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March 7, 2016 Sandra Eder, "The Invention of Gender and the Transformation of Sex in 1950s American Biomedicine" by Sandra Eder

March 7, 2016 Sandra Eder, Assistant Professor of History, UC Berkeley, "The Invention of Gender and the Transformation of Sex in 1950s American Biomedicine"

Mar 07, 2016
from 12:00 PM to 01:30 PM

Social Sciences & Humanities 273

On Monday, March 7, we will welcome Professor Sandra Eder as she presents her talk entitled, “The Invention of Gender and the Transformation of Sex in 1950s American Biomedicine.” Please mark your calendars. Refreshments will be served at noon with the talk starting shortly thereafter. See below for the full abstract.

Though “gender” gained its prominence in 1970/80s feminism and social sciences, the term was actually first coined in 1950s medicine. The term “gender role” was introduced into clinical practice in the mid-1950s at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to help doctors decide which sex to assign to “pseudo-hermaphroditic” children. Physicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists at the clinic claimed that gender role was learned and congruent with the sex in which the child was raised rather than any biological characteristics. My paper focuses on the period between 1950 and 1955, when this new concept of gender was first formulated as an essential part of new and standardized treatment recommendations for intersex children. I follow “gender role” from its empirical origin in Hopkins Pediatric Endocrinology Clinic in the early 1950s through debates at interdisciplinary roundtables and conferences to its presentation in a set of five strategic publications in 1955. I argue that the invention of gender emerged as a pragmatic solution for restoring a patient’s health and maintaining clearly defined social roles rather than as a critique of the biological determinism of sex.

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