IDENTITY & GENDER What would be your first thought if the toy preferences were reversed? • • • • • • Even though many of us do not give serious thought as to what makes us feel like a man or a woman, our gender does factor into our identities. Scholars are divided about the degree to which inborn biological characteristics have an enduring impact on our gender identities as “feminine” or “masculine.” First of all, some important distinctions: SEX refers to the physical differences of the body. GENDER concerns the psychological, social, and cultural differences between males and females. These distinctions are important since many differences between males and females are not biological in origin! • • • • How much are the differences in the behavior of men and women the result of biological differences? The opinions of researchers are divided. Some hold that innate differences between men and women appear in some form in all cultures (ex: in almost all cultures, men rather than women take part in hunting and warfare). Most sociologists are unconvinced by these ideas. The behaviors of men and women varies widely among different cultures. Moreover, theories about these “natural differences” are often grounded in data on animal behavior, rather than in anthropological or historical evidence about human behavior, which reveals variation over time and place. Hey, there are not many images of primitive woman on Google. Gimme a break! Also, don’t ask me what these bubbles • • • Some have also pointed to the hormonal makeup between men and women to explain differences. For example, testosterone’s ability to induce aggressive behavior. This may explain behavior differences, but research on monkeys has also shown that aggressive behavior may affect the production of the hormone testosterone rather than the hormone’s causing increased aggression! Another source of information comes from the experience of identical twins. In a famous case in the 1960’s involving a botched circumcision, the parents were encouraged to raise their son David as a girl, Brenda. The physician, Dr. John Money, argued that biology did not shape one’s gender…social learning did! Now you know why so many teachers wear such professional attire. You could grate cheese on these things! After a botched circumcision, David Reimer’s (top left) parents were encouraged by Dr. John Money to raise their son as a girl named Brenda (bottom left). Despite hormone treatment and a hefty dose of being socialized as a girl, David was never able to shake his inner sense of himself as a boy. • • • • Another route to take in understanding the origins of gender differences is the study of gender socialization. In this theory, people create gender through their social interactions with others, such as family members, friends, and colleagues. This process begins at birth when doctors, nurses, and family members assign the infant to a gender category (boy/girl). Once the child is dressed in appropriate colors, everyone who interacts with the child will treat it in accordance with its gender. They do so on the basis of the society’s assumptions, which lead people to treat women and women differently. How many of you have participated in “No Shave November” because of an inner sense of living out your rugged, manly, biological hairy desires or because society condones it as a “guy thing” to do? And, ladies, WHY DO YOU LOVE PINK? Is it some inner desire that compels you to wear this color or is it something that has been forced on you since the day you were born? Eh? • • • So, in summation, some believe that there is a biological basis to gender differences. The biological distinction between the sexes provides a framework that becomes culturally elaborated in society itself. In contrast to this, others reject all biological bases for gender differences. Our gender identities emerge, they argue, in relation to perceived sex differences in society and in turn help to shape those differences. Think of your daily routine as a man or a woman. How do you “do gender” in your daily interactions with others? Do you do these things based on some inward feeling or do you think societal expectations have caused you to participate in them?