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Chapter 5

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Western University
Sociology 3321F/G

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: nd -offered 2 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: 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
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