SOC 1100 Chapter Notes - Chapter 11: Abnormal Psychology, Nuclear Family, Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill

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Week 9 – March 10th-12th, 2015
Chapter 11: Sexualities and Gender Stratification – page #265-297:
Introduction:
Whereas biology determines sex, social structure and culture largely determines gender, or
the expression of culturally appropriate masculine and feminine roles
The social construction of gender is evident in the way parents interact with babies, teachers
interact with pupils, and the mass media portray ideal body images
The social forces pushing people to assume conventionally masculine or feminine roles are
compelling, but the social forces pushing people toward heterosexuality operate with even
greater force
The social distinction between men and women serves as an important basis of inequality in
the family and the workplace
Male aggression against women is rooted in gender inequality
Sex vs. Gender:
Is it a Boy or a Girl?
Intersexed infants are babies born with ambiguous genitals because of a hormone
imbalance in the womb or some other cause
o Babies with ambiguous genitals should be assigned a sex by surgery and
hormone treatments, and reared in accordance with their newly assigned sex
o This strategy would lead to the child developing a self-identity consistent with its
assigned sex
However, this strategy has been done before leaving the child to grow up confused and in
former cases, the child attempted to commit and succeeded in committing suicide
Gender Identity and Gender Role:
Part of the answer to what makes us male or female is biological
Sex depends on whether you were born with distinct male or female genitals and a genetic
program that released either male or female hormones to stimulate the development of your
reproductive system
Being male or female involves not just biology but also certain “masculine” or “feminine”
feelings, attitudes, desires, and behaviours
o These characteristics may or may not align with a person’s biological sex
Gender has 3 components:
1. Sexuality refers to a person’s capacity for erotic experiences and expressions
2. Gender identity refers to a person’s sense of belonging to a particular sexual category
3. Gender role refers to behaviour that conforms widely shared expectations about how
members of a particular sexual category are supposed to act.
Babies first develop a vague sense of being a boy or a girl at about the age of one
They develop a full-blown sense of gender identity between the ages of two and thee
The social learning of gender begins very early in life
Functionalist theory argues that gender is inherent in our biological makeup and that society
must reinforce those tendencies if it is to operate smoothly
Conflict, feminist, and symbolic interactionist theories argue that gender is constructed mainly
by social influences and may be altered to benefit society’s members
Heteronormativity is the belief that sex is binary (one must be either male or female as
conventionally understood) and that sex ought to be perfectly aligned with gender (one’s
sexuality, gender identity, and gender role ought to be either male or female as
conventionally understood)
Heterosexuality is the preference for members of the “opposite” sex as sexual partners
Gender, as currently constructed, creates and maintains social inequality
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Week 9 – March 10th-12th, 2015
Summing Up:
One’s sex depends on whether one is born with distinct male or female genitals and a genetic
program that releases either male or female hormones to stimulate the development of the
reproductive system
Gender refers to the feelings, attitudes, desires, and behaviours that are associated with a
particular sexual category specifically, the capacity for erotic experiences and expressions
(sexuality); self-identification as male, female, homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, and so on
(gender identity); and behaviour that conforms to widely shared expectations about how
members of a particular sexual category are supposed to act (gender role)
Theories of Gender:
Some analysts see gender differences as a reflection of naturally evolved dispositions
o Essentialism is a school of thought that views gender differences as a reflection
of biological differences between women and men
Other analysts see gender differences as a reflection of the different social positions
occupied by women and men
o Social constructionism views gender as “constructed” by people living in
historically specific social structures and cultures
! Feminist, conflict, and symbolic interactionist theories
Modern Essentialism: Sociobiology and Evolutionary Psychology:
All humans instinctively try to ensure that their genes are passed on to future generations
However, men and women develop different strategies to achieve this goal
A woman has a bigger investment than a man does in ensuring the survival of any offspring
because she produces only a small number of eggs during her reproductive life and, at most,
can give birth to about 20 children
Most men can produce hundreds of millions of sperm in a single ejaculation, and this can be
repeated often
