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Lesson 10: Sex and Gender

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  1. Lesson 10: Sex and Gender Robert WonserIntroduction to Sociology

  2. Lesson Outline • Differentiating ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ • What about intersex people? • Constructionist approach • Gender inequality • Theories to explain gender • Gender role socialization • Sex, gender and life chances • Women and men’s movement • Sexual orientation • Homophobia and heterosexism Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  3. What is sex? What is gender? • Although the terms “sex” and “gender” are often used interchangeably, sociologists differentiate between the two. • Sex refers to an individual’s membership in one of two biologically distinct categories—male or female. • Gender refers to the physical, behavioral, and personality traits that a group considers normal for its male and female members. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  4. Intersex • About 1 babies in 1,000 are born intersexed, or hermaphroditic, which means having an abnormal chromosomal makeup and mixed or indeterminate male and female sex characteristics. • This is a function of biological sex. • Gender is different because it relates to the way that a person behaves based on their biological sex. • In other words, we learn how to act manly or womanly based on the sex that we’re born into and society’s expectations of that sex. Hijras embracing at a wedding. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  5. As nature made him • David Reimer was subjected to gender reassignment surgery at 18 months old. What does his story tell us about the relationship between biological sex and gender identity? Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  6. Constructionist Approach to Gender Identity • Most sociologists use a constructionist approach and see gender as a social construction and acknowledge the possibility that the male–female categories are not the only way of classifying individuals. • Constructionists believe that gender is constructed, or created, through our interactions with other members of society. • In the United States we tend to classify people as being male or female, but other societies have different classification systems (hijras and berdaches for example) and people are treated differently based on the norms associated with that system. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  7. Who is this child? Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  8. Gender Inequality • Gender inequality can be found in all past and present societies. • The activities that women could participate in were limited because they had less physical strength and because of the demands of bearing and raising children. • Men delivered the most important resources to the group, such as food from hunting or land from warfare, and became powerful by controlling the distribution of these resources. • There are several sociological theories that attempt to explain why this inequality has persisted in contemporary societies. We’re going to discuss several of these theories now. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  9. Theories on Gender Inequality • Functionalists: • Believe that there are social roles better suited to one gender than the other, and that societies are more stable when certain tasks are fulfilled by the appropriate sex. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  10. Theories on Gender Inequality (cont’d) • In the 1950s, Talcott Parsons advanced the idea that the nuclear family effectively reared children to meet the labor demands of a capitalist system. • According to Parsons: • Men were more suited for an instrumental role (the person who provides the family’s material support and is often an authority figure). • Women were more suited for an expressive role (the person who provides the family’s emotional support and nurturing). Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  11. Theories on Gender Inequality (cont’d) • Conflict theorists: • Believe men have historically had access to most of society’s material resources and privileges. • Therefore, it is in their interest to try to maintain their dominant position. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  12. Theories on Gender Inequality (cont’d) • Symbolic Interactionists emphasize how the concept of gender is socially constructed, maintained, and reproduced in our everyday lives. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  13. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  14. Gender Role Socialization • Gender role socialization is the lifelong process of learning to be masculine or feminine, primarily through four main agents of socialization: families, schools, peers, and the media. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  15. Gender Role Socialization (cont’d) • Families are usually the primary source of socialization and greatly impact gender role socialization. • Social learning theory suggests that the babies and children learn behaviors and meanings through social interaction and internalize the expectations of those around them. • remember: we learn gender, we are not born knowing who wears pink Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  16. Gender Role Socialization (cont’d) • Schools also socialize children into their gender roles. • For instance, research shows that teachers treat boys and girls differently. • This may teach children that there are different expectations of them, based on their sex. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  17. Gender Role Socialization (cont’d) • In Western societies, peer groups are an important agent of socialization. • Teens are rewarded by peers when they conform to gender norms and stigmatized when they do not. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  18. Gender Role Socialization (cont’d) • Finally, there is no question that sex-role behavior is portrayed in a highly stereotypical manner in all forms of the media: television, movies, magazines, books, video games, and so on. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  19. A 1975 survey of children’s books found that boys played active roles but girls were frequently passive. What messages about gender roles might readers learn from this Dick and Jane book? Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  20. Sex, Gender, and Life Chances (cont’d) • Sex and gender affect almost every significant aspect of our lives. • Even lifespan is different by gender! • Women are disadvantaged in institutional settings in our society. Women tend to: • Do a disproportionate amount of housework • Earn less on average than their male peers at work • Remain more likely to live in poverty Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  21. U.S. Life Expectancy by Gender, 1900–2007 Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  22. Male and Female Median Earnings, 1959–2008 Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  23. Sex, Gender, and Life Chances (cont’d) • This has led to a situation called the feminization of poverty, which is the economic trend showing that women are more likely than men to live in poverty, due in part to: • the gendered gap in wages, • the higher proportion of single mothers compared to single fathers, • and the increasing cost of childcare. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  24. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  25. Sex, Gender, and Life Chances (cont’d) • Even our language and vocabulary tend to reflect a hierarchal system of gender inequality. • What’s the difference between a stud and slut? • Mankind, mailman, guys • Did I tell you the riddle about the doctor? Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  26. Feminism and the Women’s Movement • Who considers themselves to be a feminist? • Do you know what feminism is? • Feminism is the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes and the social movements organized around that belief. • In the United States, the history of the women’s movement can be divided into three historical waves. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  27. The Women’s Movement (cont’d) • The first wave was the earliest period of feminist activism and included the period from the mid-nineteenth century until American women won the right to vote in 1920. The campaign organized around gaining voting rights for women was called the suffrage movement. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  28. The Women’s Movement (cont’d) • The second wave was the period of feminist activity during the 1960s and 1970s often associated with the issues of women’s equal access to employment and education. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  29. The Women’s Movement (cont’d) • The third wave is the most recent period of feminist activity and focuses on issues of diversity and the variety of identities that women can possess. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  30. Sexual Orientation • Sexual orientation is the inclination to be heterosexual (attracted to the opposite sex), homosexual (attracted to the same sex), or bisexual (attracted to either sex). Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  31. Sexual Orientation (cont’d) Is sexual orientation a continuum rather than a few simple categories? Those who are asexual may simply reject any sexual identity at all. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender 31

