Masculinity in Feminism

A lot of what has been written and perhaps a lot of what will be written will be written with the use of some form of technology. Language is the most obvious example, it is with the use of this technology that we understand, interpret and reinterpret what we experience. It is most often the case that throughout history those understandings, interpretations and reinterpretations are affected by biases of the individual mind/body or the collective minds/bodies, as such as I attempt to write this essay on sexuality, I am aware that beyond of the fact that I am of the masculine sex, I can easily fall under the prejudices that lie well beyond my conscious understanding of the workings and memories of my body and of my mind respectively.

In spite of this fact, I do not attempt to purposely write in an unbiased way because of the fact of its impossibility and as it is very certain that discursivity in discourse brings forth power, regardless. To which we can say that there is no knowledge without theory, theory without interpretation and interpretation without experience. In this way, the following text approaches sexuality using this logic. It looks into modes of practices, language, a discourse and our understanding of these.

There has been an increasing interest in feminist discourse, dealing with notions of the women in society which has articulated the sphere of the women in their domestic life, work life, education, sexuality and identity in connection to a repression from the opposite sex, the male/masculine. I make the assumption that, on the opposite side, critical writings that deal with the notions of the male/masculine are much less prominent at a historical and philosophical level in the discourses of our time. So at a simple glance what we see is a battle between the sexes, genders and powers of control in the interconnected networks of the economic, technological, biological, psychological and political to name a few. 

So I begin and approach this investigation within a chronological view of history, I begin by tracing a historical view of sexual difference, one proposed by Coontz & Henderson, to see where the origins of the division of labour by sex might have started. I follow this by looking into how “meaning” and “value” becomes associated and created with regards to sexuality, following the train of thought proposed by Professor DuBois Page, in her analysis on the historicity on women and the female body, within the ideological frameworks of ancient Greek philosophy. It investigates the use of metaphors and metonymy, leading onto a Foucauldian view of sexuality and society. 

In response to this, for the final part of this essay, I proceed to look into how the sexuality of man has also been affected by the same uncovering of the structure of society and its methods of power that women have experienced. I look also, for possible reinterpretations of masculinity or masculinities, highlighting the complexities and problems that any given study of the masculine subject creates. Whether masculinities can be defined, whether this in any way results in tackling the problem of gender inequality. I refer to Jean Paul Martinos’ work in reconceptualising and altering the concepts around masculinity in terms of the relationship between time, space and gender rather than seeing maleness in oppositional terms (man vs woman) or performative terms (what men do vs what women do).

Sexual division of labour 

The difficulty in trying to trace the origins of gender roles and differences lead to the theorizing of possible causes, to which there are different angles that have been written about including a biological essentialist perspective that talks about ‘difference’ in gender roles determined in the sexual organs and biological constitutions of both the female and male body. 

In tangent to this, there is also the economic and technological view that gender roles appeared to proliferate with the outset of the agricultural revolution and its sexual division of labour. A recent publication (Alesina, Giuliano & Nunn 2011) attempts to correlate the use of the plough in agriculture with female labour participation, creating a hypothesis that suggests that women’s participation declined as prior practices such as shifting-agriculture became replaced by the more intensive practice of the plough which was more adequate to the characteristics of a male body. 

Agricultural societies were more gender- biased than hunter-gatherer societies. Moreover, Iversen & Rosenbluth (2010, p. 32) argued that ‘… Population growth and land scarcity made cultivation of food more labour-intensive, which created “a premium on male brawn in ploughing and other heavy farm work”. 

This argument cannot be framed and should not be framed as a historical evidence for male dominance or female subordinating to it but a tendency for the potentiality to give rise to modes of identity and classification that become reinterpreted generation after generation. In other words, the developments in the tools of production and practices of production are and were gendered in the sense that the technology itself (Plow) marked a mode of difference for both bodies but it is not the origin itself. Instead, it simply aided different practices of productions.

In Coontz, S. & Henderson, P. (1986, p. 55), Lila Leibowitz provides a much more holistic historical narrative that avoids a reductive linking of the sexual division of labour to the division of productive activities by sex. She discusses the sexual division of labour as the totality of social relations between men and women joint together by production, arguing that production itself at much earlier times was undifferentiated of any sort of social classification.