Women are greedy for money, while men want casual sex with women, treat women’s bodies
as their property, and react violently to women who indicate male jealousy
These are “universal features of our evolved selves” that presumably contribute to the
survival of the human species
Gender differences in behaviour are based in biological differences between women and men
Functionalism and Essentialism:
Functionalists reinforce the essentialist viewpoint when they claim that traditional gender
roles help to integrate society
Women traditionally specialize in raising children and managing the household; men
traditionally work in the paid labour force
o Each generation learns to perform these complementary roles by means of
gender role socialization
For boys, the essence of masculinity is a series of “instrumental” traits, such as rationality,
self-assuredness, and competiveness
For girls, the essence of femininity is a series of “expressive” traits, such as nurturance and
sensitivity to others
Boys and girls learn their respective gender traits in the family as they see their parents going
about their daily routines
The larger society also promotes gender role conformity through instilling in men the feat that
they wont be attractive to women if they’re too feminine, and instills in women the fear that
they wont be attractive to men if they’re too masculine
Learning the essential features of femininity and masculinity integrates society and allows it
to function properly
A Critique of Essentialism from the Conflict and Feminist Perspectives:
Conflict theorists have located the root of male domination in class inequality
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Week 9 – March 10th-12th, 2015
Men gained substantial power over women when preliterate societies were first able to
produce more than the amount needed for their own subsistence
At that point, some men gained control over the economic surplus
They soon devised two means of ensuring that their offspring would inherit the surplus
1. Imposed the rule that only men could own property
2. Ensured that women remained sexually faithful to their husbands
As industrial capitalism developed, male domination increased because industrial capitalism
made men still wealthier and more powerful while it relegated women to subordinate,
domestic roles
Feminist theorists doubt that male domination is so closely linked to the development of
industrial capitalism
They note that gender inequality is great in pre-capitalist, agragarian societies than in
industrial capital societies
Male domination is evident in societies that call themselves socialist or communist
Male domination is rooted less in industrial capitalism than in the patriarchal authority
relations, family structures, and patterns of socialization and culture that exist in most
societies
They both agree that behavioural differences between women and men result less from any
essential difference between them than from men being in a position to impose their interest
on women
Social Constructionism and Symbolic Interactionism:
Social constructionism is the view that apparently nature or innate features of life, such as
gender, are actually sustained by social processes that vary historically and culturally
As such, feminist and conflict theories may be regarded as types of social constructionism, as
well as symbolic interactionism
Symbolic interactionists focus on the way people attach meaning to things in the course of
their everyday communication
One of the things to which people attach meaning is what it means to be a man or a woman
Gender Socialization:
When girls play with Barbie, they live vicariously and fantasy lives through them
o They learn to want to be slim, blonde, shapely, and implicitly, pleasing to men
Researchers show that, from birth, infant boys and girls who are matched in length, weight,
and general health are treated differently by parents and by fathers in particular
Girls tend to be identified as delicate, weak, beautiful, and cute
Boys tend to be identified as strong, alert, and well coordinated
Parents are more likely to encourage their sons to engage in boisterous and competitive play
and discourage their daughters from doing likewise
Parents tend to encourage girls to engage in cooperative, role-playing games
These different play patterns lead to the heightened development of verbal and emotional
skills among girls and to be more concerned with winning and the establishment of hierarchy
among boys
Parents, teachers, and other authority figures typically try to impose their ideas of appropriate
gender behaviour on children, but children creatively interpret, negotiate, resist, and self-
impose these ideas all the time
Gender Segregation and Interaction:
Contests, chasing games, and other activities often involved self-segregation by gender
The most common form of boys and girls play together (boundary crossing) often involved
girls who were skilled at sports that were central to the boys’ world: soccer, basketball, and
baseball
o If girls demonstrated skills in these activities, boys often accepted them as
participants
Activities requiring cooperation lessened attention to gender differences
Mixed-gender interaction was also common in less public and crowded settings
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