• The contemporary women's rights movement began in the late 1960's.
4.1 Understanding Sex and Gender
• Sex = Refers to the anatomical and other biological differences between females and
males that are determined at the moment of conception and develop in the womb and
throughout childhood and adolescence.
Females have two X chromosomes while males have one X chromosome and one Y
• Primary sex characteristics = (Genitalia) Anatomical and other biological differences
between females and males that begin developing in the womb.
• Secondary sex characteristics = Biological differences between females and males
that emerge during puberty. (Stem from hormonal differences between the two sexes.
Boys generally acquire deeper voices, more body hair, and more muscles from their
ﬂowing testosterone. Girls develop breasts and wider hips and begin menstruating).
Gender as a Social Construction:
• If sex is a biological concept, then gender is a social concept.
• Gender = The social and cultural differences a society assigns to people based on
their biological sex.
• Gender roles = Refers to a society's expectations of people's behavior and attitudes
based on whether they are females or males.
• Gender identity = Our beliefs about ourselves as females or males.
• How we think and behave as females and males is not etched in stone by our biology
but rather as a result of how society expects us to think and behave based on what
sex we are. As we grow up, we learn these expectations as we develop our gender
• Femininity = The cultural expectations we have of girls and women
• Masculinity = The expectations we have of boys and men
• Females and males do behave differently. Women smile more often, men spit and
curse more, women care for children more, women cry more often.
The Development of Gender Differences:
• If culture and social inﬂuences matter much more than biology, then gender
differences can change and the status quo may give way. If biology is paramount, then
gender differences are perhaps inevitable and the status quo will remain.
Biology and Gender:
• In prehistoric societies, biology was destiny because the only social roles were
hunting/gathering food and bearing/nursing children. Since only women could do the
second job, they were conﬁned to the home and raising the kids. Evolutionary reason for why men are more violent than women: In prehistoric times,
more violent men would harm/kill other men and "win" in the competition for female
mates. They thus were more likely than less violent men to produce offspring, who
would then carry these males' genetic violent tendencies.
Some scholars say that traditional gender roles for women and men make sense from
an evolutionary standpoint, and attempts to change them go against the sexes'
biological natures. This in turn implies that existing gender inequality must continue
because it is rooted in biology.
Critics challenge the evolutionary explanation on several grounds.
• 1. Much greater gender variation in behavior and attitudes existed in prehistoric
times than the evolutionary explanation assumes.
• 2. Even if biological differences did inﬂuence gender roles in prehistoric times,
these differences are largely irrelevant in modern societies (for example, physical
strength is not necessary for survival).
• 3. Human environments throughout the millennia have simply been too diverse to
permit the simple, straightforward biological development that the evolutionary
• 4. Evolutionary arguments implicitly justify existing gender inequality by implying
the need to conﬁne women and men to their traditional roles.
• Anthropological evidence ﬁnds that violent men have trouble ﬁnding female mates
who would want them and that the female mates they ﬁnd and the children they
produce are often killed by rivals to the men.
• Because gender differences in aggression can be found at very young ages,
researches often say they must have some biological basis. However, critics of this
line of research counter that even young children have already been socialized along
Culture and Gender:
• Anthropologist George Murdock created the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample of
almost two hundred preindustrial societies. In some societies, men primarily hunted
while women primarily cooked. It differed by society whether men or women planted
crops and built ﬁres. His ﬁndings illustrate how gender roles differ from one culture to
another and imply they are not biologically determined.
• All societies distinguish "femaleness" and "maleness", but additional gender
categories exist in some societies. EX: The Mohave Indians recognize four genders: a
woman, a woman who acts like a man, a man, and a man who acts like a woman.
• Some societies recognize an intermediary gender category. Anthropologists call this
category berdache, who is usually a man who takes on a woman's role.
• Androgynous = Containing aspects of both femininity and masculinity.
Socialization and Gender:
• Socialization = The process whereby individuals learn the culture of their society.
• Agents of socialization are things like family, peers, schools, the mass media, and
religion. The Family:
• Socialization into gender roles begins in infancy, as almost from the moment of birth
parents begin to socialize their children as boys or girls without even knowing it. (Ex:
Playing rougher with sons than daughters, comforting girls when they cry but letting
boys cry longer, giving girls dolls and boys toy guns).
• Boys tend to play sports and other competitive team games governed by inﬂexible
rules and relatively large numbers of roles. Girls tend to play smaller, cooperative
games such as hopscotch and jumping rope with fewer and more ﬂexible rules.
• Boys games encourage them to be competitive, while girls' games encourage them to
become cooperative and trusting.
• Teachers tend to call on boys more often to answer questions in class and to praise
them more when they give the right answer.
• At all grade levels, many textbooks and other books still portray people in gender-
stereotyped ways. The newer books do less of this than older ones, but the newer
books still contain some stereotypes, and the older books are still used in many
schools, especially those that cannot afford new textbooks.
• On children and adult television shows alike, the major characters are males.
• Women are often portrayed as unintelligent or frivolous individuals who are there more
for their looks than for anything else.
• Judging from the world of television commercials, women's chief goals in life are to
look good and to have a clean house. Men's chief goals, judging from many
commercials, are to drink beer and drive cars.
• Magazines reinforce that women's chief goals are to look good and to please men and
that men's chief goals are to succeed, win over women, and live life in the fast lane.
• Women are constantly depicted as the property of men.
• The ﬁrst human was Adam, and Eve was made from his ribs.
• The major ﬁgures in the Bible are men, and women are for the most part depicted as
wives, mothers, temptresses, and prostitutes.
4.2 Feminism and Sexism
• Feminism = The belief that women and men should have equal opportunities in
economic, political, and social life/
• Sexism = A belief in traditional gender role stereotypes and in the inherent inequality
between men and women.
• Several varieties of feminism exist but they all share the basic idea that women and
men should be equal in their opportunities in all spheres of life. Liberal Feminism - Believes that the equality of women can be achieved within our
existing society by passing laws and reforming social, economic, and political
• Socialist Feminism - Blames capitalism for women's inequality and says that true