The Biological Explanation Of Gender Stereotypes Sociology Essay Example
The Biological Explanation Of Gender Stereotypes Sociology Essay Example

The Biological Explanation Of Gender Stereotypes Sociology Essay Example

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  • Pages: 11 (2769 words)
  • Published: August 22, 2017
  • Type: Case Study
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The media is often seen as responsible for changes in the actions, behavior, and perception of people from different races, sexes, religions, and more. This belief is commonly held by many individuals and further explored by social scientists.

Some sociologists argue that all gender roles are socially and culturally defined expectations and beliefs about the behavior and emotions of men and women. While this reasoning appears reasonable, it fails to address questions about the origins of gender stereotypes or align with natural laws that explain why sexual reproduction was necessary for the survival of genes. There must be a reason why humans have evolved to reproduce sexually, and it seems logical that fulfilling different but complementary roles would result from such a significant change. An example often cited by sociologists and feminists


to demonstrate the perpetuation of gender roles through the media is the portrayal of females in Disney cartoons. Snow White was spared by the huntsman because she was too beautiful to kill, and her main characteristic is cleanliness.

Belle, the protagonist of Beauty and the Beast, is mocked for her love of books and is only valued for her ability to transform Beast back into a prince. Similarly, Mulan must earn the affection of a powerful man in order to be truly happy, regardless of her bravery, strength, and independence. However, it is Ariel from The Little Mermaid that scholars often point to as the most extreme example of sexism and reinforcement of traditional gender roles in Disney films. In this particular analysis, the focus will be on Ariel. The titular character is fascinated by everything human and longs to experience life as one. She

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achieves this goal by sacrificing her voice to Ursula, a sea witch, in exchange for a pair of legs. Laura Sells argues that this "trade" symbolizes blatant sexism as Ariel gives up her means of communication and expression in favor of the physically attractive symbol of human legs, conforming to society's idealized version of womanhood.

Ursula attempts to reassure Ariel about her inability to communicate by saying, "You'll have your voice, your appearance, and don't underestimate the importance of body language." According to Deborah Ross, this implies that young girls should prioritize having a young and slender body, and should make sacrifices to achieve or obtain this physical characteristic. Ross further argues that this message teaches girls that they must be thin and attractive, and she adds that the only other prominent female character, Ursula, who is described as short, thick, and ugly, transforms into a tall, thin, and seemingly beautiful woman in an attempt to win Ariel's love interest. This film demonstrates the perpetuation of stereotypical "memes," or prevailing ideas about women that extend across different types of media.

For this negative judgment, there are two specific memes that will be targeted: 1. ) Women being seen as the weaker sex, needing support from strong, independent males and 2. ) Women being expected by men (and possibly other women) to adhere to certain beauty standards, which currently include being thin and young. Some sociologists who critique the feminist interpretation of media-influenced behavior and actions come from the functionalist perspective. Functionalists believe that men and women have evolved differently to fulfill their distinct and complementary roles, which are necessary for survival. Sociobiologists also criticize the feminist perspective,

asserting that behavioral differences between genders arise from different reproductive and sexual strategies that have evolved to ensure the passing down of genes through offspring.

The text here is more closely related to the sociobiologists' viewpoint. However, it includes more input from life scientists and evolutionary psychologists themselves, without the bias that sociology often brings. First, we will address the stereotype or meme that adult females are weak and dependent. While there is controversy surrounding this topic, it would be simplistic to ignore it from a biological perspective. Addressing it does not imply that women are inferior but acknowledges that they have different genetically determined roles. However, due to the understanding of human equality, this does not mean anyone is confined to these roles. As rational agents, all individuals have the unique ability to decide which roles they will embrace. The prevailing perspective in biology is that "social relationships of all mammals are primarily influenced by reproductive physiology."

According to ethologists and evolutionary life scientists, the key milestone in human development was when our ancestors first gained the ability to use projectiles for hunting small game. This led to a larger brain size, which then posed a challenge for childbirth and resulted in humans being born helpless and with an extended gestation period. Consequently, the female became the sole provider of nourishment for the nursing child and was unable to hunt. This gave rise to the first gender roles, with males being responsible for hunting and bringing back killed animals, while females stayed at home to nurture the young. Additionally, the energy expended during hunting led to food preparation being reserved for females (and potentially older children)

as well. Prominent life scientists such as Leonard Shlain, Gerda Lerner, and Donald Symons argue that the acquisition of meat played a vital role in the development of female gender.The reason behind this behavior is that females who desired a share of the meat had two options: they either had to rely on the selflessness and generosity of the huntsmen or be willing to trade with sex. If they were not willing to trade, there would be no reason for males to spend time bringing back food to the females. Esteemed ethologists like Jane Goodall have observed this behavior in chimpanzees and baboons, our closest ancestors, which are crucial for comparative and historical analyses. This is achieved by comparing human behavior with that of other primates and concluding that shared behaviors have undergone minimal evolution and are less likely to change.

