Support your views with examples and theories. Between men and women there are obvious biological differences that we can identify with. I am going to discuss how much biology compared to culture can affect a person’s gender. Sociobiology is the way social behaviour is determined by biological drives and genetic programming. E. O. Wilson (1975) describes that each sex has different strategies for mating and reproduction and that these are reflected in a variety of aspects of social behaviour.
For example males are genetically programmed to be more promiscuous, while females are disposed to nurture their offspring and remain loyal to one partner. But there are women who are promiscuous and men that stay loyal. This theory could be argued against that this behaviour by males and females is more culturally determined. As men could just take on this promiscuous role to fit in with their peer group for example. Differences between men and women can also be a result of our evolutionary past. Robin Fox (1976) states that throughout our human history men were hunters and women stayed at home nursing children.
Women developed skills of foraging and nurturing children rather than the strength and aggression required for hunting. Fox sees these differences in physique and mental skills as part of our genetic inheritance today. The argument of sociology is controversial as it ignores the influence culture has on gender and sexuality. As I pointed out with Wilson’s theory there is no scientific proof that men and women take on these roles because of their biological aspects and the only other reason for these differences is the affect of ideology.
Freud’s psychoanalytic theory describes the sexual development of children through biology and culture. He describes the way a child develops an adult sexual identity appropriate to his or her sex, with the boy identifying with his father and the girl identifying with her mother. This process develops through five stages. The first two stages, the Oral stage and the anal stage are biological. With the baby deriving pleasures from the lips and mouth and then to the anus and excretory functions. The third stage is the phallic stage where the boy eventually identifies with his father and the girl identifies with her mother.
The latency stage is when the sex drive is less obvious. The final stage is called the Genital stage when the individual should have developed identification with their own sex. Freud’s theory describes to us how we develop our gender identities through biology and culture. I think they both play a key role in the differences between men and women. The biology is a basic first thought of identifying our gender then the culture playing a more dominant role. We identify with our mothers and fathers therefore I think we try to copy their individual attributes.
Parson assumed that different roles for men and women were natural and inevitable. In family life men tend to perform the instrumental tasks, for example earning an income, while women perform expressive tasks, for example providing psychological support for the family. This explanation by Parson is mainly in biological terms. But in today’s society culture has changed these roles, as now women go out to work and provide an income for the family as well as still providing psychological support for the family.
This again shows the dominant role culture can have over the differences between men and women. So I feel that the differences between males and females are more attributed to culture with the family playing an important role. This view is supported by Nancy Chodorows (1978) theory. She argued that women grow up better to sustain relationships and express their emotions, whereas men have to repress this feminine side to themselves as they separate from their mothers. Chodorow argues for a greater sharing of parental responsibilities between fathers and mothers.
I agree with this because society today believes that men are emotionally stronger than women. For example if a girl falls over and hurts herself she would get more sympathy than a boy would if he were to fall over and hurt himself. Even if the boy was hurt and upset he would try and hide these feelings because of society’s expectations of a man. Women’s emotional state is to a certain extent contributed by biology. As men and women contain different hormones which make them feel a certain way. The feminine mystique (Friedan 1963) was an ideology that defined what it is to be truly feminine.
Friedan felt that this prevented women from realizing their full potential as human beings. This theory argues that women’s attributes were more culturally determined rather than biological. In conclusion I feel that the differences between male and females are more culturally determined. Some differences are attributed to biology for example in Freud’s theory he talks about the genitals in relation to the male and female identifying with their mother and father. Also Parsons explanation of gender differences is mainly in biological terms but now we can see how cultural has influenced that.
I feel that culture plays the more dominant role in nearly all of the theories I have researched. Socio-biology ignores the way culture shapes gender. Wilson’s and Fox’s theories could be argued against that these attributes of males and females have simply remained in society and are now expected of us. Chodorow’s theory concentrates on the parent’s role and the influence it has on the differences between male and females. Then from a feminist view Friedan describes how female attributes are determined by ideology. Culture is not the only influence on the differences between males and females.
