PSYC 5 Lecture Notes - Lecture 17: Margaret Mead, Hypermasculinity, Cultural Determinism
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Psychological Aspects of Human Sexuality
Perspectives on gender difference
● Sex/Gender differences and male domination: explanations
o Different definitions of masculinity and femininity.
o Different expressions of aggression and violence despite similarities
● Variations in definitions of gender norms
- Margaret Mead: sex differences are learned, not biological, and are self-perpetuating
(South Seas – Samoa, Polynesia and Indonesia).
o Parents teach the children the differences between the sexes in their society.
- Mead’s findings challenged strict cultural gender norms in the US. The norms in the
Us weren’t as strict as the norms in Europe in her time.
o For instance, what is a more in American culture is not in other cultures.
o Femininity and masculinity are not the basis for organization of personality
difference (New Guinea).
- Criticized for cultural determinism: Belief that the cultures in which we are raised
determine our character, personalities, behaviours.
- Misinterpretation of cultures.
o Convention to end gender differences, the US refused to ratify it. Only 5
countries in the world have refused to do so.
- Demonstrated men and women are capable of similar or different temperaments, but
did not explain why.
● Centrality of gender division of labour
- Gender division of labour is almost universal – Why?
- Functionalism: Gender division of labour is necessary for preservation of society.
o But gender division of labour changes over time, and division of labour more
varied than once assumed (New Guinea, the Aka, the Inca).
o For example, beforehand women couldn’t be in the combat forces because they
didn’t have the ‘strength’ men had. However, today women can be in the
military because women are strong enough since the ‘strength’ needed isn’t as
much as it used to be.
● Theories of gender differentiation
A. Private property and the materialism of male domination