SOCA01H3 Study Guide - Social Constructionism, Gender Identity, Essentialism

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3 Mar 2011
Chapter 11: Sexuality & Gender
Sex versus Gender
Intersexed: babies born w/ ambiguous genitals b/c of a hormone imbalance in the
womb or some other cause
Gender I dentity and Gender Role
Sex depends on whether you were born w/ distinct male or female genitals and a genetic
program that released male or female hormones to stimulate the development of your
reproductive system
Sociologists distinguish biological sex from sociological gender
Gender: sense of being male or female & your playing of masculine and feminine
roles in ways defined as appropriate by your culture and society
oAlso comprises feelings, attitudes & behaviours associated w/ being male or
Gender identity: a persons identification w/, or sense of belonging to, a particular
sex—biologically, psychologically, and socially
Gender role: set of behaviours associated w/ widely shared expectations about how
males & females are supposed to act
Babies develop a full sense of gender identity at age 2 or 3
Social learning of gender begins very early in life
Heterosexuality: the preference for members of the opposite sex as sexual partners
Theories of Gender
Essentialism: views gender as part of the nature or essence of a persons biological
osee gender differences as a reflection of biological differences b/w w & m
oI.e. Functionalist theory
Social constructionism: views gender as constructed by social structure and
Malak Patel1
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osee gender differences as a reflection of the different social positions occupied
by w & m
oI.e. conflict, feminist, symbolic interactionist theories
Believed that dfrnces in male & female anatomy account for the development of distinct
gender roles
Children around the age of 3 begin to pay attention to their genitals
Boys grown closer toward his mother, girls toward her father
Girls develop a feminine personality when she realizes she lacks a penis; forms penis
Since women are never able to resolve their penis envy, they are naturally dependent
on men
Sociobiology and Evolutionary Psychology
All humans try to ensure that their genes are passed on to future generations
Men & women develop different strategies to achieve this goal
Women only produces small # of eggs, men has chances that his genes will be
passed on
Functionalism & Essentialism
Talcott Parsons: claim that traditional gender roles help to integrate society
oWomen traditionally specialize in raising children & managing the household
oMen traditionally work in the paid labour force
oEach generation learns to perform these complementary roles
For boys, masculinity is instrumental traits [rationality, competitiveness]
For girls, feminity is expressive traits [sensitivity to others]
In functionalist view, learning the features of masculinity & feminity integrates
A Critique of Essentialism from Conflict & Feminist Perspectives
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1.Essentialists ignore the historical & cultural variability of gender and sexuality
2.Essentialism tends to generalize from the average, ignoring variations within gender
3.Little or no evidence directly supports the essentialists major claims
4.Essentialists explanations for gender differences ignore the role of power
Male domination is rooted less in industrial capitalism than in the patriarchal
authority relations, family structures, & patterns of socialization and culture that
exist in most societies [feminist]
From feminist & conflict viewpoints, functionalism, sociobiology, & evolutionary
psychology can be seen as ex of the exercise of male power [male domination & sexual
Social Constructionism & Symbolic I nteractionism
Essentialism is the view that mascu & femini are inherent & universal traits of men
& women
In contrast, social constructionism is the view that apparently natural or innate
features of life, such as gender, are sustained by social processes
Symbolic interactionist focus on the way ppl attach meaning to things in their everyday
oOne of the things to attach meaning to is what it means to be a man or a
Gender Socialization
Barbie girls view her as the Ideal Woman
o girls want to be slim, blonde, shapely & pleasing to men
Marketers market toys based on gender
oThe Boy’s World section has action figures, sports collectibles, remote-controlled
cars, etc
oThe Girls World section has Barbie dolls, play kitchens, girls’ dressup,
jewellery, etc
Girls & boys are treated differently by parents—esp fathers
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