The socialization process is also a major influence. Much of our identity and behaviour is the result of experiences of interaction with other people, especially during childhood. I feel that gender socialization is the first influence for individuals and is important as it makes them aware of gender-appropriate attitudes and behaviour. By the age of five most children are aware of this and have acquired a clear gender identity. This view can be supported by William Damon (1977) when he carried out various tests on children.
What we are taught and told to do by our parents at a very young age is vital to the development of ourselves. When we are young we are more gullible and nai??ve to things, so we will almost believe and take in what anyone says to us therefore I believe that gender socialisation is very influential. Ann Oakley (1981) describes four stages that gender socialization takes place. The first stage is manipulation, where parents encourage behaviour seen as normal for the child’s sex and discourage what is seen as deviant.
The next stage is Canalization where the child is encouraged to have an interest in certain toys and activities seen as normal for his sex. The third stage is when children are taught by names to identify with the appropriate gender. This is called Verbal appellations. The final stage is the different activities. Children are encouraged to involve themselves in different activities. Oakley’s theory really describes just how influential we are at this age. Education is in important in socializing children and young people for adult roles.
Until the 1980’s boys and girls studied very different subjects. Males would study science and technology whereas females would study cookery and needlework. If both were seen to be doing each others then boys would be seen as ‘girly’ and girls would be seen as the ‘tomboy’. Neither wanted to be associated with these words so therefore they were restricted in what they could do simply because of society’s expectations. Although today the differences in subject choices has reduced, girls are still less represented in science and engineering.
So the influence of education in the past has still stayed with us today. Dale spender argues that the national curriculum is from a male viewpoint. As it concentrates on male kings, soldiers and politicians but the role of women bringing up children and running the home is rarely considered. With children learning this at school may have a major influence on them as girls may feel inferior the boys. Although I do not think this could have a major influence on girls as nowadays there are many female role models and this is clearly seen in the media.
In children’s books male characters tend to outcome female characters by up to three to one. Where females do appear they are more likely to be in subordinate or traditional stereotyped female roles. For children to study these books is very influential as again they are at the age where they are most impressionable. The mass media is very influential when highlighting the differences between males and females. Gay Tuchman (1981) describes the ‘symbolic annihilation’ of women. This is where women who are seen in paid employment are often condemned or portrayed as incompetent or inferior to male colleges.
Women are rarely seen in positions of power or status and are more associated for being interested in unimportant things. Since the 1970’s media images have been dramatically performed but women still are not being presented equally. In 1993 men appeared in the overwhelming majority of news programmes as reporters, interviewees and experts. In 2003 males and females present an equal amount of new stories. However, women were seen to discuss the slightly more emotional stories such as rape, truancy and the weather. In the presenting roles image was always very important for women.
This has a big influence on women, as they may feel it is a demand to always look good and men may expect this from a women at all times. With the audience for TV very high the influence that the news, adverts and programmes has on people is very important. Stereotypes for women were used a lot in adverts in the past. The mum would be seen doing all the cooking and the housework while the father went out to work. The main expectation of a woman in the past was to be a good wife and mum. This expectation still lies with us today even if the woman goes out to work.
The influence adverts had in the past played important roles in people’s lives as it set societies expectations of each gender. When recent adverts where shown four out of five had a male voice over. The women that did feature all took on stereotypical roles and activities, such as washing their hair. Rosemary Betterton (1987) criticised the fact that when women were portrayed, even in a less stereotypical role, they were still shown as attractive or desirable. This quality appeared in nearly all adverts and programmes I watched. Male and female specific magazines influence our gender differences in a big way.
Angela Mcrobbie (1982) found that the main message for girls in magazines was that falling in love and getting married was the main aim for teenagers. In women magazines they contained the latest diet and how to brighten up your home. This influences women to think that being slim and looking good is one of the most important things in life. I feel that gender socialization and the mass media are most influential. Gender socialization is very influential at a young age and therefore gives the foundations of understanding our identity. The mass media is the most influence throughout the rest our lives.