Race and Gender


Have you ever really thought about what race is? Most likely you have accepted and taken for granted the notion of race as something that is there and that not much can be done about – it’s just nature – how you are born; like your gender.

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The first article suggests a different way of looking at race, not as something natural and inevitable, but as an idea, a cultural construct that shapes how we perceive and categorize people. In other words, there is nothing “natural” about categorizing people on the basis of their skin tone.

If you think about it, for all rational purposes, skin tone is absolutely useless as a factor by which to classify people. It makes a lot more sense to divide people by height, for example, because tall people can do some things better than short people (tall basketball and volleyball players are more desirable than short ones for a good reason). Short people are better than tall people in other contexts (you don’t want tall gymnasts or figure skaters) – again height makes sense as a differentiating factor here. But what about the shade of your skin tone? Does that serve any reasonable purpose at all? Is there any real reason (something useful/rational) that makes us pay so much attention to it? There has to be some big; important reason, otherwise we would surely chose something else (We are rational creatures after all, aren’t we?) There is only one reason. Categorizing people on the basis of their skin color serves only the purposes of discrimination. After all, this whole phenomenon has its roots in slavery.

It is important to note that not all people of the world are as hung up on skin color as Americans are. Other countries find it more important to classify people on the basis of religion, nationality, ethnicity and other factors. In the US, it is race that is your most important identity – the first thing people look at. That is not the case elsewhere. Consider the military context for example. Race is certainly noticed, but not as the # 1 factor we perceive about people. The military managed to replace racism with rankism, which is the first and the most important thing we notice in that specific context.

A person from Nigeria would wonder why he’s being referred to as a Black man, when he is Nigerian. For him, his identity is based on his nationality, not race! In the same way, Europeans do not think of themselves as white people, they are first Belgian, German, French, Catholic, etc. Some southern Europeans have a decent tan, but they are not referred to as brown or black. It’s just not about color in the same way that color is treated in America. So, what is race again if its understanding is so different in different parts of the world? Race, evidently, has everything to do with culture, and nothing to do with nature as the following article will explain.

1. Reader 41: Racial Formations (Below)


2. Watch video clip (Below)


3. Complete Questions below


Racial Formations

1. According to the article, has race (as a classification scheme) always been around?

2. Does race have a biological basis?

3. How do the media play role in maintaining the importance of race?

Video: Racial Profiling

4. What is the main point of this video?


Many of us never thought about why men and women behave differently, we just take it for granted as a given – as something natural and inevitable. I want you to recall what we said about race here, and realize that perhaps the way we act as men and women has something to do with the way our culture has defined it for us, and much less to do with natural tendencies. The first article shows just that – gender is cultural, not natural.

1. PDF file: Sex and Temperament in Primitive Societies


The second article presents an interesting theory about why women are really not striving for equality. Instead of focusing on gaining education, or power, women become victims of the beauty craze which diverts their attention away from real pursuits of equality towards trivial pursuits of an unattainable beauty standard.

2. PDF file: The Beauty Myth


The last article goes hand in hand with the second. I hope you will be able to see a parallel between what is happening to women and what is happening to men.

3. Video: Dove Beauty Sketches – below


4. PDF file: The Betrayal of the American Man


5. Complete questions below


Sex and Temperament in Primitive Societies

5. According to the article, is behavior sex-linked?

6. What is the main point the author is trying to make? How does she justify it?

The Beauty Myth

7. According to the article, are women advancing toward equality? Explain

8. How does power (and whose power) play role here?

Video: Dove Beauty Sketches

9. What is the video trying to show?

10. Explain how the point in the video relates to the previous article?

The Betrayal of the American Man

11. Why is the author arguing that masculinity is in crisis? How is it being manifested?

12. What is the cause of this crisis? (This is the main argument. Be sure to identify it correctly)

13. Who are men being dominated/exploited by?

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