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Introduction to Sociology

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Introduction to Sociology ­ SOC101
VU
Lesson 30
GENDER: A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION
What is the origin of the differences between men and women? How is the gender identity formed? How
are the identity based social roles performed? There are competing explanations to these questions, which
have connections with physical (sex) or social (gender) differences.
Sociologists use the term sex to refer to the anatomical and physiological differences that define male and
female bodies. Gender, by contrast, concerns the psychological, social and cultural differences between
males and females. Gender is linked to socially constructed notions of masculinity and femininity; it is not
necessarily a direct product of an individual's biological sex. The distinction between sex and gender is a
fundamental one, since many differences between males and females are not biological in origin.
Three broad approaches to behavioral difference between men and women:
1.
Biological basis.
2.
Importance of socialization and the learning of gender roles.
3.
Both gender and sex have no biological basis, but are entirely socially constructed.
Gender and biology: natural differences in behavior
How far are the differences in the behavior of men and women the result of sex rather than gender? Some
authors hold that aspects of human biology ­ ranging from hormones to chromosomes to brain size to
genetics ­ are responsible for innate differences in behavior between men and women. Researches to
identify the physiological origins of behavioral differences between men and women have been
unsuccessful. The role of social interaction in shaping human behavior is vital.
Gender socialization
Through socialization, children gradually internalize the social norms and expectations, which are seen to
correspond with their sex, hence differences in their behavior. Therefore it is the society that determines the
appropriateness of behavior relevant to male and female. Also, through the process of socialization, the
society makes a concerted effort that males and females internalize the culturally appropriate relevant
patterns of behavior. Hence gender differences in behavior are not biologically determined, but they are
culturally produced.
Social construction of gender and sex
Both sex and gender are socially constructed products. Not only is gender a purely social creation that lacks
a fixed `essence', yet the human body itself is subject to social forces, which shape and alter it in various
ways. Individuals can choose to construct and reconstruct their bodies as they please- ranging from exercise,
dieting, piercing and personal fashion, to plastic surgery and sex change operations. Human body and
biology are not `givens', but are subject to human urgency and personal choice within different social
contexts. Genetic technology appears to have further facilitated the realization of socially desirable
characteristics of males and females.
The theorists who believe in the social construction of sex and gender reject all biological bases for gender
differences. Gender identities emerge in relation to perceived sex differences in society and in turn help to
shape those differences.
These approaches try to explain the gender difference in the behavior of men and women either in biology
or in social construction. In reality it could also be possible that the gender differences in behavior may be
placed on a continuum, biological determinists could hold one end of which and the other end could be
held by social constructionists.
Biological determinists highlight similarities in male behavior across different environments. They argue
that male traits have their roots in chromosomal differences or in hormonal differences or in some other
natural characteristic that distinguish men from women. It is a simple causal, reductionist approach that
explains human behavior in terms of biological or genetic characteristics.
Social constructionists contend instead that gender differences derive from social and cultural process.
These processes create systems of ideas and practices about gender that vary across time and space.
Through this process `natural', social processes mediate instinctive forms of behavior and the sociologists
would argue that most forms of human behavior are socially constructed. It is argued that every society has
gender order, composed of a historically specific division of labor, and the structure of power. The gender
order generates a variety of masculinities and of femininities.
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Introduction to Sociology ­ SOC101
VU
Masculinities refer to various socially constructed collections of assumptions, expectations and ways of
behaving that serve as standards for forms of male behavior. Look at the word `mardaangee'. One could find
colloquial substitutes in different cultures. The process of indoctrination of the characteristics associated
with `manliness' starts right from the childhood. For example take the little boy who got hurt and starts
crying. He is told not to do so because crying is not considered an appropriate behavior for men.
Femininities cover various socially constructed collections of assumptions, expectations and ways of
behaving that serve as standards for female behavior.
The mere fact that men and women across the societies are not characterized by identical behaviors is
suggestive of the fact that these differences are not caused by biology but by socialization. Hence
masculinities and femininities are subject to change across cultures and over time.
