Response to Asia Friedman’s reading


Tacit norms of perception, attention, and inattention are unintentional yet still distinctly cultural.  One example of such norms is sex/gender attribution

It wasn’t until late 18th century (around the time of enlightenment) that we started to think about male and female bodies as different. Power distribution came in to question at that time – right to vote for example (women were too emotional and not rational enough to vote), women could not inherit wealth. Hence, different discussions of anatomy, brain, etc.

We take this difference for granted now and only some things pass through our cognitive filter.

“dominant cultural conceptions of sex as ‘obvious’ or ‘self-evident’ reflect a sensory reality that privileges visual perception” (284)

How do blind people determine the sex of people they meet? They use non-visual sex attribution – auditory, olfactory, tactile. Asia Friedman, based on her work with the blind, describes how it is done without visual capacity.  Blind seem to have a slower and more deliberate sex attribution, it requires attention.


There is “perceptual work underlying the social construction of reality in general…” (284)

Socialization shapes the mind. Berger and Luckmann’s in their book  “Social Construction of Reality”, argue that reality is actually created by us in cooperation with one another. We take for granted that reality is objective, but the notion that reality is objective may be in itself a social construct.

“In the case of sex, this means questioning why breasts and facial hair seem more salient than elbows, eye color, noses, and earlobes, when all are technically equally visually available, or why the differences between males’ and females’ skin and body hair are noticed more often than the similarities.” (285)


Non-visual sex attribution can include voices – male vs female, we think of it as being gendered, height and steps (footfall),  smell -we construct our smells according to gendered norms that are not natural (perfumes, colognes)  as well as natural (body odor), touch – face touching is a stereotype, but arm holding does communicate information.



3 thoughts on “Response to Asia Friedman’s reading”

  1. This was a great intake on Friedman’s article! The author definitely pushes the button on whether we ourselves have become blind to sex sameness. Using the blind in regards to her argument allows the reader to understand her analytical lens on cognition. Without the use of sight to influence an initial physical perception–we see how the human is able to perceive other humans without sight. The mind is often shaped by our social world and what we see in others through the media and our everyday interaction.

    I do believe that there are stark differences between the male and female genders. While we do have similar features that allow us to perceive each other as human–the innate biological makeup we are composed of opens the door for differentiated interactions amongst both sexes. As much as our reality is socially constructed–I believe it cannot always beat our biological differences. We should not be blind to sameness but we cannot also widen the differences.


  2. The view of sex sameness through the eyes of those who are blind leads to me think of many things as that coincide with what both Beesan and Mila have said. I feel that being able to identify a persons gender based off of hearing and feeling shows that although many features that are associated with gender are socially constructed there are some aspects to gender that are biological and therefore cannot be avoided.
    I personally do not know all the biological aspects that are associated with gender, but i do know that there is a difference between sex and gender. From what i know, sex refers to the biological features of a human being such as their sex organs. And gender is the “norms” and standards to which men and women are expected to live by according to their sex organs. In many cases this definitely has come about to be problematic because by straining an individual to follow what everybody as a whole community expects them/he/she to do it ends up becoming oppressive and just because a person may or may not act and look the way everyone else wants them to look and act it does not mean that the person is any less than anybody.


  3. I agree with both Beesan and Farjana that I believe there are clear biological differences between the sexes, but that those things don’t have anything to do with who they are or what they choose to do in their lives. While the biological differences between males and females will determine where and how hair grows, where fat is stored in the body, and what muscles develop, it does not determine who they become. Our idea of masculinity and femininity and what girls and boys should be is all socially constructed. I think that using blind people as a way to show that we are much more physically similar than we are different is such great way to show the socialization that is so ingrained in our ideas of sex and gender. When we start to look deeper into the way we differentiate between male and female I think people will realize that all of the differences we attribute to the sexes are created by people.
    While these things about gender socialization are true and pretty widely known, it is still hard to expect everyone to completely shed these ideas overnight. The way we’ve been told that girls and boys are supposed to act has been carried on for generations and people who truly believe in these ideas will continue to teach their children in these ways. I think people are so stuck on the idea of differences between men and women because it would mean admitting that we have made the choices that turn people into who they are, which would mean admitting to the mistakes we’ve made.


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