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Blind to Sameness

Sexpectations and the Social Construction of Male and Female Bodies

Blind to Sameness

Sexpectations and the Social Construction of Male and Female Bodies

What is the role of the senses in how we understand the world? Cognitive sociology has long addressed the way we perceive or imagine boundaries in our ordinary lives, but Asia Friedman pushes this question further still. How, she asks, did we come to blind ourselves to sex sameness?

Drawing on more than sixty interviews with two decidedly different populations—the blind and the transgendered—Blind to Sameness answers provocative questions about the relationships between sex differences, biology, and visual perception. Both groups speak from unique perspectives that magnify the social construction of dominant visual conceptions of sex, allowing Friedman to examine the visual construction of the sexed body and highlighting the processes of social perception underlying our everyday experience of male and female bodies. The result is a notable contribution to the sociologies of gender, culture, and cognition that will revolutionize the way we think about sex.

224 pages | 19 halftones, 4 line drawings, 11 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2013

Cognitive Science: Human and Animal Cognition

Gay and Lesbian Studies

Sociology: General Sociology, Social Psychology--Small Groups

Women's Studies


“Friedman’s clear and direct writing style makes this book highly accessible…. She proposes a shift in perspective that should spark generative discussions for sociologists of gender and the body.”

American Journal of Sociology

Blind to Sameness is a remarkable and highly original book! For theorists and empiricists alike this is a masterful empirical work in the social construction of reality and a fine example that theorist and researcher need not be mentally separated.”

Wayne Brekhus, author of Peacocks, Chameleons, Centaurs: Gay Suburbia and the Grammar of Social Identity

“Asia Friedman takes us into the mind’s eye—and ear, nose, and hand—tracking the path from perception to cognition as we humans discern male and female bodies. This book is a fascinating and original sociological exploration of how inattentive we are to sexual ambiguity. Blind to Sameness will literally change the way we see the world.”

Robin Wagner-Pacifici, author of The Art of Surrender: Decomposing Sovereignty at Conflict’s End

“Asia Friedman has produced a work of significant value. Focusing on the sensory mechanisms that contribute to the creation and classification of male and female bodies, she convincingly shows that socially crafted distinctions depend not just on the amplification and polarization of recognizable differences but also on the diminishment of apparent similarities. The first sociological study to empirically examine how conventional ways of not seeing—or filtering out—are indispensable to both the social construction of sex in particular and the social construction of reality in general. Blind to Sameness cuts to the core of how people think and wonderfully illuminates how optical communities in diverse sets of circumstances envisage and categorize the world.”

Ralph LaRossa, author of The Modernization of Fatherhood: A Social and Political History

Blindness to Sameness is a fascinating, unique, and important contribution [to] the fields of sex and gender, sociology of the senses, sociology of the body, and cognitive sociology.”

Symbolic Interaction

Table of Contents

1 Toward a Sociology of Perception
Expectations, Selective Attention, and Social Construction
Filter Analysis 

2 Selective Perception and the Social Construction of Sex
Sexpectations and Socio-Mental Control
Sex Difference as a Social Filter
Perception and the Social Construction of the Body

3 Selective Attention—What We Actually See When We See Sex
Transdar and Transition: Transgender “Expert” Knowledge of Sex Cues
The Sound of Sex
A Sex Cue Can Be Anything (as Long as It Provides Information about Sex)
Cognitive Distortions in Seeing Sex

4 Blind to Sameness
Transgender Narratives and the Filter of Transition
A Blind Phenomenology of Sexed Bodies
Sex Differences in Proportion

5 Seeking Sameness
Sex without Polarization
Drawing Textbooks: Sameness Despite Polarization
Genitals, Gonads, and Genes
Sex Sameness as a Rhetorical Strategy

Conclusion: Excess, Continua, and the Flexible Mind
Emphasizing Excess
The Sex/Gender Continuum
Cognitive Flexibility

Appendix: Methodological Notes
Notes Bibliography Index


ASA Sex and Gender Section: Distinguished Book Award

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