making medical decisions impacting their biological and physical bodies.

PrEP, a preventative medication used to prevent the contraction of HIV.

When controlling the sexual Other, a technique that has been employed more than once is the criminalization of sexual Otherness. Instances of this technique being employed can be explores when examining the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure. When HIV/AIDS was first discovered it was a terminal illness, and there was a lot of fear around contracting it, however, nowadays, due to medical advancements, there are medications that help manage the rate at which HIV spreads within an individual and that can prevent an individual from catching HIV.[23] Although these medical advancements have been made, as of 2020, almost 50% of the countries in the world, 92 countries, have some sort of HIV non-disclosure criminalization law, meaning that in these 92 countries, if you are an individual with HIV and choose to not disclose your status, there could be legal repercussions no matter how safe you were being when having sexual intercourse.[24] These laws force individuals who have a positive HIV status to declare this piece of sensitive personal information to their sexual partners as if they do not abide, the sexual Others who are HIV or AIDS positive hold the risk of being physically displaced into prisons.[25] This technique of physically displacing the bodies of the sexual Other from their homes and families, keeps those who are sexually “healthy” in control, as the sexual Other is either forced to withhold from engaging in sexual activity or disclose sensitive personal information.

The Body and Autonomy

Throughout history there has been plentiful discourses surrounding autonomy and its ties to the human body, to explore the concept of bodily autonomy in correlation with control we can look back through historical dynamics of power to consider how these discourses have shaped our current outlooks of the human body and its relationship to reproductive rights, power and societal views of the female body in a multiplicity of conditions. As we can see today, colonial practices have left a variety of marks on the discourse surrounding autonomy and reproductive rights. The colonial project was not merely about territorial expansion but also about the exertion of control over bodies, particularly those of women.[21] The conquest of land was often paralleled by the subjugation of indigenous peoples and the imposition of foreign moralities. The reality of colonialism did not only involve the removal of Indigenous women from power; it placed traditional gender roles with Western patriarchal practice, control over their bodies, and sexual violence upon the women in many Indigenous communities.[26] Further demonstrating how notions of race and sexual morality were often used to justify colonial rule, entrenching hierarchies of power and privilege.[21] To speak on concubinage itself, the system promoted cohabitation outside of marriage; typically existing between European men and asian or middle eastern women. Therefore, to analyze the interfacing of race, sexuality, and power in our contemporary society, it is critical to explore historical perspectives of the colonial era.

Life for women in the colonial era

These women were not solely exploited for sexual benefits but were greatly taken advantage as domestic resources which served as an underpinning for hegemonic masculinity to thrive. Yet, the notion of control within concubinage was not only a means of controlling the female body but the male body as well. The system provided a sense of control over men by forcing relations within the realm of heteronormativity, meaning there was less room for promiscuity between men whilst further promoting a fear of homosexuality and maintaining power over the women in their colonial conquests.[21]

In response to labels of victimhood placed over minority groups of women and the choices they make within their cultures and personal practices, there have been in-numerous outsider opinions that lead to conclusions of what autonomy truly looks like to one's own self. In relation to the Hijab which is often politicized and debated within the context of women's autonomy, it has at many times throughout history encapsulated the tension between individual choice and societal expectations of female bodies. Arguing that through the imagery of the colonial harem, which portrayed Algerian women in both domestic and erotic settings served to reinforce unjustified stereotypes of their culture allowing the colonial project to frame their missions as ‘protection’ and ‘westernization’ of Algerian women to save them from themselves.[27] With modern perspective and being a Muslim-Canadian woman herself, Rahona Zamani shed insight onto the controversies fixated on ‘freeing’ Muslim women and granting them the autonomy being ripped away from them due to the insertion of politics and legislation on the Hijab itself.[28] In her article “The fight for women’s autonomy must include those who wear the hijab.” She directed it at the Quebec bill being examined to disallow veiling within the workplace; stating:

Protests of Bill C-21

"Bill 21 demands that Muslim women uncover their hair or be removed from their workplaces. It restricts their rights to freedom of expression and religion to align with the beliefs of the Quebec government. What difference exists between the demands of this bill and those who impose religious obligations on women to cover their hair? These are two sides of the same coin, a long-standing tradition in our society of policing women’s choices. Are the choices of religious and ethnic minorities only good choices if they adhere to a certain ideal?"[28]

Feeding and pursuing a false narrative of alleged freedom which Canada and many other countries who constructed their values upon the forces of colonialism have pined for so heavily, only to attempt to homogenize and Westernize their diverse collectives of citizens.

