The historical evolution and/or contemporary understanding ofterms such as Gender, Sexuality, Femininity, Feminism, Masculinity, Lesbian, Gay and Queer are treated at length in the book. This glossary offers clarification of other key terms and concepts used throughout.
Abjection In common sense usage the condition of being thought by others, or feeling, inferior. For feminist psychoanalysis abjection describes a landscape of feeling that places women – and femininity – before, below and beyond culture – so much so that they themselves or the feminine itself cannot be represented within it. For this latter use see in particular Julia Kristeva (1982) Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (New York, Columbia University Press). Cathexis; Cathection A psychoanalytic term describing the process of investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object or idea.
Dimorphism Sexual dimorphism in humans is the systematic difference in form between individuals of different sex and the subject of much medical and scientific debate.
Phantasmatic A psychoanalytic term denoting the unconscious desires, fears and drives of the individual.
Hermaphrodite Someone who combines features drawn from both sexes. Heteronormative Those overt or implied rules, which may be social, familial and/or legal, that force conformity to dominant heterosexual standards of identity or behaviour. Related to Adrienne Rich’s earlier formulation of ‘compulsory heterosexuality’, the term was introduced by critic and theorist Michael Warner in 1991. See Michael Warner (1993) Fear of a Queer Planet and (2000) The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics and the Ethics of Queer Life.
Intersexuality The condition of a living thing whose sex chromosomes, genitalia and/or secondary sex characteristics are determined to be neither exclusively male nor female. Now preferred by some to hermaphrodite. However intersex movement campaigners who critique current medical protocols of sex reassignment prefer other neutral terms such as disorders of sexual development.
Sensibility A concept alongside sentimentality that emerged in the eighteenth century, denoting an acute response to things or to people. While the two terms are close, sensibility refers to those emotions that seem instinctive or physical, rather than the discourse of moralized sentiment. Both excess sensibility and sentimentality were often associated with women and feminity.
Transgender The state of gender identity not matching culturally or physically assigned gender. It does not imply a particular sexual orientation but often designates moves between conventional notions of male or female gender, or a lack of identification with the gender assigned at birth. One of a number of terms now used to designate people along a continuum of gendered identities.