SOCA01H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 11: Grammatical Gender, Liberal Feminism, Economic Surplus

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Published on 3 Sep 2013
School
UTSC
Department
Sociology
Course
SOCA01H3
Professor
Chapter 11- Sexuality and Gender
Sex versus Gender
Is it a boy or a girl?
-intersexed infants are babies born w/ ambiguous genitals b/c of a hormone imbalance in the wombs or some
other cause
Gender identity and gender roles:
-sociologists distinguish biological sex from sociological gender
-a person’s gender comprises the feelings, attitudes, and behaviours typically associated w/ being male or female
-social learning of gender begins very early in life
-babies first develop vague sense of being a boy or girl at ~ age 1
-they develop full-blown sense of gender identity b/w age 2 or 3
Theories of Gender
2 Perspectives:
1. Essentialism: a school of thought that views gender differences as a reflection of biological differences
b/w women and men
-compatible w/ functionalist theory
2. Social contructionism: views gender as “constructed” by social structure and culture
-compatible w/ conflict, feminist, and symbolic interactionist theories
Essentialism:
-Freud believed that differences in male and female anatomy accounts for the development of distinct masculine
and feminine gender roles
-essentialist view
-says that at age 3, children begin to pay attention to their genitals
-believes girls have “penis envy”
-thus gender differences follow from anatomical sex differences that children first observe around age 3
Sociology and Evolutionary psychology:
-offered 2nd essentialist theory
-say that all humans instinctively try to ensure that their genes are passed on to future generations
-men and women develop different strategies to achieve this
-thus, gender differences in behavior are based on biological differences b/w women and men
Functionalism and essentialism:
-functionalists reinforce the essentialist viewpoint when they claim that traditional gender roles help to integrate
society
-people learn their gender roles through gender role socialization
-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:
-have 4 main criticisms against essentialism:
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1. Essentialists ignore the historical and cultural variability of gender and sexuality
-variations exist in what constitutes masculinity and femininity which deflates the idea that there are
essential and universal behavioural differences b/w men and women
2. It tends to generalize from the average, ignoring variations w/n gender groups
-ex. Variations in aggressiveness b/w males and females
3. Little or no evidence directly supports the essentialist’ major claim
4. Essentialist’ explanation for gender differences ignore the role of power
-they generally ignore the fact that men are usually in a position of greater power and authority than
women are
Engels: located the root of male domination in class inequality
-they gained substantial power over women when preliterate societies were first able to produce more
than the amount needed for their own subsistence
-some gained control over economic surplus
-as industrial capitalism developed, male domination increased
-feminist theorists doubt that male domination is closely linked to industrial capitalism b/c gender equality usually
greater in agrarian societies and in societies that are communist or socialist
-they believe it is rooted more in patriarchal authority relations, family structures, and patterns of socialization and
culture that exist in most societies
Social constructionism and symbolic interactionism:
-the view that apparently natural or innate features of life such as gender are actually sustained by social processes
that vary historically and culturally
-symbolic interactionists focus on the way people attach meaning to things in the course of their everyday
communication
-one of the things they attach meaning to is what it means to be a man or a woman
Gender socialization:
-from birth, infant boys and girls who are matched in length, weight, and general health are treated differently by
parents
-girls tend to be identified as delicate, weak, beautiful, while boys are identified as strong, alert and well
coordinated
-parents tend to encourage boys and girls to engage in different play patterns
-ex. Encourage boys to engage in competitive play and girls to engage in cooperative role playing
games
-boys more likely to be praised for assertiveness and girls for compliance
Gender segregation and interaction:
Thorne: observed the grade 4 and 5 classroom
-noticed quite a lot of “boundary crossing b/w boys and girls
-gave 2 important contributions to our understanding of gender socialization
1. Children are actively engaged in the process of constructing gender roles
-not merely passive recipients of adult demands
2. Although school children tend to segregate themselves by gender, boundaries b/w boys and girls are
sometimes rigid, and sometimes fluid depending on social circumstances
-i.e. the content of children’s gendered activities is by no means fixed
-by age 14 or 15 adolescents’ gender ideologies are well formed
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Document Summary

Intersexed infants are babies born w/ ambiguous genitals b/c of a hormone imbalance in the wombs or some other cause. A person"s gender comprises the feelings, attitudes, and behaviours typically associated w/ being male or female. Social learning of gender begins very early in life. Babies first develop vague sense of being a boy or girl at ~ age 1. They develop full-blown sense of gender identity b/w age 2 or 3: essentialism: a school of thought that views gender differences as a reflection of biological differences b/w women and men. Compatible w/ functionalist theory: social contructionism: views gender as constructed by social structure and culture. Compatible w/ conflict, feminist, and symbolic interactionist theories. Freud believed that differences in male and female anatomy accounts for the development of distinct masculine and feminine gender roles. Says that at age 3, children begin to pay attention to their genitals.