Vicious discussions around reproductive rights intersect with issues of wealth and privilege, as seen in the dynamics of transnational surrogacy where often wealthy couples exploit the bodies of marginalized women to fulfill their reproductive desires. The debates regarding transnational surrogacy largely come in two waves: the undeniable exploitation of female bodies particularly those in India who are subject to what feels like “a step toward the kind of insane dehumanization that filled the dystopian fantasies of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and Margaret Atwood’s “Handmaid’s Tale.”….Images of pregnant women lying in rows, or sitting lined up, belly after belly, for medical exams look like industrial outsourcing pushed to a nightmarish extreme.”[29] Once again using the wombs of women and the privilege of Western society to bargain and exploit the female body, being forced into commodifying their pregnancies at the expense of their survival. Although in recent years the controversies surrounding transnational surrogacy have shifted to include the voices of the women in the practice itself. Sometimes framing the surrogacies by utilizing gendered discourses about women’s altruism describe surrogates’ motives as “instinctive” and as representing a “sisterhood” among women.[29] This gendered rhetoric about sisterly instincts, which has been noted in great detail by many scholars, looks to empower women but at its core draws a curtain over the brutal conditions that many face when their only option to survive is by auctioning off their uteruses. Drawing parallels between the colonial past and contemporary struggles reveals the enduring legacy of conquest and oppression. The sexualization of bodies, particularly those of marginalized groups, persists as a means of exercising control and asserting dominance. From concubinage in colonial contexts to the commodification of bodies in transnational surrogacy, the exploitation of reproductive labor remains a stark reality.

Women demonstrate against New York state abortion laws in Manhattan

Autonomy, at its very core, resembles the rights of individuals and groups of people to govern their own bodies and pursue the lives and freedoms on which they can decide. Nevertheless, as history can portray to our generation, this pursuance of volition is often challenged and restricted, to illustrate this we can look at the curtailment concerning reproductive rights and legislation. From forced sterilizations to restrictive reproductive legislations, the struggle for autonomy over one's reproductive choices is a battleground shaped by power dynamics and historical injustices. A specific instance of this can be illustrated by the reproductive subjugation from the time that black women were first brought to North America.[30] Reflecting back on the waves of slavery in regards to reproduction, we can understand it to be an umbrella term covering the violent ranges of labors including but not limited to: sex trafficking, domestic servitude, organ trafficking and more horrific details of the crimes perpetrated on many individuals throughout history but in particular Black women.[30] The details of reproductive slavery are gruesome but there is a critical need for conceptual distinction. Accordingly, the onset of European colonization in coalition with moralistic policies and territorial laws such as racial segregation upkept the regimes that have continued to manipulate and strip Black women of their overall autonomy and their reproductive rights. Further illustrating how the scrutinization of marginalized women regarding colonialism deemed them “[non] human beings but rather the property of others”[30] shaping not solely belief systems based upon marginalized women throughout the continuation of colonialism, yet modern notions regarding reproductive rights and racial ideologies many people face and hold today. In correlation to Enakshi Dua's exploration of female Asian migration in the making of Canada sheds light on the intersectionality of race, gender, and colonialism.[31] The construction of Canada as a white settler nation was predicated on the exclusion of non-white bodies, perpetuating systems of inequality and erasure. The experiences of migrant women, their bodies rendered invisible or hyper-visible depending on the needs of the colonial project, speak to the enduring legacy of colonial ideologies in shaping our contemporary society.[31]

Stephan Harper attempting to begin apologizing for years of discrimination on Chinese residents of Canada

In conclusion, in a system rendered and established as a white settler nation, the policies and contradictions of Canada’s past exclusionary practices have been minorly appeased through apologies and compensation such as the apology aimed towards reconciling the Chinese head-tax from Steven Harper. Yet, amidst the trials at resolving past tensions and statements eliciting “We have the collective responsibility to build a country based firmly on the notion of equality of opportunity, regardless of one's race or ethnic origin” [32] do not take into account the systemic injustices that have continued to spite the individuals who have lived on in their bodies day-to-day as minority groups in a system attempting to derail their accomplishments.

  1. McBride, Katie (2023). Identities, Hate and Discrimination. Springer EBooks. pp. 17–51.
  2. Currier, Danielle M. (2013). [ "Strategic Ambiguity: Protecting Femininity and Hegemonic Masculinity in the Hookup Culture"] Check |url= value (help). Gender and Society. 27: 704–727.
  3. Fausto-Sterling, Anne (2012). Sex/Gender. Routledge. pp. 109–111.
  4. Handforth, Rachel (2022). Theorising Gender and Belonging in the (Early Career) Academy. Palgrave Studies in Gender and Education. pp. 33–74.
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