“Short life spans, a relatively late age of sexual maturation and rates of population growth which suggests that fertility levels were low, combined to indicate the early hominid populations were composed primarily of young non-dimorphic members. Species survival could not, then, have hinged on the subsistence activities of the few adults in a group but must have depended on the development of cooperative production by all and for all” (Coontz, S., & Henderson, P. (1986) p. 55).

Leibowitz touches on a range of factors all playing a role in constructing a sexual division of labour, as varied as production and productivity, population profiles, subsistence technologies, intergroup exchange, incest rules, alliances and sex role socialisation. She argues fire and projectile hunting tools created new modes of practices which changed how production in a local group was pursued establishing the underlying conditions for dividing labour by sex and by age. (Coontz, S., & Henderson, P. (1986) p. 64).

Projectile Hunting required smaller groups, its techniques demanded training and self-control, these qualities were best fitted to adults. Hunting became more efficient, this meant the production of food increased. 

As a consequence, to excessive production, it required more demanding fire and hearth centred processing technologies, falling more often than not to women, the young and the disabled, primarily those who did no go hunting. For Leibowitz, such initial division, was pragmatic which remained for some time essentially flexible. A proscriptive division appeared much later, even after intergroup exchanges appeared. 

In essence the idea that production can be tied down to biological sexual differences is problematic, because as seen before, production precedes any type of classification, and that at the beginning, initial forms of delegating activities were of a more pragmatic nature, therefore “An informal or circumstantial division of labour along sex line seems likely” (Coontz, S., & Henderson, P. (1986) p. 66).

A bio-essentialist explanation of sexual differences becomes limited as it seems to be the case that roles of the female and male and their separation in practices evolved some time after projectile hunting and the use of fire. As such these roles are not determined in our biology but rather are constructed within a flux of interactions in the environment.

In positing the idea that there is no single cause for the difference between the male/female, that sexuality is not the origins of sex roles, that neither production or practices of productions are the sole geneses, means there is a need to provide an analysis of how we come to understand the binary difference that arises from a world in constant flux, therefore I now turn to explore what I consider to be a very essential method used for understanding sexual difference, I look into metaphors and metonymy around the female body in Ancient Greek society explored by Professor DuBois Page (1988). 

Men, metaphor and women in Antiquity

In “Metaphors we live by” (2003, p.36), Lakoff and Johnsen provide a clear definition of metaphor and metonymy: “Metaphor and metonymy are different kinds of processes. Metaphor is principally a way of conceiving of one thing in terms of another, and its primary function is understanding. Metonymy, on the other hand, has primarily a referential function, that is, it allows us to use one entity to stand for another. But metonymy is not merely a referential device. It also serves the function of providing understanding.”

Looking into the metaphors of ancient pre-platonic narrative and the change, the addition to the use of metonymy together with metaphor in post-platonic discourse. Page argues that much of Greek literacy around the 5th century BC had a particular framework for understanding the female’s body, one which relied on metaphor and the analogizing of the reproductive notions of the women, to those of agricultural and religious traditions practised at the time. 

The pre-platonic logic emphasized the difference in bodies and a sense of otherness but did not proclaim the female body as necessarily “lacking” or as “less”. However, such use of metaphors in time lead to a reinterpretation by those who can speak and write, a change to the logic, to colonize, to become the signifier, to be able to name those that are marked by difference, resulting in a disembodied prose in a manner that is degrading and lacking. 


Women and the field

“…the son of Kronos caught his wife in his arms there underneath them the divine earth broke into young, fresh grass and into dewy clover, crocus and hyacinth so thick and soft it held the hard ground deep away from them, there they laid down together and drew about them a golden wonderful cloud, and from it a glimmering dew descended… [eersai]” (DuBois,1988, p. 41)

“And so it was when Demeter of the lovely hair, yielding to her desire, lay down with Laison and loved him in a thrice-turned field,” (DuBois, 1988, p. 49)

“On that eventful day or in the nights of love the seed of your greatness fell in foreign furrows…. From then it was that Euphamos’ race was sown to endure forever… “(DuBois, 1988, p. 67)

Women and Home

“We have had children now, whom he sees at times,  

Like a farmer working and outlying field, 

who sees them only when he sows and reaps” (DuBois, 1988, p. 73)

“your duty will be to remain indoors and….to receive what comes in, and distribute so much of it as should be spent and watch over whatever is to be kept in store, and take care that the sum laid by for a year not be spent in a month.” (DuBois, 1988, p. 86)

Women and the Oven

“There were many other gifts of no great importance including round silver basins; but I must not forget to mention a figure of a woman in gold, four and a half feet high, said by the Delphians to represent the women who baked Croesus’ bread”. (DuBois, 1988, p. 115)

“as it inflates (in the womb), the seeds form a membrane around itself; for its surface, because of its vicinity, stretches around it without a break, in just as in the same way as a membrane is formed on the surface of bread when it is being baked; the bread rises as it grows warm and inflates, and as it is inflated, so the membrane surface forms.” -The nature of the Child (DuBois, 1988, p. 124).

