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Lecture 1

Course Code
Alison Luby

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Lecture 1: Understanding Gender
Approaches to Understanding Gender
Stereotypes between men and women are polar opposites (bipolar assumption / psychological essentialism), but
oDefinite biological distinction between male vs. female
oObvious physical differences
oHence, its EASY / NATURAL to dichotomize!
oBUT, theres more variation WITHIN than between the sexes
A)Cultural Approach
Socialization of gender; social learning theory; gender schemas
We perceive things in line wit h our gender schemas and make the world conform t o them
From where?
oMedia, families, peers constantly reinforced and receive punishment if stray (= cultural inf luence)
B)Evolutionary Approach
Sex differences made it more likely to reproduce, and these adaptive genes continue to subsequent generations
oCheap sperms
oNeed productively healthy women look for beauty
oPaternity uncert ainty (thus have evolved to have sexual control over their mates to ensure the propagation of
their genes more sexual jealousy)
oEvolved to be competitive providers
oRare eggs (more selective)
oLook for earning potentials to help raise/promote the survival of offspring (= dominance and status)
Controversial: assumption that gender differences are stable and immutable (men and women are fundamentally
different physically, psychologically, mentally, and behaviorally)
Modern view
oEvolved to survive in rapidly changing conditions
oCognitive f lexibility and willingness to be inf luenced by each other = adaptive traits that are being selected
oHENCE, our specif ic behavior IS NOT genetically programmed BUT our ability to adjust to social and
cultural inf luences
C)The Ongoing Nature-Culture Debate
oMany cross-cultural consistencies in gender differences
Women look for $ / men look for beauty
Men are more interested in casual sex than women
Same-sex physical aggression is more common in men than women
oCross-cultural consistencies could be culturally inf luenced (more gender egalitar ian society shows less
“earning potential effect = if women can earn by themselves, no need to solely rely on men)
oSmall or no trait-based differences between the sexes
oIf there are difference, much smaller between sexes then within
oHENCE, the genders are far more similar than different
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