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Gender and Cultural Construction

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Maggie Cummings

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Lecture Three: Gender and Cultural Construction – February 1 st
, 2011
Biology as part of our Worldview
The way we see biology is part of how we see the world
Our interpretation of biology reflects our interpretation of the world
The importance of biology to our worldview as our explanations
NA: Biology = Natural world ; Natural world is caused by biology
Cultural Construction
Cultural Constructionism
- human behaviour and ideas explained as the
result of culturally-shaped learning
Biological Determinism
- biological features such as genes and hormones are
used to explain behaviour and ideas
In real life, they are often both factors
Social Construct
- Concept or practice that is seen as natural, common-sense,
essential, etc. but is in face an invention of the culture itself
oSocial constructs are created through choices of individuals and
groups, simultaneously reinforcing our own worldview
oSocial constructs impact our understanding of everything - all
knowledge is seen through the eyes of our cultural construction
Gender as a Social Construct
- Biological categories (male and female) determined by genital,
chromosomal, and hormonal differences
- Patterns of culturally constructed and learned behaviour and ideas
attributed to the different sexes
All known cultures use gender and age in some way to identify people
Anthropology and Gender
Originally an ignored aspect of life
Cross-cultural and comparative aspects of anthropology showed that gender
is variable
Gender and sex are not the same; gender is a non-natural human
By extension, concepts relating to gender such as marriage and child-rearing
are not natural occurrences but a result of culture
Key Points
Gender = Culture; Sex = biological
Gender is learned and elaborated upon through culture
The neccesity of sexual reproduction is not enough to explain gender
differences as inevitable or essential
Gender norms are not fact, particularly in individual cases
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