“Perhaps I should say a word or two, on the duties among you are now widowed. I can say all I have to say in a short word of advice. Your great glory is not to be inferior to what God has made you, and the greatest glory of a woman is to be least talked about men, whether they are praising you or criticising you” (DuBois, 1988, p,147).

These metaphors are written stories that belong to Greek Mythology, at the same time they offer a perspective on the relations of women and the environment first and foremost, and how men come to understand those relations, they reflect on the woman in likeness to the Earth, as the mother of production and reproduction, to which men must help to continue the cycle. 

They refer to women in relation to a vessel, to an oven, that men have to fill and heat. “…as a stone that must be laboured over, set in place, and constructed which guards the property and chastity of the home, the metaphor of the tablet argues professor Page (1988, p. 165-166) is the final logical moment in this process, a metaphor that emphasizes the passivity and receptivity of female interiority, that assumes that the mover of the stylus, the inscriber, the literate male who carves and marks the passive” 

On the one hand, it can be argued these metaphors do not show in any emphatic way that the female is inferior to the male. They show an understanding of difference, it attempts to define what the male does not know, does not see, and does not understand, to what he sees, knows from experience, e.g. sexual reproduction to earthly reproduction, and the women as a home, the process of cooking to the process of pregnancy. 

On the other hand, the way language is used, it seems also that there is a tendency to suggest that there is a form of appropriation, “…. Femininity and agriculture are in a relation of structural symmetry instead of a relation of sympathy….as in the Demeter myth. Both women and land are objects of domination, exercised through masculine labour: the hard but honourable labour of the small landowner; the exhausting labour of a husband endowed with a wife with an insatiable sexual appetite, but who bears sons”. (Coontz & Henderson,1986, P. 198)

Consequently, in any case, it can be said that most of the understanding of sexual relations are understood in terms of other concepts, out of which new meaning can be produced. In the case of Ancient Greece, there is a deterioration of power in female sexuality over time. The economic and social reality which preceded and coexisted these metaphors are startlingly different, many texts show that monarchy states around these time periods primarily relied on slave production for wealth accumulation,” … and it turns out that the monarch’s wealth rests on cloth, oil and the wine trade, in other words, women’s labour. (Coontz & Henderson,1986, P.176).

A singular division of sexes is impossible to draw, there was already social classification which included the royal offices, priests (priest-kings), sacerdotal families, warriors, farmers, slaves. Women operated in each of these class divisions, but there is little written about the wives of peasants, and women as slaves.


Prior to the formation of Greek democracy, women of royal lineage had been associated with transactions that strengthen clan alliances that allowed men to rule over a land property. And on the other hand, the royal women were also considered to have power and having the capacity to be able to use it (in many cases the typical case of the hero killing the king and marrying the daughter or wife played out). 

The different manifestations of lineage power were a problem for Greek democracy, because in their eyes allowing citizenship for women would make democracy impossible to succeed, if democratic laws were to include women, it would undermine the power structure of a patrilineal system, which for them was simpler compared to the instability of power they inherited. The Greek tragedy period dramatizes the conflict between the sexes, women are portrayed by men, claiming a return to the past, the mythical, or in other words, the past and the mythical are represented by what was considered “the other (women)” in Athenian democracy.

This worldview is reflected in the philosophical writings of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, although each one of them takes a different position. In Plato’s Theaetetus, Socrates compares his own work as a philosopher with hers (mother) as a maia (midwife). The use of metonymy is clearly employed by the taken of the place of the mother and putting philosophical endeavour in a higher plane.