The comparison between the trade of meat and sex is exemplified in this entry from one of Jane Goodall's diaries. It states that when chimpanzees or baboons kill and eat other animals, the females form a circle around the males while they eat. The females, through their body language and gestures, seem to be requesting a portion of the meat. The males usually give their meat to the females who are in heat. This suggests that the males have something that the females desire - food. On the other hand, only a few females have something that the males desire - sex.

Upon further investigation by renowned researchers such as E.O. Wilson, Helen Fisher, and Solly Zuckerman, it has been observed that this behavior occurs consistently in almost all hominids. Anthropologist James Frazer has also witnessed

a similar behavior in indigenous tribes on every continent where any "primitive" people still exist.


This poses a challenge to the concept of cultural relativism, as some of these behaviors and traits appear to be universal or at least universally recognized. Moving ahead, the concept of societal expectations regarding women's beauty will be examined. Through thorough examination, one can expect to find the same level of universality in this characteristic as well. One might assume that a subjective quality like beauty would be particularly difficult to explain from a biological perspective, but it is in fact the main factor in Darwin's interpretation of sexual selection.

Biologists typically define beauty as "traits that appear more frequently than non," and while this may seem like a dull or inaccurate definition, it starts to make more sense when considering colorful birds like the Inachis io. According to this definition, one could assume that beauty and sexual activity have historically had a positive correlation, and the lack of heat in humans seems to have been the most significant trait in terms of female beauty. Leonard Shlain suggests that early human females in heat were the ones who would obtain food, as they could provide the necessary sexual favors. Over millions of years, the survival of females relied on their sexual receptivity, which eventually led to the complete disappearance of heat in humans. Shlain further argues that even our institution of marriage "is rooted in this primitive transaction." Since natural selection eventually eliminated any evidence of heat, other than relatively insignificant menstruation, females had to develop alternative methods of attracting mates for food. It is widely speculated that this

is when human females began painting their faces and adorning themselves with carefully selected jewelry and decorations.



According to evolutionary psychologist David Buss, the use of language by hominids led to the face becoming the center of attention in interpersonal interactions due to the removal of heat. Early hominid females used colors to decorate their faces, using shades that symbolized reproductive organs. However, Buss later criticized this view and suggested that this behavior was actually an attempt to imitate the most desirable females, who displayed characteristics associated with good health. For example, color on the lips, cheeks, and other areas of the face indicated a healthy female who would not require much effort or resources to feed. It could also be argued that youthfulness is inherently desirable since younger individuals show fewer signs of deterioration and exhibit characteristics associated with good health. The movie "Idiocracy" portrays a dystopian society controlled by commerce and anti-intellectualism, where natural selection does not favor intelligence as a necessary survival trait, resulting in widespread ignorance.

An excessive amount of misogyny is seen as completely normal, and the ideal woman is a prostitute. The president, Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, is a muscular, ex-porn star who always has a large number of women following him. The society is built around the belief that women are inferior to the strong, overly sexually inhibited men, as evidenced by H&R Block offering sexual favors in addition to tax returns. While there is limited literature on the social interpretation of male stereotypes, it is possible that the same interpretations used for females could be applied.

That is, media like Idiocracy

perpetuate stereotypes about men, portraying them as sexually aggressive individuals whose only concern is pursuing women and asserting their dominance over other males, either physically or emotionally. Two specific stereotypes will be discussed in relation to men: 1.) Men are emotionally closed-off and are expected to be strong, daring, and resilient. 2.) Men are inclined towards sexual pervasiveness and objectifying women. The first stereotype, or meme, regarding men is that they are, or are expected to be, strong, daring, and resilient.

The life scientists argue that these traits exist because early females found them attractive. Shlain explains that the effort required to acquire meat resulted in a spirited defense from potential prey, and thus early females recognized courage and bravery as traits necessary for obtaining food. Simone de Beauvoir states that since the acquisition of meat demonstrated courage, early females associated courage and bravery with the possibility of acquiring food. Additionally, because sex was exchanged for meat, hunting gained a sexual connotation. As hunting is an aggressive act, males naturally became more aggressive as well.

