Chapter 1 - Gender Across Cultures
The ‘interplanetary theory’ of complete and universal gender difference is
also typically the way we explain another universal phenomenon: gender
inequality. Gender is not simply a system of classification by which biological
males and biological females are sorted, separated, and socialized into
equivalent sex roles. Gender also expresses the near universal inequality
between women and men. When we speak about gender we also speak about
hierarchy, power, and inequality not simply difference.
Every general explanation of gender must address two central questions in
their ancillary derivative questions.
o Why is it that virtually every single society differentiate people on the
basis of gender?
o Why is it that virtually every known society is also based on male
Virtually every society known to us is founded upon assumptions of gender
difference and the politics of gender inequality
Two basic schools of thought prevail: biological determinism and differential
socialization. (we know them as nature and nurture)
Both schools of thought sure two fundamental assumptions.
o Both see women and men as markedly different from each other.
(Nurture does allow for some possibility of change but it still argues
that to the process of socialization males and females become
dramatically different from each other.)
o Assume that the differences between women and men are far greater
and more decisive the differences that might be observed among men
or among women.
o Both schools of thought assume that gender domination is the
inevitable outcome of gender difference, that difference causes
Sex refers to the biological apparatus, the male and the female - our
chromosomal, chemical, anatomical organization.
Gender refers to the meanings that are attached to those differences in a
Gender means different things to different people and it varies cross-
culturally. (Femininity and masculinity)
The differences between two cultures are often greater than the differences
between two genders.
Argue that both of these propositions are false using what social scientists
have come to call a social constructionism approach. (Neither gender
difference nor gender inequality is in evitable in the nature of