“…serious discourse about them, is far nobler, when one employs dialectic method and plants and sows in a fitting soul intelligent words which are able to help themselves and him who planted them, which are not fruitless, but yield seed (sperma) from which there spring up in other minds other words capable of continuing the process forever. (” The first critique of writing, 2017”)

“my art of midwifery is in general like theirs; the only difference is that my patients are men, not women and my concern is not with the body but with the soul that is in travail of birth.” (DuBois, 1988, p. 180)

As such Page argues “the female is no longer a site of ploughing and sowing, of inscription and marking, it has been replaced by the sole and male philosopher”. (DuBois, 1988, p.183)

Plato compared to Socrates was undetermined about women’s position, he did see women as lacking and inferior but felt that in an ideal republic, woman in a higher social class should be able to have same rights as men. Much of Plato’s discourse relied on his theory of forms, where the natural world is only a shadow or representational image of the truest ideals, the true reality. 

“It is only males who are created directly by the gods and are given souls. Those who live rightly return to the stars, but those who are ‘cowards or lead unrighteous lives may with reason be supposed to have changed into the nature of women in the second generation’. 

This downward progress may continue through 

successive reincarnations unless reversed. In this situation, obviously it is only men who are complete human beings and can hope for ultimate fulfilment; the best a woman can hope for is to become a man” (Plato, Timaeus). 

(Annas, Julia. “Plato’s ‘Republic’ and Feminism.” Philosophy, vol. 51, no. 197, 1976, pp. 316) 

Subsequently, the metonymic nature of philosophy continues to operate in the writings of Aristotle. Countering and labelling Plato’s work as dealing with empty phrases and poetical metaphors, Aristotle in trying to avoid this, he derives his theories by observing nature. It is the nature of his environment that shapes the views of Aristotle. During his time women had little rights and privileges, most remained in the house, taking care of their offspring’s, slavery was pervasive and men enforced power. This allowed him to argue quite wrongly by analogy and using metonymic language that the female should be governed by the male because it is natural, just like it is natural that the soul governs the body. 

“It is natural and expedient for the body to be governed by the soul and for the emotional part to be governed by the intellect, the part possessing reason (Logon) whereas for the two parties to be on an equal footing or in the contrary positions is harmful in all cases. Again the same holds good between men and the other animals: tame animals are superior in their nature to wild animals, yet for all the former its is advantageous to be ruled by a man since this gives them security. Also between the sexes, the male is by nature superior and the female inferior. The male ruler and the female subject. (Politics 1254b) (DuBois, 1988, p.35)

It seems that the understanding or meaning of sexual differences also depends on the use of language and as we have seen, and new meaning can be derived, through the method of expressing something metaphorically. Lakoff and Jhonson argue that metaphors are a fundamental element in the way we structure our thoughts and words, metaphors are part of the building blocks of our thinking. Black expands on this subject and argues “metaphors are better regarded as systems of beliefs than as individual things’ (Ortony, 1979, p. 33).

As such, they form part of ideologies and discourses, that are affected by experiences (production) and try to define experience in a certain way, so much so as to make the interpretation/representation seem as natural but in reality becomes constructed. In the case of Ancient Greece, those discourses evolved into patriarchal forms emerging but not exclusively from sexual power struggles. 

One thing a historical approach to masculinity reveals is that what has attained the status of ‘facts’ underpinning the ‘true’ nature of masculinity (and, of course, femininity) are really sociohistorical and cultural constructions. For example, as a result of the division of labour occasioned by the Industrial Revolution (that is, men into the factories, most women consigned to the home) and the resulting patriarchy (based on men’s economic superiority), the idea that men were innately practical, rational and competitive, unlike women, was ‘naturalized’. 

Taking this position also requires sympathising with a logic that states “…efforts to control the organization and meaning of sexuality both delimit and open up the possibilities of sexual expression” (Peiss, K., Simmons, C., & Padgug, R. (1989, 8). Those efforts to control vary and depend on the given conditions under which a given society operates, in other words, sexuality intrinsically has a historical context. 

Our historical context from which we identify sexuality, talk about sexuality as a mode of identification which belongs only to the essence of the individual is in itself also a construction. And as Foucault states (…coincide with the development of Capitalism: it becomes an integral part of the bourgeois order” (Foucault, M., & Rabinow, P. (1991), p 294).

