SY321 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Social Constructionism, Symbolic Interactionism, Penis Envy

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27 Jan 2013
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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:
1. Essentialists ignore the historical and cultural variability of gender and sexuality
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