Give the little boy a gun; offer the little girl a doll: how many years of feminism would it take to uncover the meaning behind such assumptions? After decades of attacks on intractable sexual stereotypes, the time is right to ask what makes them so compelling and resistant to change. In The Sexual Metaphor; Helen Haste does just that, exposing the deep cultural roots of our insistent distinctions between masculine and feminine.
To understand changing sexual roles, Haste suggests that we recognize the role that gender plays in how we make sense of the world, particularly through the use of metaphor. As she demonstrates, the assault on traditional conceptions of gender is in fact a confrontation with the metaphor of dualism, or polarity, that underlies Western culture, informing our models of rationality and control. Here our anxieties about our own masculinity or femininity encounter a cultural tangle of opposites - public and private, order and chaos, thinking and feeling, active and passive, hard and soft, positive and negtive.
Drawing on research in the fields of sociology, anthropology, the history of science, paleontology, and philosophy, as well as her own field of psychology, Haste demonstrates the pervasiveness of the metaphor of dualism in large areas of our lives and our thinking, and of metaphor itself as a mode of thought expressing theories about the world in science and popular culture. Her work, accessible to social scientists and general readers alike, is a stimulating tour of the dark, divided territory that is the backdrop for our organization of everyday experience, society, and sexual identity.
We are sexual animals, and the metaphors of sexuality are especially deep-rooted. To quote Helen Haste's prologue: 'It is extremely convenient to make assumptions on the basis of whether a person is male or female...By mapping masculine and feminine on to so many other dimensions to which we also ascribe polarity, we deepen the problem...Examples [of such polarities] are light-dark, public-private, arts-science, rational-intuitive (and rationality-chaos), sun-moon, active-passive, hard-soft, thinking-feeling'...The Sexual Metaphor is a thoughtful and original examination of the effect that the common but tacit perception of these sexual slogans has had, and more crucially is having, on a society that is struggling to separate issues of sex and gender...[It] is a thought-provoking and brilliantly targeted book. (Ian Stewart Nature)
Through her work as a feminist researcher, Helen Haste has become convinced that the pursuit of rational justice is inadequate as a model of social change…By the end of the book the reader is introduced to cultural metaphors of gender as they apply to a wide range of interdisciplinary topics including sociobiology, sexuality, science, feminism, the backlash against feminism, moral reasoning and the men's movement. Changing the existing gender metaphors requires the creation of an alternative perspective that escapes the dualistic destiny of being just an antithesis to the dominant view. (Meredith M. Kimball Theory and Psychology)
Helen Haste...has made important contributions to the study of how moral personalities are made. Her book...goes beyond her particular discipline to larger reflections on how a gendered world came to be. Gender, for Haste, is not a lens but a metaphor. Gender oppression is so pervasive, and reproduces itself so effortlessly, because it has been incorporated into our language and, in that way, into our thought...When we want to move between what we know and what we do not, we find metaphors seductively waiting to take us across the bridge into new realms of experience...To challenge the dichotomy between male and female, therefore, is to question everything; in searching for more authentic metaphors, feminists must take on reason itself. Haste calls for a 'cultural feminism' that goes well beyond the rationalistic prognosis of liberal and socialist versions, which seek only to replace one kind of order with another...Haste's utopia smashes dualities by transforming them into multiplicities.
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