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Formation of Sexual Identity, Sexual Customs and Gender Bodies


The role and position of women and men in society changed from one historic period to another. This change was predetermined by different social, economic, political, and other reasons. Nowadays, we may observe that in different communities’ women and men are treated differently. Of course, one of the most important attributes of differentiation between men and women are anatomical and hormonal peculiarities of their bodies, although some people deny this fact (Brettell and Sargent 1). There are various theories which explain the reason why men dominate women during so many centuries. Some experts admit that one of possible reasons may be specific structure of men’s brain, while others suggest that one of the reasons may be different levels of aggression expression. Nevertheless, it is obvious that attitude towards men and women are different in different nations. That is why it is difficult to agree that physical and psychological peculiarities of men and women are the only reasons for such difference.

It goes without saying that social and economic changes which happen nowadays influence greatly attitudes towards different sexes. Current research show that contemporary changes in society influence position and role of women in Israel. Moreover, it has a negative impact on them. On the one hand, elderly Jewish women are accustomed to old traditions. On the other hand, more and more social innovations which are popular in Western countries are introduced to the Jewish society due to globalization. It is obvious that inappropriate tendencies of modernization are connected not only with traditions which were common among Jewish people, but also of religious. The thing is that religion plays a great role and even influences economic tendencies of the country. That is why it cannot be overestimated in the aspect of modernization and its impact on Jewish women. If we compare Western countries and Israel we would see that “traditional Jewish societies… were highly segregated by sex, particularly in the religious sphere” (Sered 438). For example, women and men have different sacred places. Moreover, the goals of Jewish men and women are different as well. Comparing with men, women prey for “health and well-being of their families” (Sered 438). Contemporary world offers an absolutely different pattern of religion and society as well. That is why changes in values and traditions are inevitable, although they are not accepted both by Jewish men and women. Such tendencies cause the effect that Jewish women adopt such religions which are absolutely foreign to their culture. On the one hand it brings conflict within the nation. On the other hand, it affects national identity of Jewish people. Nevertheless, the majority of Jewish women preserves and follows old traditions in an informal religious structure (Sered 445).

Although the process of modernization enveloped the whole world, one can hardly admit that it influenced greatly Muslim world. It is not a secret that roles of women in Islamic countries are strictly predetermined by main principles which are the guidelines in Muslim society. Some experts even admit that the policy of misogyny is the leading one among Muslim men. Still, others regard that “misogynist practices of sexuality in the Muslim world are corruptions of the ideas of the Quran and other religious texts” (Abu-Lughod 256). Still, traditions vary from one Muslim society to another. As a result it difficult to admit that was is corruption in one society is a norm in another one. It is seen on the example of wedding traditions that women sexuality is percepted in a different way in different Muslim communities. For example, while in according to traditions of one social group “the secrecy of private sex, in the dark, behind closed doors” (Abu-Lughod 258), in another social group the process of defloration is percepted as a public phenomenon. In other words, social position, role and sexuality of women vary from one Muslim community to another. One interesting phenomenon is observed among Muslim people who live in the United States. According to researches, Muslim people who migrated to the United States are eager to convert traditions which were popular in their native land. “They tend to view the converts as not only converting to the religion of Islam, but in many cases also to the cultural trappings that their parents associate with their faith” (Haddad 38). In other words, the connection of Muslim people with their traditions are too strong to be modernized and changed.

What we may see in Western countries is the process of worshiping to body, the body which is perfect in every aspect. Such tendencies are supported by countless numbers of TV shows, music clips, etc. In other Western women are exhausted by the desire to look as goddess, otherwise they would not attract men. One of the model contemporary western women try to follow is the image of Barbie, a doll. Moreover, the image of Barbie became not only the model to follow, but also the standard to judge others. By the way, researches showed that hyper-thin body of a Barbie is by no means exceptional. Still, lots of women, not only within Western countries, but in Eastern ones as well, accede to surgical operation to “enhance” their bodies, and make it look at least a bit similar to an image of a Barbie (Urla and Swedlund 255-264). Of course, the image of a Barbie was popularized in respect to market popularity. Moreover, many people admitted that the image of a Barbie does not present a woman who can be regarded as a clever and interesting one. On the contrary, many people are sure that such image is highly close to the image of a foolish blonde girl rather than a respectable member of society. Nevertheless, the desire to be attractive and seductive is more popular than to be successful and respected.

In his novel the Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenide presents a different aspect of sexual identity. The author depicts the life of a boy, who was raised as girl due to genetic mutations which were observed in his/her family during three generations. The author raises many themes in his novel, but one of them was rather scandalous and new: gender identity. Eugenide illustrates the life of the boy/girl whose sexual identity changes from one period to another “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974” (Eugenide 145). Of course, the aspect of hermaphroditism is just a metaphor. The author wanted to highlight that despite the fact of bringing-up and social influence on us, our sexual identity is predetermined by nature, physical and psychological peculiarities.

Works Cited

Abu-Lughod, Lila “Is there a Muslim Sexuality?: Changing Constructions of Sexuality in Egyptian Bedouin Weddings”. Brettell and Sargent 255-264. Print.

Brettell, Caroline B., and Sargent, Carolyn F. eds. Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2009. Print.

Eugenides, Jeffrey. Middlesex: A Novel. London: Picador, 2003. Print.

Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck. “The Quest for Peace in Submission: Reflections on the Journey of American Women Converts to Islam”. Women Embracing Islam: Gender and Conversion in the West. Ed. Karin van Nieuwkerk. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006. 19-47. Print.

Sered, Susan Starr. “Women, Religion, and Modernization: Tradition and Transformation among Elderly Jews in Israel”. Brettell and Sargent 437-448. Print.

Urla, Jacqueline, and Swedlund, Allan. “Measuring Up To Barbie: Ideals of the Feminine Body in Popular Culture” Brettell and Sargent 282-295. Print.


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