When we think of artifact impact on gender, we need to understand first what is defined by ‘gender’. What is gender? Gender is basically the term that is most commonly used for ‘women’. It is mostly used as a social term than a biological one. Gender as a term is closed to the definition of anything that refers to women in a social connotation. Now let us think about any specific artifact vis-à-vis gender. How has any specific artifact impacted gender? Is a specific artifact gendered? Should it be, in the first place? Should it not be?
In the case of bras, it certainly is gendered. This is because it is an object that is used only by women. There is a tendency to marginalize women in society and even in intellectual communities like science, this trend is visible. Stephen Jay Gould’s “Women’s Brains” looks inside the scientific community, and the society as a whole, of the nineteenth century and indicates the prejudice held against women as a polarized group of population. The author indicates that though the science of craniometrical research was very helpful for the development of biological science, there was a different aspect of the research. He indicates that the research by Paul Broca was a significant study on the human skull but the interpretation of this study was ramifying for women. It was found that the size of an average woman’s skull was smaller than that of a man’s. However, it was interpreted that “Women, like it or not, had smaller brains than men and, therefore, could not equal them in intelligence“. (Gould, 53) This appears as though science was used as a tool to establish male superiority and evolve a mode of an excuse to suppress women in society, particularly those who belong to the lower economic group of the society. The fundamental thesis of the article is concentrated on this context of deliberate misinterpretation and structured propaganda.
Thus, it is seen that the trend is always there. As for bras, the artifact is easily identifiable with women as the visual connection is always with a woman and such deliberate misinterpretation and structured propaganda make it associated with the protective measure of the weaker sex. If the economy were taken into account, we would see that Poverty is tightly associated with unemployment, which spirals out of control through lack of basic amenities and services, hunger, and death. Women become inadvertently the worst sufferers because they not only have to care about themselves but most of the time their children too. Here one should be able to observe the interplay between the wider social activities and the local ones. It is imperative to understand that science is canalized through the basic political and economical fiber of the nations at large individually first and then collectively. The doggedness of the local cultural and societal pull should not be ignored in the face of science. It is significant to record here that there is very little doubt that gender inequity is prevalent throughout the world and misinterpretation of society related to woman’s undergarments like bra, only aggravates it and on a personal notion it should be mentioned that the artifact is treated differently in the study because I am using a gendered lens for the analysis and it is very difficult to abandon it.
In recent startling news, it was found that In Somalia women are no longer allowed to wear bras because they communicate perky boobs. It is reported, “Gunmen have been gathering women in Mogadishu who are perceived to have firm busts. These women are then publicly whipped by masked men as punishment for what Islamist leaders call deception.” (Foxnews, 1) This deception is the wrong manifestation of breast firmness and this is a crime against religion. So bras are symbols of the wrong perception and thus they should be banned. But is it religion? Or it is just the powerful manifestation of some illiterate musclemen? Fundamentalism cannot be termed as religion and such a fundamentalist approach should never be aligned with religion. So, the problem is in society and the lack of education in that society where lack of knowledge is replaced by half learned Godmen who direct their followers into further decadence. Women and bras are only two scapegoats of this system.
According to Joseph, in Gender Citizenship in the Middle East, an examination of the legal documents related to citizenship has revealed that citizenship is extremely gendered in all areas, particularly the political, economic, and cultural. Joseph argues that the struggle for women to gain a sense of self and identity through citizenship has been compromised by the nations’ struggles for identity themselves. The nations of the Middle East, on the one hand, possess a fierce desire for nationalism, which seems to need the female gender as its universal, rallying cry. Terms such as the “motherland” and “mother earth” perpetuate the idea of the female as a symbol, or icon, for the very essence of the nation. (Dollard, 181-3) On the other hand, the individual states, composed, at times, of several groups of individuals who may or may not share a common political or ethnic background are focused on the strength and stability of a patriarchal society and strict obedience to that framework (Joseph, 133-37). This conflict ensnares the woman in the middle of a male conflict.