Padgug elaborates as follow, “sexuality is the realm of ‘nature’ of the individual, and of biology: the public sphere is the realm of culture, society and history. Finally, sexuality tends to be identified most closely with the female and the homosexual, while the public sphere is conceived of as male and heterosexual” (17). These result in depriving the sexual from political, economic and social discourse, all of which have consequences on class, race and identity.

At the beginning of this essay, I made the assumption that ‘critical writings that deal with the notions of the male/masculine are much less prominent at a historical and philosophical level’, but this is not the case, what appears to be clear is that ‘sexuality’ is a socio-linguistic construction based on a metaphorical understanding of experience. Its meanings and values emerge from the practices of production and not biology, so to talk about sexuality, seeing it as a binary difference of male and female, men and women, is simply to operate within the traditional constructed framework.

Having said this, there is a danger in reinstituting male power by creating a difference or separateness between nature and culture through language and discourse, by treating identity only as discursive rather than practised. By seeing, as Seidler states “The tensions between language and experience get lost within a focus of post-structuralist theory on discourse that too easily assumes that discourse articulates experience”. (Seidler, V., 200, p.11).

When contemporary feminist writings defend otherness as being oppressed, the statement becomes neither true or false. Seeing it from this angle we do not make feminist critique less capable but rather it expands it because in the same manner, we can come to the realisation that the oppressive power in the male is also neither true or false, but becomes constructed to be seen as true or natural. 

As such a feminist critique can only talk about the male sexual oppression from within because such a phrase entails to operate inside the dominant discourse. We cannot talk about any kind of sexual separation in biology, but only a constructed sexual separation in language, ideology and discourse and is only through the production and practice of the body that re-contextualisation can happen.

What I have argued up to this point can be summarised as follow “This archaeology of sex’ problematizes the way in which we understand sex and engage in it, and other social activities, in fact, the way we live in general because it shows that things are not ‘just the way they are’. 

Rather, they are made the way they are by social norms and practices, by the institutions and discourses that regulate our behaviour, and by the way, we regulate ourselves. And what this means is that it is always possible to regulate ourselves in different ways, to live otherwise’ (Danaher, G., Schirato, T., & Webb, J. 2000 p. 136).


So what does this mean for man, is it the end of man? From here on, my intention is to reflect on masculism in light of the above arguments and look into possible ways to interpret masculinities. By the same old method of metaphorically describing it because ‘language’ or ‘representation’ is the only method, we can use to make sense of what we cannot talk about. 

Patriarchy and its relations of power have not only subjugated the female, separated the subject from the body but results also in the subjugation of the masculine and his body. Since antiquity, emotion has been described as feminine and lack of self-control, where reason is valorised against desire, and through the way of language men can just about manage to cover the reality of their emotional life, men play a language game that if they were not to, their assumed power in masculinity will be questioned, lost and as such go against their very masculine nature.

The different realities of men, the different manifestations cannot be explained in terms of a unifying and universalising ideal. “Masculinity is always interpolated by cultural, historical and geographical location and in our time the combined influence of feminism and the gay movement has exploded the conception of a uniform masculinity…” (Beynon, J. 2001, p.1).

Even into what we might call subcategories, those of social class, religious, gay, ‘black’ masculinities, a range of different expression of masculinities are expressed within each of them. But masculinities still go further into the apparent division of gender, ‘there are male and female versions of masculinity and, equally, female and male versions of femininity’ (Cornwall and Lindisfarne 1998: 15).

Despite this fact, careful consideration must be put when we try to classify masculinities in all the forms it might take because even if we ended up with multiple forms of masculinities, it does not necessarily mean the problem at heart, which is forms of power and resistance within discourse. Power despite a multiplicity of genders/sexualities might still be channelled through institutions that begin with the corporeal.

There is, besides the discursive, a reality that belongs to the body, which men have not really explored, but have consequences in establishing perceptions of men. It does not suffice for male academics to simply theorise and to support feminism, Jardine argues in ‘Men in feminism’: “And what do feminists want? If you would forgive my directness, we do not want you to mimic us; we do not want your pathos or your guilt, and we don’t even want your admiration (even if it’s nice to get it once in a while). What we want, I would say, what we need is your work. 

