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The Biological Determinism Or Social Constructionism Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1817 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Gender differs in culture and personal circumstances, they shape the way men and women behave according to their society’s norms and values. Learning plays a major part in influencing gender roles, in what defines masculine and feminine, parents, teachers, friends, media, music, books and religion teach and reinforce gender roles throughout a lifetime. Gender roles are also shaped by the power of reward and punishment, as it’s used by some people to reinforce what they consider to be appropriate gender behaviour. In terms of influencing gender roles the influence of parents is significant as the family is the primary agency of socialisation. Gender roles are realities in almost everyone’s life. (Warnke 2008) This essay will discuss whether gender roles are determined by biological determinism; our genetics, or whether they are constructed by society; expectations in our environment. In addition theories explaining gender behaviours.

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Freud and Parsons had theories based on Biological determinism which depends on the presence or absence of certain chromosomes, DNA, proteins and hereditary genes. Men and women have obvious biological differences- a man can produce sperm, and women can produce ovum, lactation and go through pregnancy and menstruation. Without those two different sexes reproduction would not be possible, and our biological sexes are needed for our society to progress.

A good example of this is the Bruce Reimer case. Bruce, an eight month old boy, underwent a circumcision that went terribly wrong, his penis was completely destroyed and with no hope of reconstructing the organ, his parents consulted Dr Money. Doctors and family decided Bruce would best function as a girl rather than a boy. He was surgically transformed into a girl, whom they named Brenda. From an early age Brenda felt she was a boy trapped in a girl’s body, she ripped off frilly dresses, rejected dolls in favor of guns, preferred to play with boys, and even insisted on urinating standing up. At fourteen she was so miserable that she decided either to live her life as a male or to end it, her father finally told her the truth. She underwent a new set of operations, assumed a male identity and later married and went on to become a father himself. Although Dr Money tried to apply the logic behind social determinism, Bruce revealed that despite dresses, social pressure, surgeries and female hormones he never looked, acted or felt like a female. (Colapinto 2000) This shows social factors do not always override biological factors in determining gender.

Social constructionism understands how gender roles are created by us in everyday lives. One sociologist, Margaret Mead, was one of the first to ground the distinction between the biological and social characteristics of men and woman based on her study in three civilizations. Each society displayed different gender role qualities. In one society both women and men were cooperative, in the second they were both ruthless and aggressive, and in the third the women were dominant and the men more obedient. (Mead 1935)

This shows masculine and feminine roles are learnt and shaped in cultural socializations and not inborn, biological specific roles (Bown, 2012).

Gendered behaviours are shaped especially in responses and reactions like in families, children and adult relations, workplace, groups, schools, media, texts, history, popular culture and social structures. During pregnancy and after birth people are divided into two sex categories, boy and girl, to which they received gender characteristics like colours, toys received as children by evasion, like football and trucks for boys, dolls and dresses for girls. In the course of her and his life the human being is then made into a girl or woman, boy or man. Many factors influence our behaviours such as education, social norms and values, stereotypes, identifications, images and traditions. Concept of woman and men are subject to change over time. What is to be feminine and masculine is historical defined. (Lavenda and Schultz 2011) These are all social contributors towards the way gender is shaped.

In the nineties relationships between men and women were followed by tradition and religious views, the natural differences between the sexes were emphasized throughout the influential years of childhood. In marriage young men would commit to protect and provide for the woman with whom they had agreed to spend the rest of their lives. Marriage was considered a lifelong partnership with Nuptial vows to be kept despite all obstacles. Although men and women had unity of purpose in progression with their lives, the roles of each were very different, women were expected to remain at home caring for the children, cooking and housework, despite any educational background or career she may have previously had. The husbands’ role was to provide financially for the family as sole breadwinners and to teach their boys to be courageous and brave, to be out in front, to provide, to be tough and to sacrifice, to perform heavy, physical work at an early age. Mothers educated their daughters to be gentle, modest, loyal, respectful and supportive, girls were assigned duties around the house assisting with cooking, sewing and cleaning. This behaviour reinforces the idea that gender roles are socially constructed.

