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University of California - Riverside
SOC 028

 Learning to think Sociologically about Gender o What is sociology?  An academic discipline that sees to systematically study the structures of human social life, groups, and societies  Sociologists are interested in patterns in social life o What do sociologists of gender do?  Investigate the impacts, social meanings of which gender have an individual and collective experience  Consider difference in how societies understand, enact and enforce gender, and to what effect  Work to reduce gender inequalities o Gender is to people as … water is to fish  Gender is all around us  We take gender for granted as normal, natural, and relatively consistent o Thinking Sociologically  Sociological imagination – C. Wright Mills  “Think ourselves away” from the familiar routines of our daily lives to look at them  Social structure informs and constrains individual acts  See the societal patterns that influence the individual as well as groups o Levels of Analysis in Sociology:  Maro – large scale social system the economic or political system  Meso – institutions that mediate between the macro and micro  Micro – everyday behavior and face-to-face interaction o To Think Sociologically about Gender, we will  Explore how gender is socially constructed  Consider different types gender systems and arrangements  Think about how gender shapes social life or the micro, meso, and macro levels o Sex and Gender: What the Difference?  Dominate belief in the U.S. is sexual dimorphism, there are two sex categories o How do we know what someone‟s sex is?  We look for physical and social cues  Social cues will vary across historical periods and across cultures and subcultures o Sex V. Gender: Early Sociological Thinking  Sex = a social category based on socially agreed upon biological criteria  Gender = the activity of managing conduct in light of normative conceptions of attitudes and activities appropriate for ones sex category o Gender Essentialism  There is an identifiable essence that makes people male or female, but it need not be grounded in biology  Could be god given or engrained in human familial relationships  Sees sex and gender as timeless, unchanging and unchanging and unchanging o Ex. Boys will be boys, men are from mars and women are from venus  Gender Essentialism o Is not sociological  Two Perspectives on Sex o Biosocial  Sexual dimorphism is real  Sex causes gender o Sexual Constructionist  Sexual dimorphism is claim not a truth  Gender causes sex  Consequences of Debate between Biosocial and Social Constructionist Perspective o Do we talk about sex or not? o In a sociology course, we focus on gender  We will use both biosocial and social constructionist perspectives, with an emphasis on the latter  Our Working Definition of Gender o It‟s NOT sex - biology doesn‟t cause differences in behavior o It‟s NOT concrete - it changes with times, places, individuals, etc. o It is a human invention - a way to sort and organize people  Sociology Theories of Gender: A Brief Intro o Why do we need sociological theory to understand gender? 1. To test our own theories of gender in a meaningful way 2. To help us defend our own theories of gender 3. To force us to consider if our own  Vision of the World is Accurate o Confirmation bias  Difference across Theories o Conceptualizations: who are women? o Causal factors: what causes gender inequalities? o Scope: is gender inequality a micro, meso, or macro level phenomenon? o Theoretical linkages: how is gender inequality related to, or part of other social inequalities? o Solutions: how can gender inequalities best be reduced?  Functionalist Theories: 1950s – 1970s sociology o Women and men do different things in society because to do so is functional for society  Women: private sphere  Women are better at nurturing children and cleaning and keeping men happy  Men: public sphere o Outside of household, protecting women and children, in power, leadership, physical labor, military o Could not be imperially supported, Etc. Cleopatra ancient Egypt  Feminist Theories: 1960s – Today o Virtually all contemporary theories of gender are feminist theories because  Recognize gender inequalities as socially constructed, not biologically based  Viewed gender inequalities as problematic not biologically based  See to equalize men‟s and women‟s  Opportunities and Status o Many Types of Feminist Theories  Structural  Marxist  Weberian  Interactional  Social psychological  Symbolic interactionist o Structural Theories  Examine gender at the level of institutions and/or as part of the structure of society  Shift focus from interactional level to organizational and structural level o Barbra Risman: Gender as Social Structure  What is Social Structure?  Exists outside of individuals and constrains human actions  Giddens‟ Structuration Theory:  Structure limits human action, but humans can influence structure o The Importance of Difference  Inequality requires difference  Difference is naturalized, making the structure invisible o Why Think of Gender as Structure?  Recognize complexity of gender  Lets us look at the strength and direction of casual relationships  Dynamism o Three Dimensions of Gender Structure 1. At the individual level 2. Interactional/cultural: men and women face different cultural expectations 3. Institutional: regulations and practices ensure that resource distribution is gender specific, pg 14 diagram  Gender as Social Structure o Review Structural Theories  Examine gender at the level of institutions and/or as part of the structure of society  Shift focus from interactional level to organizational  Gendered Institutions o Institutions in which “advantage and disadvantage, exploitation and control, action, and emotion, meaning and identity, are patterned through and in terms of a distinction between male and female” (Acker 1990)  Five Features of Gendered Institutions 1. Create divisions along gender lines 2. Construct symbols or images that support those divisions 3. Produce interactions that reinforce those divisions 4. Have an impact on individual identity 5. Gender helps to create and reinforce social structure  Interactionist Theories: “ Doing Gender" o Gender occurs through interactions o Gender is a routine, methodical , and recurring accomplishment that reinforces the idea of sexes o Others hold us accountable to how we “do” gender o Allocation refers to the distribution of roles and resources and rewards  Betsy Lucal: “What it Means to be Gendered Me” o Because our society believes in sexual dimorphism, we seek to classify everyone as man or women o But some people aren‟t so easily classified  What does Lucal experience? o People treat her quiet differently depending on if they interpret her as man or women o She has learned the interactional rules of men even though she identifies as a women  Do You “Do” Gender? o Gender Across Cultures  Society  A self-perpetuating human grouping that occupies a relatively bounded territory and has its own culture and institutions o In the modern world, society and nation are often analogous  What is culture? o Society‟s beliefs and values o A toolkit that members of society use to understand and participate in their society  3 Ways of Studying Culture and Society o Cultural Analysis  Involves looking a culture (including possibly your own) and seeking to understand it o Comparative Analysis  Involves comparing multiple societies  Not limited to comparing cultures o Global Analysis  Considers all cultures as part of a global culture made up of different, interrelated parts  What can we learn by Studying Gender through Cultural Analysis? o How a particular society organizes gender and distributes resources and rewards based on gender o How culture informs gender and vice versa  What can we learn by studying Gender Comparatively? o How gender varies across places and times o How we can think about gender differently o How gender inequalities can be exacerbated or reduced  What can we learn about gender by studying it globally? o How gender is (in)consistent around the world o How gender intersects and interacts with global processes, like global capitalism and global inequalities  Case Study of Different Methods of Analysis o Intersex people and society  Who is male? Who is female? o Possible determinants of sex could be:  Chromosomal: testes or ovaries  Genitalia: penises and vaginas  Hormonal: balance of testosterone and estrogen  Identity: how a person sees themselves  Appearance: how other people see a person  Behavior: how a person acts  Intersex? o Defined in various ways o Formerly called “hermaphrodites,” or people born with sex characteristics of both genders o Different from transgender, which refers to people who have sex characteristics that differ from their identity  Intersex is a Social Problem in the U.S. o Poses no significant medical risk o Poses significant challenge to US social beliefs o Intersex infants typically “assigned” to a sex within hours of birth  What Does Our Response to Intersex Infants Tell Us About Gender in American Culture? o We are firm believers in sexual dimorphism o We have limited to no tolerance for people who fall outside of “normal” sex and gender categories o Our sex and gender categories are quite rigid o Sex and gender are importa
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