A Bit about Dualism

A Bit about Dualism January 5, 2012

Now that I’ve finished my dissertation, I feel that I can begin to blog in earnest.

Yes, it’s only a first draft, and yes, no doubt there’ll be revisions, but getting all those words down on the page was an important step in ushering in the beginning of the end. And even though I have academic papers to be writing for conferences and publications, having a first draft done frees up a lot of mental and creative energy for this kind of writing.

I’ve always loved writing. Yet I find myself strangely hesitant to commit words to paper in this blog. It’s taken a bit of pushing to get myself to make this first post-dissertation post. Reminding myself that writing is something I do whether I’m publishing it or not has helped. Reminding myself that this isn’t writing for a grade or for an editor has also helped – this blog is my venue to share my thoughts (scholarly for the most part) with the rest of the world. Reading this irreverently funny blog post 25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing has also helped give me the kick in the pants I need to start committing words to the screen NOW instead of the day after tomorrow.

So, since I mentioned finishing my dissertation at the outset of this post, I wanted to briefly discuss one of the issues to which I devote a full chapter of my diss: dualism. I explain what dualism is over at MySexProfessor.com, linking it to gender identity and sexual stereotypes, but there’s a lot more to be said about dualism.

In particular, I’m really fascinated by mind-body dualism, especially its gendered dimensions (in most  Western philosophical constructions, men=mind while women=body). I found evidence for this in my study of classical fairy tales, in which women were more likely to be linked with body description adjectives, particularly those evaluating beauty and those having to do with skin, while men are more likely to shed their bodies through physical transformations in the tales I evaluated. It seems clear to me that fairy tales contain elements of gendered mind-body dualism, and this is possibly one reason for the enduring popularity of fairy tales in the West: they reinforce existing cultural paradigms, and are thus perceived as important and pleasing.

There’s probably more I could’ve done with dualism in my dissertation, but I really had to wrap the thing up at some point. I would, however, like to see more research done on gendered dimensions of dualism in the future. For example, @kinseyinstitute linked to this article on placebos, which gives a number of instances in which the “mind over matter” attitude works wonders. Some of these cases studies were gender-specific, as when “Fertility rates have been found to improve in women getting a placebo, perhaps because they experience a decrease in stress.” I would be really curious to know how placebos hold up when filtered by gender, since they represent such an interesting aspect of the mind-body relationship; do placebos tend to work better for men or women under certain circumstances? Does it matter whether women perceived themselves as more embodied than men do, according to dualistic doctrine? Or is gender not even a factor in the effectiveness of placebos? Perhaps dualisms are prevalent in some elements of our lives, but not others?

Anyway, hopefully this is the first of many blog posts to come. We’ll see if I can maintain momentum!

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