SOC101Y1 Lecture Notes - Black Feminist Thought, Cultural Feminism, Black Feminism

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28 Feb 2013
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1. Explain the difference between an essentialist and a social constructionist view of gender
and illustrate with an example.
Essentialist view of gender is based on genetics, biological and psychological differences. It
really says that men and women are inevitably different in their biological and emotional
makeup, and this influences how men and women feel and act. For example due to women‟s
hormones and physiology, women are naturally more nurturing and gentle because they are built
to breed and care for children, and men are naturally more competitive, aggressive, smart and
powerful because of testosterone.
It is important to note that essentialism normalizes dominant ideologies of gender. It reduces
everything to binary oppositions with no possibility of change or development.
Social construction of gender difference is a philosophical theory according to which gender is
socially constructed. Social constructionism of gender moves away from socialization as the
origin of gender differences; people do not merely internalize gender roles as they grow up but
they respond to changing norms in society. Children learn to categorize themselves by gender
very early on in life. A part of this is learning how to display and perform gendered identities as
masculine or feminine. Boys learn to manipulate their physical and social environment through
physical strength or other skills, while girls learn to present themselves as objects to be viewed.
Children monitor their own and others‟ gendered behavior. Gender-segregated children's
activities create the appearance that gender differences in behavior reflect an essential nature of
male and female behavior. For example, Before children are even born we are socialized into
gender roles, by the parents painting the nursery either blue or pink, by the clothing we are told
to wear, by the toys we receive and by the way we are told to behave. A constructionist would
argue that it is these social pressures that primarily influence the formation of adult identity, and
not the physiology or aptitudes that we are born with
Simone fe Bouevoir said “ one is not born a women, but becomes a women”
Judith Butler:
2.Name one type of feminism that could be considered essentialist. Explain why.
One type of feminism that could be considered essentialist is radical feminist which accounts of
patriarchy, the control men have over women‟s bodies is regarded as important. For example
Shulamith firestone suggested in the Dialect of Sex that patriarchy exploits women‟s biological
capacity to reproduce as their essential weakness and she argued that the only way to break free
from this oppression was to use technological advances and break down the biological bond
between mother and child and establishing commune where monogamy ant the nuclear family
are tings of the past. Since essentialist view is that gender is based on genetics, biological and
psychological differences. It really says that men and women are inevitably different in their
biological and emotional makeup, and this influences how men and women feel and act For
firestone, inequalities between women and men are biologically based, with the different
reproductive capacities of women and men being especially important.
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3. Identify and contrast three different sociological approaches to the study of gender?
Functionalists: Funtionalists view gender inequality as a product of the traditional division in
human societies. Men tend to attend to more instrumental roles (objective rewarded) such as
working and wage earning and putting food on the table. And women attend to the more
expressive role(subjective rewarded) tasks such as those involved in child rearing, and both types
of labor are functional, for society‟s survival and the instrumental tasks looked after by men,
always have been more highly rewarded than the expressive tasks looked after by women. Men
and women are taught these roles that conform to their requirements. Back in the day for
example it was the hunter gatherer society, and contemporary society it is men work and women
are housewives.
Symbolic Interactionism Theory: About micro view of gender how its developed in face to
face internationalism how gender identities are produced, study of communication because it
deals with how we form our own self images from infancy and into old age.
Symbolic interactionism assumes that children are born into a social world and their identities
are developed through their interactions. Newborn babies have no sense of self. It is learned as
time goes on. With each interaction, we are constantly forming images of who we are and what
that mean in our culture. As people label us as smart or dumb, active or quiet, we start to form
conclusions about the way we are. We basically soak up others‟ views which we then shape and
categorize into meanings of ourselves. Critique to this theory is that it looks at micro
perspectives and does not look at the large issues of gender.
Conflict Theory/Marxist Theory or Socialization Theory: Marxist emphasized on how class
struggle in the capitalist society is the defining feature of the society. And class struggle is in
between the working class and the bourgeoisie the owner class. And basically this division lead
to conflicts in other areas as well such as in the family struggle. Women ended up getting jobs in
which they were paid less, and had less power and lower positions. And this leads to gender
inequality in the sense that women do not have equal opportunities as men in society where men
are able to access the higher position jobs etc.,
4.)Name three different types of feminisms and how they differ in their approach to the
study of gender inequality.
Liberal feminism's primary goal is gender equality in the public sphere -- equal access to
education, equal pay, ending job sex segregation, better working conditions, won primarily
through legal changes. Private sphere issues are of concern mainly as they influence or impede
equality in the public sphere. Gaining access to and being paid and promoted equally in
traditionally male-dominated occupations is an important goal. Liberal feminism is all about
women getting an education, to make a decent living, to provide for one's family. It was
discussed in class how women must choose one path if women are working a high position they
are punished if they take off time for family or if they are pregnant. Liberal feminists believe that
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