Global comparisons show that, by and large, societies do not consistently define most tasks as whether
feminine or masculine. As societies industrialize, which gives people more choices and decreases the
significance of muscle power, gender distinctions become smaller and smaller. Gender, then, is simply a too
variable across cultures to be considered a simple expression of biology. Instead, as with many other
elements of culture, what it means to be female and male is mostly a creation of society.
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Table of Contents:
  1. THE ORIGINS OF SOCIOLOGY:Auguste Comte, The Fields of Sociology
  2. THE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE:Society affects what we do
  3. THEORETICAL PARADIGMS:Salient Paradigms, Critical Evaluation
  4. SOCIOLOGY AS SCIENCE:Empirical, Verifiable, Cumulative, Self-Correcting
  5. STEPS IN SOCIOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION:Exploration/Consultation
  6. SOCIAL INTERACTION:Social Status, ROLE, The Social Construction of Reality
  7. SOCIAL GROUPS:Primary and Secondary Groups, Reference Group, Networks
  8. ORGANIZATIONS:Utilitarian Organizations, Coercive Organizations
  9. CULTURE:Universality, Components of Culture, Symbols, Language
  10. CULTURE (continued):Beliefs, Norms, Cultural Diversity
  11. CULTURE (continued):Culture by social class, Multiculturalism, Cultural Lag
  12. SOCIALIZATION: HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, NATURE, Social Isolation
  13. UNDERSTANDING THE SOCIALIZATION PROCESS
  14. AGENTS OF SOCIALIZATION:The Family, The School, Peer Groups, The Mass Media
  15. SOCIALIZATION AND THE LIFE COURSE:CHILDHOOD, ADOLESCENCE
  16. SOCIAL CONTROL AND DEVIANCE:Crime, Deviants, Stigma, Labeling
  17. THE SOCIAL FOUNDATIONS OF DEVIANCE:Cultural relativity of deviance
  18. EXPLANATIONS OF CRIME:Sociological explanations
  19. EXPLANATIONS OF CRIME -- CONTINUED:White-Collar Crime, Conflict Theory
  20. SOCIAL DISTRIBUTION OF CRIME: EXPLANATIONS, Gender and Crime
  21. SOCIAL STRATIFICATION: INTRODUCTION AND SIGNIFICANCE
  22. THEORIES OF CLASS AND STRATIFICATION I:Critical evaluation
  23. THEORIES OF SOCIAL CLASS AND STRATIFICATION II
  24. THEORIES OF CLASS AND SOCIAL STRATIFICATION III
  25. SOCIAL CLASS AS SUBCULTURE
  26. SOCIAL MOBILITY:Structural factors, Individual factors, Costs
  27. THE FAMILY: GLOBAL VARIETY, Marriage Patterns, Patterns of Descent
  28. FUNCTIONS OF FAMILY:Reproduction, Social placement
  29. FAMILY AND MARRIAGE IN TRANSITION:Family is losing functions
  30. GENDER: A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION, Gender socialization
  31. GENDER SOCIALIZATION:Role of family, Gender Stratification
  32. EXPLANATIONS OF GENDER INEQUALITY:Conflict Explanations, Feminism
  33. FUNCTIONS OF SCHOOLING:Cultural Innovation, School Tracking
  34. ISSUES IN EDUCATION:Low Enrollment, High Dropout, Gender Disparity
  35. POPULATION STUDY AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE:Crude Birth Rate
  36. THEORY OF POPULATION GROWTH:Theory of Demographic Transition
  37. POPULATION PROFILE OF PAKISTAN:World Population Growth
  38. POPULATION PROFILE OF PAKISTAN (Continued):Age Distribution, Sex Composition
  39. IMPLICAIONS OF POPULATION GOWTH:Additional GDP needed per year
  40. POPULATION POLICY:Goals of Population Policy, Objectives, Strategies
  41. ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY:Global Dimension, Historical Dimension
  42. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES:Preserving Clean Water, Clearing the Air
  43. SOCIAL CHANGE:Social change is controversial.
  44. CAUSES OF SOCIAL CHANGE:Culture and Change, Conflict and Change, Modernization
  45. MODERNITY AND POST MODERNITY:Cultural Patterns, Post-modernity