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Kailey Shields
ANTH 1020
Signature Assignment
Critical Assessment of The Five Sexes and Climate-Related Morphological Variation and
Physical Adaptations
G. D James (2010) presents the idea that Homo sapiens adapted and evolved due to the
climate that they migrated to or lived in. James (2010) also speculates that certain climates
produce different physically and behaviorally adaptations and changes in his article ClimateRelated Morphological Variation and Physiological Adaptions in Homo sapien (James, 2010). A.
Fausto-Sterling (1993) introduces more than just two sexes, in the article The Five Sexes FaustoSterling (1993) breaks up the world’s view of two genders into five different categories and
explores each gender or sex and what categorizes them under that label the world has given them
(Fausto-Sterling, 1993). Each of these author’s gives a perspective on biological perspective of
human variation. There is a contrast between biological and cultural perspective of human
variation and how it is viewed in our world today.
According to G.D James (2010) “Homo Sapiens evolved, populations have dispersed
across the planet, inhabiting niches of available habitats” (James, 2010, pg. 153). In order for
these Homo Sapiens to survive in the extreme environments they lived in they had to develop
adaptations that contributed to certain phenotypes and genotypes found in modern humans today
(James, 2010, pg. 153). The idea of that variation could be related to a specimen’s climate was
not discovered by anthropologists through the twentieth century, this could have been partly
because cultural perspectives pushed researchers to focus on racial types (James, 2010, pg. 153).
These researchers were influenced by the idea of race and basing information and research on
that idea, like Fausto-Sterling (1993) suggests that hermaphrodites do not fall naturally into a
binary classification (Fausto-Sterling, 1993, pg. 71). Humans want to be able to group things into
categories and organize them, so as an intelligent population they classify things into groups by
using race or gender. Using race and gender is an example of using cultural perspective of
variation in humans. While using biological variation is based on evidence of studying specimen
like G.D James (2010) does in Climate-Related Morphological Variation and Physiological
Adaptations in Homo Sapiens (James, 2010).
Fausto-Sterling (1993) states “there are many gradations running from female to male;
and depending on how one calls the shots, one can argue that along that spectrum lie at least five
sexes-and perhaps even more” (Fausto-Sterling, 1993, pg. 68). This statement made can be
related to the idea of race and how people are categorized by their skin color and classified into a
so called race. G.D James (2010) addresses the idea of skin color variation by stating
“Adaptations to ultraviolet radiation is focused on the effect of UVR on skin color” (James,
2010, pg. 160). Humans have correlated race to the color of skin an individual has and put them
into specific race categories, this is a very cultural aspect and leaves no room for the different
variations of skin color. The aspect of biological variation is very different it shows that skin
color was effected by where the specimen was located in correlation to the equator (James, 2010,
pg. 161). Once again this shows that biological and cultural variation are different in the way that
they are viewed today.
“Society mandates the control of intersexual bodies because they blur and bridge the
great divide” (Fausto-Sterling, 1993, pg. 72). Fausto-Sterling (1993) makes an excellent point
with the quote above traditional cultural variation beliefs do not support the idea of more than
two traditional sexes that are promoted. However, biologically there is a great variation of sexes
because of the research complied by many doctors and specialists. According to Fausto-Sterling
(1993) there are at least five sexes on the spectrum, with three major subgroups the term intersex
is used to define these groups (Fausto-Sterling, 1993, pg. 69). Biologically each of these
subgroups as been studied for their physical appearance and abilities of their reproductive organs
and processes, and they have been distinguished from the umbrella term hermaphrodite. “The
word hermaphrodite comes from the Greek names Hermes, variously known as the controller of
dreams or the protector of livestock, and Aphrodite the goddess of sexual love and beauty”
(Fausto-Sterling, 1993, pg. 69). This couple had a child who was named Hermaphroditus who
was both male and female (Fausto-Sterling, 1993, pg. 69). Thus the name hermaphrodite
emerged as a cultural aspect of variation, wherein reality had more than just one biological
variation in the individuals who are considered intersexual.
In conclusion there is a big difference between biological and cultural perspectives of
how human variation is viewed in today’s world. The world of biological human variation is
based on climate-based evidence like adaptations in populations according to the climate they
lived in (James, 2010, pg. 153). The cultural aspect of human variation relies on the implied
cultural aspect humans have created around them such as group one another into races based on
color or genders based on solely two binary groups male and female (Fausto-Sterling, 2010, pg.
71). The differences between cultural and biological views on human variation are very black
and white each fall into different parts of the human experience and the need for answers of
human variation.
References Cited:
Fausto-Sterling, A. (1993). The Five Sexes. In The Sciences (2nd ed., Vol. 33, pp. 20-24).
James, G. (2010). Climate-Related Morphological Variation and Physiological
Adaptations. In C. Larson (Ed.), A Companion to Biological Anthropology (Vol. 20, pp. 153166). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
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