  32. Homophobia Homophobia is a fear of or discrimination toward homosexuals or toward individuals who display purportedly gender-inappropriate behavior. Some argue that the term “homophobia” represents a biased attitude because the term “phobia” implies a psychological condition, thus excusing intolerance. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender 32

  33. Heterosexism • Homophobia refers to individual beliefs and behaviors, not institutionalized discrimination. • Heterosexism refers to the antihomosexual beliefs and practices embedded in social institutions. • Similar to “white privilege”; we’re not taught to see how racism puts some in a position of privilege but rather view it as something that puts racial ethnic minorities at a disadvantage. Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  34. Examples of Heterosexism • Hospitals do not recognize spousal rights for same-sex partners sick or dying or for same-sex parents with children in the hospital • Gay, bisexual and lesbian issues are not included in school curricula • School rules about name-calling, harassment or bullying are not enforced for anti-gay incidents • Student rights laws or policies do not include sexual orientation as a protected category • School social events are organized around assumptions of heterosexuality (dances, dating) • Lesbians and gay men are assumed to be a threat to children in some professions: teaching, coaching, pediatric medicine Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  35. Examples of Heterosexual Privilege • You can go wherever you want and know that you will not be harassed, beaten, or killed because of your sexuality • You do not have to worry about being mistreated by the police or victimized by the criminal justice system because of your sexuality • You can express affection (kissing, hugging, and holding hands) in most social situations and not expect hostile or violent reactions from others • You can discuss your relationships and publicly acknowledge your partner (such as by having a picture of your lover on your desk) without fearing that people will automatically disapprove or think that you are being “blatant” • You can legally marry the person whom you love in all 50 states • You can receive tax breaks, health insurance coverage, and spousal legal rights through being in a long-term relationship Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender

  36. True or False: Sociologists believe that sex and gender are essentially the same thing. a. True b. False Lesson Quiz Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender 36

  37. 2. Which theoretical perspective generally believes that there are still social roles better suited to one gender than the other? a. Conflict theory b. Functionalism c. Labeling theory d. Symbolic interactionism Lesson Quiz Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender 37

  38. 3. The physical, behavioral, and personality traits that a group considers normal for its male and female members is referring to: a. sex b. gender c. sexual orientation d. the functionalist theory of gender Lesson Quiz Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender 38

  39. 4. The economic trend showing that women are more likely than men to live in poverty is called: a. gender inequity b. the suffrage movement c. gender role socialization d. the feminization of poverty Lesson Quiz Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender 39

  40. 5. What was the cause most identified with the first wave of the women’s movement? a. Equal pay for women b. Equal access to education for women c. The right to vote for women d. The celebration of diversity Lesson Quiz Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender 40

  41. For Next Time: • Life at home and the family. • Why do we choose the mates we do? • Don’t forget to Read! (check your syllabus for assigned readings!) Introduction to Sociology: Sex and Gender