ABSTRACT

An important part of feminist strategy has been to distinguish between the biological attributes of women and men (sex) and the social, cultural, and psychological significance attached to those differences (gender). Although different feminist theorists have drawn the distinctions between sex and gender in different places and different ways, most have agreed that the distinction is important to make as part of a challenge to entrenched views that naturalize divisions between women's and men's activities, propensi­ ties, characters, and appearances. As Linda Nicholson (1994) has argued, however, this distinction still allowed many theorists to view biological differences between women and men as a base upon which specific gender characteristics were built (the "coat-rack" approach to gender). The coat­ rack view allowed feminists to discuss both commonalities and differences among women, but it prevented feminist theorists from "truly understand­ ing differences among women, differences among men, and differences regarding who gets counted as either" (Nicholson 1994:82). As Nicholson goes on to point out, it also prevented theorists from seeing that social vari­ ations in women and men are connected to social constructions of the body.