We need you to get down to serious work, that involves struggle and pain. As guide to that work, I would like you to remind you of a sentence by Helene Cixous- a sentence which, to my knowledge, has not been taken seriously by our allies at all!’ Men still have everything to say about their own sexuality’. You still have everything to say about your own sexuality: that’s a challenge. (Jardine and Smith, 1987, p. 60)”

Seidler argues: ‘As men have been closely identified with this rationalist tradition, they have often remained strangely ignorant of themselves, while rarely appreciating how this ignorance forms the character of their experience and relationships. It is as if they are left with little access to personal experience, so it can be hardly surprising if they feel drawn to intellectualist traditions, such as structuralism, which would seek to banish that very category of experience” (Masculinity and power 2012, p 202.)

It also extends to the various events in history, for example ‘Men who returned from war often felt the need to not speak about their experience, to silence their emotional journey, because that’s what they ought to do. A similar dislocation of the body experience happens from early childhood as Seidler states: ‘because boys are not supposed to acknowledge the hurts they feel; they learn from an early age strategies of denial. So if a young boy falls in the playground he would learn to minimise his experience, saying ‘it was nothing’ (Seidler, V., 2006, p. 83).

In this sense, the disembodiment of philosophy since antiquity has gone against the very reality of the embodied mind or mind in the body. The reality of embodied experiences of desires, emotions, pain, fear etc. “My concern here is to oppose the assertion that man is simply embodiments of abstract reason. They are also embodiments of desire” (Brittan, A. 1989, p. 204).

What we have at stake here, what the problem of masculinity is that of delinking what we understand masculinity to be, it is extremely hard to try to re-contextualise the male in the same way feminists have done for the female, because in the case of feminism the fight is directed to something external to them, external to the female, whereas the new fight in the masculine is rather more internal, directed from the outside to the inside. It tackles the issues of “’masculinity-as-experienced’, ‘masculinity-as-enacted’ and ‘masculinity-as- represented’. (Beynon, J. 2001, p.0).

As stated before there are problems of definition when we try to define masculinity, or masculinities, for one it means creating new types of identities that are in theory measurable. But also the study of masculinity assumes sex-gender in terms of oppositional terms meaning that there must ‘another’ that is not masculine for if there wasn’t there would not be the need to refer to the term masculinity. 

Perhaps we can avoid this by approaching the sex-gender relation from a different angle, and angle that does not try to create another identity within masculine studies. I look into Jean-Paul Martinon’s The end of Man as an example.

If I do not misunderstand Martinon’s work, and to put it simply, it is the notion of ‘constant becoming’ a space of liminal passage but also non-passage into the ‘other’, never defined, never I, he or she because they are already always becoming. It is otherwise the neuter, that is shot through heterogeneous time that disturbs all becomings. This neuter cannot be defined as ’neither this nor that’, it can be only possibly be understood as a happening or event, as such can never be fully measured or totalised. 

Martinon defines it as ‘the primordial complex positivity that takes place before sexuality and gender. In other words, this neuter is a decisive positivity that comes before the specification of sex and gender…. understood as preceding any form of dichotomies, it precedes them because it is a positivity that knows no different. It is that which comes ‘before’ binaries” (Martinon, 2013, p.23-24.).

This positivity disperses into sexual difference and gives rise to difference of sexes. Difference of sexes, however, cannot be identified as to result from it. ‘As is well known, sexual difference, like the neuter must be thought outside of any form of opposition. 

When sexual difference is determined by opposition in the dialectical sense, there is no choice, but to misinterpret sexual difference confuse it with the difference of sexes and set off once again the famous war between the sexes thus inevitably precipitating the end with a victory going to the male and men in general’ (Martinon, 2013, p. 33)

By heterogeneous time, time Martino does not mean that which goes against homogeneous time (the idea that time goes in a straight line and constantly progressing). Heterogeneous time refers to the lawlessness of the law of absolute heteronomy. In other words, “the heterogeneity of this particular time is so diverse and incommensurable that it is impossible to totalise or homogenize” (Martinon, 2013, p. 11)

He offers a personal take on the notion of the self/body in so far as instead subjugating the self/body complex to synchronic description which at all levels is an expression of man (and for that matter philosophizing and thinking is also a man’s expression.) The body complex is, at the same time a non-body that only becomes into existence in relation to other bodies. In any case, it does not allow itself to be identified, named or made subject.


My search was to figure out where our idea of sexuality comes from, and how (given the context of the 21st Century where sex has become pervasive in every aspect of culture, from the individual to the political) men can come to understand their position in relation to the rise of feminist literature and philosophy, where the female has been uncovered from a discourse that benefits the masculine. So I began this essay by trying to get to the bottom of where ‘sexual difference’ arises from. 