Women were influenced to break away from the traditional gender roles with the emergence of icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Bell and Betty Friedan. They were very popular and influenced woman in various ways, their motivational work encouraged woman to break out of gender roles, be more independent, be inspired to take on a new role, empower woman to take control of their bodies and to fight for equal opportunities that lead us to the present- with equality between everyone, no matter their gender. (Penny Colman 1995) this is another example of how social construction defines gender.

Children, before they grow into adults, have been completely socially engineered and manipulated, generation by generation. Toys are the greatest influence in defining gender in children, as so often children are divided by stereotypes of toys. Children have a strong sense of gender identity and gender role expectations. Most two year olds know whether they are male or female and, by the age of four or five, not only do they develop gender constancy but often show rigid standards of what they believe is appropriate male and female dressing and behaviour. Young children appear to acquire gender roles stereotypes at about the same time they develop gender identity. Social construction has been pressed upon children from the moment they are born, so from an early age the signs of gender roles are already reinforced.

Many sociologists insist we now live in postmodern society; shaped by our personal experience, egocentric and mass media, rather than expectations of following a script. Roles in the family had some changes, couples now make decisions together, expressing opinions openly and encouraging mutually the male role in the home is progressing, men are now more supportive in the housework tasks and more child-centred. Male and female roles and identities, which were previously very distinct, are now much more blurred. Women are increasingly choosing to take on roles previously fulfilled by men. Most women and mothers are now employed and occupy 48% of the work force with both men and woman more likely to choose the careers they want. There may be more women in the workforce than there were before but there still exists some division and segregation between the sorts of occupation in which women tend to work and the sorts of jobs men have. Woman are often located in secondary labour market with unsecure jobs, low status, inferior work conditions, low salaries and lower chances of promotion, while men retained the primary labour market with high paid salaries, higher status, more secure job placements, good working conditions and easier access to promotion. This explains gender roles are socially constructed whether at home on at work.


Biological determinism (in detail) dont describe, discuss analyse this argument what is it? Biological determinism (in detail) dont describe, discuss analyse this argument what is it?

Paragraph 3. Social construction, feral children, children of deprived and a-sexual (media influences)

Then next few are optional choose two or three to talk about……

Family Masculinity/Femininity The body Work roles Media…..

Conclusion- shouldnt be too long just refer and summerise back to questiTo conclude, society was previously shaped by society norms and values. Children tended to follow parents footsteps. In postmodern societies, male and female roles and identities, which were previously very distinct, are now becoming blurred. People do not follow a fixed pathway, women don’t assume they will become mothers and housewives, men and woman are much more likely to choose what to do in their lives and which identities to adopt. The activities traditionally assigned to members of each sex may no longer be needed and the traditional division of labour by biological sex no longer is appropriate. The traditional gender role for males prepares men for a world that no longer exists. Men no longer are the sole breadwinners in most families, and their traditional place of dominance in society no longer is assured.

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Change is occurring in the definition of gender roles and identity for both men and woman, with female increasing the participation in a world of paid work, increasing economical independence and viewed as significant consumers. Young females are becoming more self determined preferring to pursue careers and decline marriage and children, with this, woman are more likely to see consumption and leisure as a key factor in their identity, this suggests female identity is being redefined. Traditional ideas and roles of female identity are being abandoned and redefined, becoming a mother and housewife is less significant. And men defining their identity, by being in touch with his feminine side, taking on share roles with partner in housework duties and childcare.

We now live in a society where anatomy is not a destiny, the roles and functions once so preserved are now fading in the past, and replaced by society in which true masculinity and femininity are no longer taught or understood. It is impossible to argue that gender is socially constructed or biologically driven because there is evidence that argue for both ways. Society and culture can no doubt shape the beliefs and standards for a certain society, however we cannot ignore our fundamental biological nature.


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