Chapter 10: Sex and Gender Melanie Hatfield

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Chapter 10: Sex and Gender

  • Melanie Hatfield

  • Soc 100

Sex and Gender

  • Sex: An aspect of one’s biological makeup that depends on whether one is born with distinct male or female genitals and a genetic program that releases either male or female hormones to stimulate the development of one’s reproductive system.

  • Gender: One’s sense of being male or female and playing masculine or feminine roles in ways defined as appropriate by one’s culture and society.

The Social Learning of Gender

  • The case of Bruce/Brenda/David suggests that unlike sex, gender is not determined just by biology.

  • Research shows that babies first develop a vague sense of gender identity between the ages of 2 and 3.

  • Once the social learning of gender takes hold, it is apparently very difficult to undo, even by means of reconstructive surgery, hormones, and parental and professional pressure.

Theories of Gender Differences

  • Essentialism: A school of thought that sees gender differences as a reflection of biological differences between women and men.

    • Functionalist theory
  • Social Constructionism: A school of thought that sees gender differences as a reflection of the different social positions occupied by women and men.

    • Conflict, feminist, and symbolic interactionist theories

Functionalists and Essentialism

  • Functionalists reinforce the essentialist viewpoint when they claim that traditional gender roles help to integrate society.

  • In the family women traditionally specialize in raising children and managing the household.

  • Men traditionally work in the paid labor force.

  • Each generation learns to perform these complimentary roles by means of gender role socialization.

4 Criticisms of Essentialism

  • They ignore historical and cultural variability of gender and sexuality.

  • They generalize from the average, ignoring variations within gender groups.

  • No evidence directly supports their major claims.

  • Their explanations for gender differences ignore the role of power.

Conflict Theorists and Gender Inequality

  • Conflict theorists believe that:

  • The root of male domination in class inequality.

  • Men gained substantial power over women when preliterate societies were first able to produce more than their members needed for survival – some men gained control over the economic surplus.

  • They soon devised means of ensuring that their offspring would inherit the surplus.

  • As industrial capitalism developed male domination increased.

Feminist Theorists and Gender Inequality

  • Feminist theorists believe that ender inequality is rooted in patriarchal authority relations, family structures, and patterns of socialization and culture that exists in most societies.

Gender Socialization

  • Barbie v. GI Joe

  • Research conducted in the early 70s showed that from birth, infant boys and girls who are matched in length, weight, and general health are treated differently by parents – fathers in particular.

  • Girls tend to identified as delicate, weak, beautiful, and cute.

  • Boys tend to be identified as strong, alert, and well-coordinated.

The Mass Media and Body Image

  • Outside school, children, adolescents, and adults negotiate gender roles as they interact with the mass media.

The Mass Media and Body Image

  • The effect of these messages is to reinforce the normality of traditional gender roles.

  • Many people even try to shape their bodies after the body images portrayed in the mass media.

The Earnings Gap: Four Factors

  • Gender discrimination.

  • Heavy domestic responsibilities reduce women’s earnings.

  • Women tend to be concentrated in low-wage occupations and industries.

  • Work done by women is commonly considered less valuable than work done by men because it is viewed as involving fewer skills.

Male Aggression against Women

  • Serious acts of aggression between men and women are common, with the great majority of them being committed by men against

  • Greater physical power is more likely to be used to commit acts of aggression only when norms justify male domination and men have much more social power than women.

  • When women and men are more equal socially, and norms justify gender inequality, then the rate of male aggression against women is lower.

Equality Progress

  • The 20th century witnessed growing equality between wm and men in many countries.

  • Many forces have brought about a massive cultural shift, a fundamental reorientation of thinking on the part of many Americans about what women could and should do in society.

  • One indicator of the progress of women is the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM).

GEM, 2005

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