Influenced by the re-reading of history one finds that, the sexual underpinning of essentialists to biology as an answer to such a question does not hold strongly and delimits further analysis. The agency of technology (such as the use of the plough in the agricultural revolution) to constitute sexual division is also not an adequate answer, because as it has been argued here, and in some respect against (Alesina, Giuliano & Nunn 2011) that technology only represents and provides potentialities of practices. 

Rereading even further back in history to the development projectile hunting techniques and the discovery of fire, we find that it is here where changes in practices begin to change, it changes from, what Leibowitz considers, the collective survival of hominid species on the edge of extinction, to a separation in groups driven by those changes in practices of production. The male hunter and the female gatherer begin to appear, not necessarily as a proscriptive division but a pragmatic division on the basis of survival to the effects of a world in flux. Up to this point, one finds that biology has little effect in producing sexual division of labour, a much open and holistic narrative provides a better explanation.

However, it does not provide an answer to why it gives rise to a masculine discourse of dominance. Therefore, I then move forward in history to the antiquity period of ancient Greece, to find that meaning, although perhaps becomes a simplistic reason, derives from the use of metaphor and metonymy in discourse, one also finds that the changes in ancient Greek society also plays a role into how these metaphors become contextualised. Before Plato’s time women are seen as belonging to nature but without the implication of seeing them as lacking and less. However, the Post-platonic discourse reconceptualises women’s position, women’s participation in the public sphere starts to diminish, replaced with ideas of a society and men in control of everything that is considered to be the ‘other’. It is this replacement through metonymic language both in representation and the discursive, in the society and in discourse that sexuality defines gender, defines women as less of a man. Its meanings become the practices and the practices turn into meaning, interpreted by mastery, dominance and power.

This leads me to the notion that sexuality is neither true or false but becomes a construction. And it is this construction that provides meaning and creates our idea of ‘sexuality’. Whatever this constructed representation becomes, in the end, it turns at the most basic level, into a representation based on oppositional terms which intrinsically creates notions of power. 

For these very reasons it makes the study of masculinity or masculinities difficult, because they require oppositional terms as their mode of identity, it becomes even more difficult when the task of men involves the internal questioning of their own bodily experience as masculine, where the man of flesh has been substituted by the man of soul, or in other words the dominant discourse of the rational man controls the emotional man. 

The idea of sexuality as oppositional terms has come to be a constructed reality, and perhaps now there needs to be a mode of representation that blurs this division, perhaps a study of masculinities that encourages multiplicity serves as the means for blurring oppositional terms. I consider this the means but not the end, perhaps non-identification as Martinon proposes, lays down the foundation where ‘constantly becoming’ allows for a new understanding of our idea of sexuality.


Regendering of objects

The Design of Objects becomes very important; it is no less important now than when design became first a profession out of the industrial revolution. The dichotomies of the feminine/masculine, private/public, and now the nontechnology/technology, has always been transforming. Brown goods were considered too complex for women.

A re-gendering of these technologies turned them into white goods, much simpler, cleaner smaller objects of technology that woman can use and understand. The Microwave is a clear example that testifies to this change and re-gendering of objects. Every object within our environment has been designed firstly for specific functional reasons, for example, the kitchen as a site has a number of objects that allow cooking to happen. Each of these objects perform a function individually, as a group of objects they perform a different task, they also have a different meaning when used for production. In effect, they symbolise and produce signs for interpretation.

The kitchen and its objects symbolise a woman’s sphere and contain a potentiality for production of meaning in all its forms. Transforms the woman into a sign of the system of food production and harnessed subjectivity. 

The video ‘Semiotics of the Kitchen’ by Martha Rosler serves as an example of how designers or artists can tackle discourses taken for granted and form a critique about it. Rosler critiques the notion of a happy woman in the kitchen by implementing frustration, and angriness as a woman when using the objects of the kitchen and therefore destabilises the dominant meaning

In the 21st century, the space of privacy and femininity, and now the ‘domestic’ are becoming and turning to the notion of non-technological, the home it’s the target for technological advancement again. The new Smart in objects of the home will create new potentialities for production and design as it did in the 20th century can help provide with a different meaning and discourse around the meaning and value of gender and sexual dichotomies of production. 


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