The development of menstruation caused females to lose a significant amount of iron (Fe), making meat even more valuable for both sexes. Adult females needed meat for their health and endurance and were willing to be more sexually appealing in order to obtain it. Males recognized that having more meat increased their chances of mating with multiple females, creating competition among males to acquire meat. The alpha male, who brought back the most meat, had the highest opportunity for mating. This competition was determined by a male's ability to obtain meat, which typically required courage, bravery, and other masculine characteristics. Male jingoism,

which includes an obsession with sex and the objectification of females, will be addressed next. It is important to note that both males and females may have developed a compulsion with sex, as exemplified in the exchange of food for sex and the consequent development of implicit makeup in females. Even if females developed this compulsion due to being fed, the act itself would provide them with a sense of security. As Simone de Beauvoir suggests, it has made males "transcendent," elevating their existence and giving them purpose, significance, and an exciting task.

Moreover, according to the aforementioned old illustration, it seems that if women had not already started objectifying themselves, men would not have done it so easily. However, it is possible that women's externalization of themselves developed as a result of early male interference, creating a "chicken or the egg" situation. Nevertheless, the fact remains that early women at least played a role in externalizing themselves at some point, making it easier for men. Regardless of what came first, the main idea concerning the objectification of women is that it appears to stem from traits that women were attracted to. Just as the increase in pregnancy and maturity led females to adopt certain roles, males may have also developed this behavior (and others) as a direct result of the selection process by female partners, favoring those who exhibited relatively violent, dominant, and externalizing characteristics. The aim of this paper was to address the belief that the media is not actually creating gender stereotypes or influencing behavior, but rather reporting on how we already think and have been biologically programmed.Although not many individuals may agree

with this statement, it is important to acknowledge that there may exist alternative viewpoints. However, it is worth noting that societal and cultural interpretations lack substantial evidence compared to the extensive amount of empirical data observed, predicted, and explained in the field of biological science. The social sciences, in particular, are more susceptible to bias as they primarily focus on human interactions and the perceived inequalities that a biologically determined explanation would entail.

However, E.O. Wilson, in his article "Human Decency Is Animal," argues that environmentalism may lead to authoritarian mind control and even worsen inequality compared to biological explanations. Many people believe that civilization is the most fundamental form of media and that it undeniably impacts human behavior and perpetuates stereotypes. However, the response to this belief is both rapid and emotional. In other words, if one agrees that there is any biological influence on human behavior, they must also acknowledge that civilization, unless a supernatural force or extraterrestrials are involved, is inherently biological. Humans have created civilization based on their own biology, and it can be argued that if our biology were different, civilization would have been affected accordingly. The main concern arising from a biological perspective is the existence of inequality and social injustice; however, this assumption may be simplistic since the characteristics that society values also happen to be associated with males.

This is where the misinterpretation appears to be, and it would be an error for females, or anyone else for that matter, to continue believing that they need to possess male-associated characteristics in order to achieve equality. The only thing that will lead to true equality is the recognition of typically

feminine traits as being just as valuable as those associated with males, and in some cases, even more valuable. Just like physical strength and weakness, there is actual biological evidence to support this assertion, as this paper has sought to demonstrate. However, there is no biological claim that strength is a greater asset or offers more evolutionary advantages, and in many animals, this is clearly evident. Even humans, who seem to dominate the Earth, are physically weaker than many other carnivores. In other words, evolution does not use any objective means to determine the survival or superiority of certain traits; it is only humans who assign value to certain traits. For example, if a person were given a list of attributes and the labels "male," "female," or "good," it is likely that the attributes associated with males would also be the ones primarily labeled as "good."

What is being suggested is that society has placed a high value on traits that are primarily associated with men, and this value has been mistakenly attributed as the definition of being good. However, once we recognize this differentiation, a significant change in how we determine the value of traits will lead to true equality. Interestingly, there is an argument that stereotypes may be both a biological and socially constructed characteristic, with media playing a predominant role in promoting them. However, attributing media as the sole responsible factor raises difficult questions about the origins and universality of these stereotypes, especially in societies with less media influence. Upon closer examination, the correlation between media stereotypes and behavior becomes less apparent, suggesting that it may not be sufficient evidence to fully support

a causal relationship.

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