John Money's Experiment on David and Gender (Movie Review Sample)
1. What does the documentary say about society and societies need to fit individuals into boxes? In what ways does the medical management of children born with ambiguous genital configurations or in this case, a circumcision gone wrong, reflect i) cultural beliefs about the dichotomous nature of sex and ii) the power of gender stereotypes. Does this tragic story challenge the primacy of nurture over nature?
John Money's Experiment on David and Gender
The BBC documentary, "Dr. Money and the Boy without a Penis" relates to the abuses of science and technology. Twins David Reimer and Brian Reimer were born in 1996. They both enjoyed a normal life for the first eight months. However, David lost his penis and testosterones during the botched circumcision, which left his parents shocked and saddened. John Money, the proponent of gender neutrality theory, suggested that baby David undergo sex-change surgery. The naive parents agreed without taking into consideration the possible disadvantages of this transformation. John Money was happy because he found a child to experiment with sex-change surgery to prove his theory. David was renamed as Brenda and was given a feminine dressing, toys, and lifestyle. Although initially he behaved quite similar to other girls, many masculine traits started becoming conspicuous in David as he grew up. The doctor advised his parents to let David undergo a vaginal surgery but grown-up David did not agree. In the end, his parents told him he was a boy. The troubled past left an indelible mark on his personality. His wife, despite David's best efforts, was not happy with the marriage and decided to divorce. Due to these socio-psychological challenges, he committed suicide in 2004 at the age of 38. The documentary, on the one hand, proposes that gender comes naturally, therefore, it cannot be nurtured, and on the other hand, the report uncovers the dire implications of scientific experiments on humans.
The documentary explores the idea that gender is not a social phenomenon but natural. When David's botched circumcision at John Hopkins Hospital severely damages his penis, on the advice of John Money, he is transformed into a girl. His parents buy him toys that are specially meant for girls as compared to his twin brother Brian. Nevertheless, he continues to take interest in Brian's toys and shows no alacrity to play with his own things. John Money also gives David various doses that are supposed to increase femininity by overriding his masculine tendencies, which does not help. Therefore, the theory that sex is socially determined proves wrong, according to the documentary.
Besides, the experiment of John Money shows how societies try to fit individuals into common norms. David is not a male, but the doctor is trying his best to mold his behavior and make him look and act like a girl. Money boasts about his successful transformation of a male into a female by using a scientific method. In the media, he is being discussed as the pioneer of gender neutrality theory, and many people have become more pronounced in defending the theory that gender identity is not a matter of nature but nurture. A small interview of Brenda, Brian, and John Money in the documentary shows that Brenda is behaving and acting as a female. She says that her behavior is never violent and aggressive towards his brother because women do not behave that way. Her meek and diffident nature shows that the experiment to convert a male into a female has succeeded. Nevertheless, the true emotions of David later appeared to be not so positive as he tried to demonstrate.
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