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SOC101Y1 Lecture Notes - Gender Role, Gender Identity, Essentialism

Course Code
Robert Brym

of 4
Oct. 27th, 2010
Gender and Sexuality
Barbie based on the creation of a German cartoonist; first modern doll
modeled after an adult
People thought that mothers would not buy a doll like Barbie
What do girls learn when they play with Barbie? Way of living the
ideal woman, could be or do whatever, way of living vicariously
Much attention paid to physical appearance
When girls play with Barbie they seem to learn how they can be slim,
blonde, & satisfactory to a man
Boys toys such as GI Joe perpetuate stereotypical male roles
Single sexed products are pushed in today’s markets
Sex vs. Gender
Culture is something we learn, in contrast however; some people think
that gender and sexuality are not learned but rather rooted in our
biological makeup
Sex is a function of anatomy, chromosomes
It is debatable the way we express our gender, and sexuality as being
biologically deterred
Humans express a wide variety of sexual behaviour, influenced by the
surroundings in which we find ourselves
Sociologists make a clear distinction between sex and gender:
Sex: refers to anatomical, chromosomal and hormonal features that
typically make one male or female.
Gender: consists of the feelings, attitude and behaviours typically
associated with being male or female
Gender identity: is ones sense of belonging to a particular sex
biologically, psychologically and socially.
Adopting a gender role involves behaving according to widely shared
expectations about how males or females are supposed to act.
Essentialism stresses the biological roots of gender and sexuality,
ignoring their historical and cultural variability.
Gender differences change over time.
Gender inequality varies across societies.
Mate selection criteria vary across societies.
Differences between women and men are fixed according to
Criticism on essentialist POV:
1)Ignore the historical and culture variability
2)Explanation of gender differences ignore the role of power (behavioural
differences derive from mens ability to assert their preferences over
The social context in which we live has changed drastically, womens
position in relation to men has improved, thus; changing their
Women take on more traditional masculine traits
Gender differences are not inherited; they differ amongst societies
What accounts for the fact that gender roles differ amongst societies
around the world?
Richer countries on the whole tend to be more gender egalitarian than
poorer countries
As countries industrialize, & the service sector of the economy develops
there is an increasing demand for labour, particularly women
Employers want people who can do the job well, therefore; the attitude
that a woman cannot do a job as well as a man weakens
Countries with large Islamic majorities tend to have women in
subordinate positions, in practice not many women in upper level jobs
or parliament, do not earn incomes anywhere near that of men
Main determinants of gender inequality:
1)Countries with a high GDP had the least gender inequality
2)The higher the percentage of Muslims, the higher the level of gender
3)Former Communist regimes tended to have a lower level of gender
Independent of economic development, policy which can come from
government, religion has an independent effect on womens position in
Way we express our sex influenced by our environments
Gender Socialization
Social process by which we learn feelings, attitudes, etc associated with
our sex
Through the mass media
According to some historians the human body as a billboard emerged
in the 20th century, the ideal body image became thinner
Ideal female body type in the 20th century was larger
Desire to slim down was a reaction to more Americans bulking up, as
well as better education as to the health problems associated with
We see models in advertisements that tend to be rake thin, promoting
extreme body shape unattainable for most people
Why do advertisers use rake thin models? Its a good business
(cosmetics, low-calorie diets)
Anxiety about body types makes a lot of profits
Feelings and attitudes associated with being male or female affected by
One of these circumstances is the way in which we were socialized
The level of male aggressiveness depends on how power is distributed
Sexual Orientation:
Sexual orientation not a choice
Homosexuality has become less of a stigma over the past 60 or so years
Scientific: people who called themselves sexologists (Alfred Kinsey)
first recognized and expressed the wide range of sexual practices, rare
forms of sexual practices are not rare at all
Political: gays and lesbians have built large communities and
subcultures, gone public with their lifestyles, pushed to have equal
rights, homosexuality legitimized through this
As a society it seems as if we cannot tolerate the intermediary state of
those who are inter-sexed
Many resist conventional gender roles: