Gender Difference, Sexual Difference: Feminist Perspectives on Sex and Gender


  • Susy Zanardo Università Europea di Roma



gender, sexual difference, body, identity, feminist thought


The paper draws the history of the concept of gender, from the second half of the last century until today, showing four key moments of its theoretical development. The second wave feminism first presents gender as the cultural response to the sexed body (gender realism), then considers gender as the social construction of the sexual difference; next, some scholars belonging to postfeminism think about gender as an illusion and a performative act (gender nominalism); finally the extreme versions of queer theories overcome the category of gender towards the posthuman. The history of gender appears to be the history of its progressive move away from the sexed body.

The paper also shows that gender can be considered as a metaphor of our time, to the extent that it reflects some contradictions of the current cultural framework: a time of complexity and disorientation, of saturation and insecurity, of individualism and homologation. After having discussed some critical issues concerning the gender nominalism, the paper draws the question of the sexual difference as the horizon of personal meaning and the symbolic foundation of each civilization.





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