Thus it is obvious that the role of women in the Middle East especially in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt is extremely negligible and has little influence the political aspects of the area. But we could only assume that had the trend was otherwise and women were encouraged to enter the parameters of politics the problem regarding issues in the Middle East would have been solved with much ease as women tend to accept politics with less ego and more heart as seen in the cases of numerous political women leaders. This touch of tenderness is long missing from the regional politics of these three countries in the Middle East and we can only hope that the cultural aspects regarding women change and better and calmer policies are implemented in the region.
It not a matter of bra or undergarment, the biological reproductive aspect of women brought on by science also projects a mixed bag. Those who can have access are enjoying the freedom of choice for abortion, while those who do not take a step back into the cultural taboos, which ironically have become more pronounced with the advent of science. This is mainly because the health issues have decreased in importance locally with the lower allotment of funds and attention in the modern era. Due to poverty, women tend to neglect their health, particularly gynecological ones due to cultural and social taboos. There is an increase in pornography and women trafficking due to easier global access, particularly to poor women in developing countries. Early marriage, genital mutilation, prostitution, rape, and exposure to AIDS are some of the major threats to which women are exposed post-globalization. It is also possible to detect girl fetuses and abort them with the help of modern technology brought on by globalization. Hence, modern technology or science hence has been a boon for the affluent women while it added to exploitation and public disgrace to the poor factions as in the case of the Somali women.
Education is another aspect where globalization has played a neat role in the lives of women. As discussed above, it brought a wealth of opportunity for those who can afford it and totally closed the door on the marginalized women. This is proved by the fact that more than as much as two thirds of the total illiterate adults in the world are from Africa, Asia and Middle East. There are countries where 84% have never seen a school. This is not all, in Middle East most textbooks depict women only cooking, cleaning or working in the house. These are hard statistics. The fact is that women often go in search of employment or work on their agricultural land, leaving the elder daughter ‘in-charge’ of the house. These girls age beyond their years through the force of taking up responsibilities beyond their age. On the other hand, scientific interpretation has brought to those who can afford it, opportunity to study wherever they want in the world.
For a democratic society with its democratic form of government system, it is but an obvious choice to opt for a society that is predominantly unbiased towards women. The basis norm of a democratic society is to provide its mass with a structural form that offers equality in terms of justice and social characteristic. Hateful attitude or sexist behavior is an unwanted phenomenon but it is also extremely true at the same time that this attitude is a curse that exists among us whether we like it or not. It could be summarized that this is the result of having negative judgments, beliefs, and feelings towards certain identifiable groups.
In conclusion, it should be stated that the common aspect of woman’s position from the parameters of social community and further indicate that this community is predominantly gendered. It affects gender in each aspect of a woman’s life, health, economy, decision-making, education and politics. Each one of these aspects has been touched by society. One cannot say really whether its impact is negative or positive since it has influenced different strata differently. While promoting the cause and identity in one, it totally crushed the same aspects in the other. Once can safely say that it has brought change, positive for middle and upper classes and negative for lower middle and lower classes. Gendered scientific or religious interpretation, derailed in this case, has however failed taking in consideration the motion and the movement of liberating women from subjugation from male domination. This is a positive impact by all standards. It will take some time to percolate the movement to the marginalized classes, but the good news is that this has indeed started the ball rolling. It looks like in the next two-three decades the women’s role in the society would be a more enlightened one, and she will be recognized as the global citizen she is. This would give her due rights. – on par with the other half, the man.
Fausto-Sterling, Anne; “The biological Connections,” The Myths of Gender; New York: McGraw-Hill; 2006; Pages 8-10
Foxnews. ‘Somali Women Whipped for Wearing Bras’. Foxnews. Monday, 2009. Web.
Gould, Stephen Jay; “Women’s Brains”; The Panda’s Thumb; New York: McGraw-Hill; Pages 152-159.
Joseph, Suad. Gender and Citizenship in the Middle East. New York: Syracuse University Press, 2000.