1996-97 Pembroke Seminar

"The Future of Gender"
Elizabeth Weed

Once a grammatical term, the word “gender” has in the course of two decades or so, come to be accepted as a common term indicating male or female.  When it was first coined, “gender” was used to indicate social and cultural characteristics of maleness and femaleness, as opposed to the biological difference between the sexes: hence, the sex/gender split that feminist scholars have found so useful for their research.  This year’s seminar set out to see if the term is still a useful one for scholars and researchers.  What does it mean that the U.S. legal code has adopted the term while the Pope has condemned it?  What is the status of “gender” in biological research?  Has “gender” paradoxically equalized men and women so that masculinity and femininity are seen as comparable rather than unequal positions of power?