The Lenses of Gender: Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality

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Press:Yale University Press Yale University Press; Reissue edition (August 31, 1994)
Publication Date:1994-08-31
Author Name:Sandra Lipsitz Bem


In this book a leading theorist on sex and gender discusses how hidden assumptions embedded in our cultural discourses, social institutions, and individual psyches perpetuate male power and oppress women and sexual minorities. 
Sandra Lipsitz Bem argues that these assumptions, which she calls the lenses of gender, shape not only perceptions of social reality but also the more material things—like unequal pay and inadequate daycare—that constitute social reality itself.
Her penetrating and articulate examination of these hidden cultural lenses enables us to look at them rather than through them and to better understand recent debates on gender and sexuality.According to Bem, the first lens, androcentrism (male-centeredness), defines males and male experience as a standard or norm and females and female experience as a deviation from that norm.
The second lens, gender polarization, superimposes male-female differences on virtually every aspect of human experience, from modes of dress and social roles to ways of expressing emotion and sexual desire.
The third lens, biological essentialism, rationalizes and legitimizes the other two lenses by treating them as the inevitable consequences of the intrinsic biological natures of women and men.After illustrating the pervasiveness of these three lenses in both historical and contemporary discourses of Western culture, Bem presents her own theory of how the individual either acquires cultural gender lenses and constructs a conventional gender identity or resists cultural lenses and constructs a gender-subversive identity.
She contends that we must reframe the debate on sexual inequality so that it focuses not on the differences between men and women but on how male-centered discourses and institutions transform male-female difference into female disadvantage.


Gay & Lesbian,Parenting & Families,Politics & Social Sciences,Women's Studies,Feminist Theory,Social Sciences,Gender Studies,General

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Comment List (Total:4)

  •     Sandra Lipsitz BemThe Lens of Gender:Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality(New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1993) 244 pages A feminist psychologist shows how different sex-rolesemerge from three basic beliefs:(1) BIOLOGICAL ESSENTIALISM--that men are naturally better than women in almost every way;and therefore men naturally must be in charge of everything.(2) ANDROCENTRISM--that men are the center and criterion of everything,women being defined as secondary and supportive creatures.(3) GENDER POLARIZATION--that the sexes are fundamentally opposite,which puts them at odds with each other.As these beliefs disappear,androgyny--the best of both genders--can emerge.This book seeks to improve the status of women thrusocial and cultural change rather than inward, psychological change.Since the culture causes the inequality, Bem believes,cultural changes will bring the solutions.See other books here on the Internet:"SEX ROLE---Bibliography of books".If you are interested in how we become 'masculine' or 'feminine',search the Internet for this bibliography:"Best Books on Gender-Personality".James Leonard Park, creator of the Gender-Pattern Chart.
  •     This is a great book that details the dynamics that may propagate gender inequality. The three main "lenses" include gender polarization, androcentrism, and biological essentialism. Don't be scared off, it is well written and concisely links the concepts to provide a good look at how gender is constructed.
  •     I focused on gender and sexuality in college and I have to say that of all the books I own on this subject, this is the book I'm most likely to lend someone. "The Lenses of Gender" is an excellent work for academics and newcomers to the field alike. It is alos a good read for those of us who are deeply mired in gender studies already. Sandra Lipsitz Bem does a great job of stepping back to provide a nice overview, leaving us some useful concepts and tools along the way. I must also thank her for not writing bisexuality out of the of the many topics still controversial among otherwise open-minded people, the author manages to be inclusive and positive. She doesn't resort to the kind of blustery didactic arguments that mar the writing of so many cultural critics. This is something that I can't praise highly enough. Perhaps that's the most groundbreaking aspect of this book. Take a look at it. "The Lenses of Gender" is good for a wide audience and offers a lot to think about.
  •     I enjoyed this book; it made sense to me. It is written in plainer English so that most people can understand it, not just psychology students.

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