What does it really mean to be a “male” or a “female”
Are gender identity and sexual preferences genetically determined? Can they be reduced to one’s sex? Or are they amalgams of biological, social, and psychological factors in constant interaction? Are they immutable lifelong features or dynamically evolving frames of self-reference? These are questions posed by social scientists regarding the differences between male and female. In this article on ‘Sex and Gender’, there are three schools of thoughts being discussed. Biological determinism, sex-gender theories and social constructionism.
What makes a person who he is depends on the society and how he is being brought up. Being born a male does not been that a person will have masculine characteristics, it goes for a female. According to biological determinism, masculinity characteristics are assertiveness, aggression, competitiveness and logical thinking. Femininity characteristics are emotional, caring, nurturing, preoccupied with beauty and relationships, distrusting or less capable of logical thinking. In the society, there are many females who hold high position in companies and they have the assertiveness and aggression that some of the male counterparts does not have.
Similarly, there are a lot of cosmetics products in the market that are for men. Who says that being a male, beauty is not important, as everyone would want to bring the best out of themselves in all areas? Social constructionism approach believes that gender is a process and that people work not only to establish who they want to be but also help to construct the social and biological categories themselves. This approach is reflective of the current society. Men and women does not have a fixed set of characteristics, although there are some things that men are generally superior than women and vice versa.
Based on the textbook, Analyzing Gender (Gailey, 1987), the definition of masculinity and femininity differ between societies and gender categories are not fixed. The sex of a baby can be determined but not the gender. A baby boy is perceived to like robots and guns. But what happens if he likes to play with dolls instead? According to biological determinism, a boy would love the robots because of the masculine characteristics that he is supposed to possess. But then how can we control how masculine or feminine a baby boy or girl is.
A baby boy who does not like to play with robots does not necessary means that he is less masculine as he can be masculine in other ways and at the same time has feminine characteristics. A man that cares for others and have the assertiveness and aggression will make a better manager than one that do not bother about others feelings. According to the passage, sex and gender do not always match. When a baby grows up, he would be ‘shaped’ in the way of his environment. A baby boy who grew up in a family of sisters, might become more feminine than a girl who grew up in a family of all boys.
This is due to the way the baby is being brought up and not the sex of the baby. He is not brought up to behave like a guy as he has less or no contact with masculinity. Whether the baby will grow up to be a man or woman will depends on how he feels about it. Even the sex of a person can be changed when the person grows. A borned man might feels that he would be better off as a woman than a man as he might like man and that he hate being a guy, due to the hormones that is in him. Social constructionism believes that transsexuals exist because these people want to be what they feel that they should be.
It allows them to be whom they want to. Sex and gender is being constructed and not fixed. Sex-Gender theorists believe that biologically, men and women will never be the same and that their gender is what the society expects them to be. Biological determinism can also be used to explain why there are homosexuals and transsexuals. The behaviour of these people is inborn and cannot forced to change. A man born with female hormones more than male hormones might turn to become a transsexual as he sees himself as a woman in a man’s body.
This is a fact that we cannot change regardless of how he is being rought up. So biological determinism theorists that do not accept that transsexuals and homosexuals exists is contradicting themselves. Sex and gender can be determined from birth, but the upbringing and environment plays a very big part in determining the gender. Sex is more or less determined from birth, barred a few exceptional cases. Gender is something that is can be cultivated in a person. Therefore, there is no one approach that can clearly and accurately explains how sex and gender is being defined. A social scientist must look at all angles and make references from there.
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