Gender Sociology Term Paper

Pages: 6 (1551 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Women's Issues - Sexuality

Gender and Society

The Biologically-Based Gender Argument

There are many biological arguments regarding gender. While controversial at best there are many proponents of the biological perspective on gender differentiation. Biological research suggests that gender is innate. Male homosexuals for example often argue that gender is inborn (Kimmel, 2000). The primary support biological research lends tends to explain the differences between men and women from an anatomical and biological viewpoint. The primary biological viewpoint suggests that biological differences may provide the "raw materials" individuals use to create their identities within a society (Kimmel, 45). While many people want to believe that gender differences can be easily traced to biology it is difficult to prove. Biological studies support the idea that the basic "building blocks of experience and identity" are biologically-based but those blocks are crafted and fine tuned through one's experiences, culture, the society in which one lives and through their families (Kimmel, 46).

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Biological models primary suggest that ones sex determines ones gender and those innate behavioral differences exist between the two sexes (Kimmel, 200)). This further suggests that social inequalities are "encoded into our physiological composition" (Kimmel, 47). Biological differences however do not explain the variation that exists among different people's interpretation however of masculinity and femininity (Kimmel, 1999). Scientific studies have proven that men and women are biologically different, with different reproductive anatomies, brain structures and even musculature (Kimmel, 1999).

Psychological Theories on Gender

Term Paper on Gender Sociology Assignment

Psychological theories do not support the idea that innate gender differences result in the social, political and economic inequalities that result from gender differences (Kimmel, 1999). Developmental psychologists have focused no the interpretations and definitions of masculinity and femininity and how they change over a person's life, suggesting that the issues confronting people affect gender including the social institutions people use to enact life experiences (Kimmel, 1999).

Carol Tavris suggest that "binary thinking" leads to the notion that 'men act like men' and women act like women'; the psychologists suggest that most differences that exist between women and men in terms of psychological beliefs, abilities traits and values result not from gender differences but rather the result of men and women being in different positions or arenas in life (Kimmel, 12). While differences may appear based on gender they are actually based on multiple factors including culture, environment, relationships and more.

Freud suggests that gender is acquired and molded through "interactions with family members" and with society at large, but also acknowledges that biological and anatomical differences play a key role in the development of children that may determine ultimately one's gender identity (Kimmel, 66). Psychological theorists followed by later suggesting that individuals go through psychological changes as they experience physical changes, which can impact gender identity (Kimmel, 1999).

Cross Cultural Theories on Gender

Cross-cultural perspectives negate both psychological and biological theories according to Kimmel (1999). This is demonstrated by research conducted by Gilbert Herdt, who in describing the sexual rituals of the Sambia culture noted that young boys are taught to engage in ritualistic homosexual activities until the time when they are adults when they engage in ordinary heterosexual relationships. In this case the author shows how adolescent boys are encouraged to engage in homosexuality and inject semen in order to develop their masculinity. While this seems unusual the practice is not uncommon and sheds light on cross cultural perspectives on gender identity. Remember that within the Sambia culture boys grow up and engage only in heterosexual partnerships.

Multiple other studies confirm "dramatic differences in sexual customs" between varying tribes and cultures, suggesting that cultural diversity impacts sexuality and gender identity (Kimmel, 62). While biological models suggest that sex alone determines gender, Herdt's studies clearly disprove this notion suggesting that cultural factors play an important role in ones gender identity, which may change with time (Kimmel, 1999).

Biological theorists suggest that anomalies that exist within ones biological composition will explain any gender variations, but this is not the case and there is little evidence supporting this. This does not explain how societies have such varying levels of gender inequality or how and why masculinity and femininity is explained so differently among varying people throughout the globe (Kimmel, 47).

Despite similar brain chemistries and structures, men throughout the world exhibit varying gender expressions as do women (Kimmel, 2000). Mead's experiments on varying tribes including the Mundugamor suggest that gender is largely the result of cross-cultural variation where when sexes are expected to be equally aggressive and violent they act accordingly (Kimmel, 1999). Psychological theories according to Kimmel do not fully explain the difference, power and institutional differences that exist in gender (Kimmel, 2000).

Gender As Socially Constructed

Many scientists support the notion tat cultural variation resulting from socialization may impact gender interpretation more than biology or psychology. Mead for example in examining different cultures in New Guinea suggests that vast cultural variations affect individual's interpretations of masculinity and femininity (Kimmel, 2000).

Ruth Hubbard suggests that if society encourages a certain group to act a certain way, play a certain way, eat and think a certain way then eventually biological differences amount to much less an influence as socially constructed variables which result in gender differences and inequalities (Kimmel, 1999). Human society helps shape, form and transforms individual's gender identities and beliefs. People create their identities within their culture and society based on certain cultural norms and needs, as well as their interactions with the environment.

Social constructionists argue that sociology helps reveal the true differences between men and women as well as helps differentiate between actually vs. perceived differences between men and women. Gender according to Kimmel in chapter 5 is not something a person has or possesses but rather is the result of activities that one performs and accomplishes. Gender is as much the result of interaction as it is of ones identity.

Gender As A Social Institution

One may also argue that gender is a social institution much like marriage, families or the workplace. A social institution is akin to something that is widely accepted as the norm within society or the way things need to or should be within a given culture or society. Gender is also on the same note a reflection of the social institutions that arise from societal values and beliefs. Gender differences are created within institutions where inequality is socially constructed and supported (Kimmel, 1999). Kimmel suggest that gender inequality is an institution created within the realm of the workplace, within families, within schools and within relationships (Kimmel, 1999). As an institution gender may be considered something that is 'right' or 'appropriate' at any given time.

Deviations from the gender norm may suggest a certain level of inappropriateness or wrongness. Gender has become something that when done correctly is admired as a societal institution, but when done incorrectly (as some perceive homosexuality to be) is something to be ridiculed or admonished (Kimmel, 2000).

Gender and Six Degrees

Six Degrees of Separation helps explain how ordinary routines and interactions affect gender and how inequalities may result from the inner workings of society. John Gaure shows how people like Paul may become trapped into "an ever repeating cycle of dishonesty and lying" based on environment and social factors (Humphrey, 2003). Further the work also demonstrates how individuals are concerned with their rank and status in society and that this may influence gender, contributing to ones development and behavior as one attempt to move up in rank and status within society (Humphrey, 2003).

This is demonstrated by Paul who consistently changes his rank and status through "imitation and mimicry" (Humphrey, 1). The work also demonstrates how an individual like Paul can move between one circle of influence or another or one identity and another with relative ease (Humphrey, 2003). The work easily demonstrates how society can contribute to exclusion and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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