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Chapter 2 Overview Course Number: Gender Studies 100 Women, Men, and Society Annette Schonder Orange Coast College Division of Social Sciences Department of Sociology
Biology, Sex, and Gender: The Interaction of Nature and Environment -We like to think that genetics and biology are responsible for who we are socially and physically. -This has also been a prominent explanation for gender differences. -Gender differences are not just documented, but usually associated with higher or lower status-women’s behavior belonging into the latter category. -Sex differences were (are) seen as natural, and biology as destiny **We need to recognize the interaction of between the biological and social dimensions of life. **We need to understand that unequal distribution of power and prestige based on sex reinforces that status quo.
The Sex Chromosomes and Sexual Differentiation Genetics: 23 pairs of chromosomes (half from the mother, half from the father XX female XY Male A mother always contributes an X, the father’s sperm carries either an X or Y. In the 6th week, embryonic sexual differentiation begins. See p. 34
Chromosomal Abnormalities and Gender When sperm fail to divide properly nondisjunction occurs. This can happen at the first or the second meiotic division. See p. 35 This results in special conditions: X0 Turner Syndrome Have external female genitalia, act very feminine compared to XX girls. No biological explanation. Parents may overcompensate. XXX:show few visible signs of abnormality, tend to be taller and have higher incidence of learning disabilities
Chromosomal Abnormalities and Gender XXY: Klinefelter Syndrome: look male, small penises and testes. Grow tall. Hips feminize. Some breast development. Testes do not enlarge, no sperm production. High voices. No pubic and facial hair. Become loners/don’t date/no sex. Why? XYY Syndrome: Higher rates of incarceration. Researchers found that they do not have raised testosterone levels, and the main crimes are petty in nature. However, they are unusually tall, have low level of intellectual functioning. ->biological factors influence social factors.
Prenatal Hormones and Gender During the 6th week of pregnancy Y ->androgens (hormones)-> male sexual organs and genitalia. Adrenogenital Syndrome (AGS) (congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) 1-5,000 to 1-15,0000 births. Individuals exposed to abnormally high levels of androgens prenatally. If detected at birth hormones can be regulated. Males and females may have AGS, genetic females more severely affected. Females whose reproductive organs had developed and then were exposed. ->enlarged clitoris, labia may fuse, vagina may close Sex organs redesigned, hormones to regulate puberty Behavior: AGS: girls tomboys, prefer slacks/shorts. Like boy toys, like boys as playmates, rough house. Older AGS girls attracted to full time work vs. Homemaking/kids Not more aggressive Many desire romance, marriage, and motherhood One study found no differences in rough housing Delay in dating/sex,
Prenatal Hormones and Gender Androgen-insensitive syndrome (genetic defect/unresponsive to androgens “XY females” Genetically males/female external genitalia – but no uterus Behavior: very “female” DHT deficiency syndrome (5 alpha reductase deficiency) Low/or none -> born with normal undescended testes and internal male accessory organs. Externally female genitals that are partially masculinized (enlarged clitoris/may have incomplete scrotum that looks like female labia. At puberty ->genitals become male, penis grows, testes/scrotum descends Behavior: Most have no difficulty changing to male sex/gender role behavior at puberty. Perhaps the brain had been preprogrammed by males hormones. There are studies that the transition is not an easy one (Dominican Republic)
Genital Ambiguity: What can it teach us about gender -The development of a masculine or feminine gender identity is quite independent of either the presence of a pair of XY or XX sex chromosomes, or the production of particular hormones. -Sex nor gender is dichotomous: chromosomal sex, hormonal sex, gonadal sex, genital sex -gender includes a broad spectrum of attitudes, behaviors, and social expectations learned in our environments -a mistake to quickly to do sex assignment surgery when genitals ambiguous, in the past they just made females as it was easier -we need to be more flexible when it comes to sex and gender
The Case for His or Her Brains: Brain size not an indication of intelligence Brain size in relation to body weight yield heavier brains for women How do sex differences in the brain contribute to differences in behavior? Brain hemispheres appear to specialize in certain functions or tasks. This is called hemispheric asymmetry or brain lateralization. Left: language R: emotion Women recover from strokes more easily ->use both brain halves, men are more lateralized. (MRIs have verified this) The corpus callosum is 23% larger in women than in men. Consequences: Perhaps women are more emotional because speech and emotion are more connected. Women better with words, men better with special relations Are these sex differences present at birth, or does the brain respond to socialization?
My Hormones Made Me Do IT Example of the male boy whose penis was accidentally damaged/sex organs were reconstructed female. Was it the hormonal exposure to the brain the pre-programmed maleness?
Testosterone and Gender: Aggression and Testosterone: In animals hi testosterone yielded impatient, rough and tumble play and aggressive behavior. (Castrated animals mild) Humans: high levels of testosterone correlated with edginess, competitiveness, and anger. Holds for men and women (who took additional testosterone) Testosterone is shown to vary contingent on the situation. IE playing a competitive game->high testosterone before the game, then it drops, and then for the winner it dramatically goes back up/dramatically drops for lose. Dominance: winning/ Eminence: social approval Neurotransmitters: we know about 50 Have direct impact on behavior, emotions, moods, and learning. There seems to be a reciprocal relationship between neurotransmitters and behavior.-> social and biological history Women can be as aggressive as men. Why? Ladylike, social approval, risk of danger.
Women, Hormones, and Behavior PMS: pre-menstrual syndrome: DSM: late luteral phase dysphonic disorder: unspecified mental disorder Scientific Evidence: Women’s hormones cyclical/drop post menopause Average cycle: 28 days First 2 weeks estradiol production increases /egg mature Ovulation /progesterone production increases and estradiol goes up. If egg is not fertilized both progesterone and estradiol production drop -> menstruation 85% of all women report physical changes 1 week prior Acne, cramping, appetite up or down, fluid retention, headaches, forgetfulness, irritability 2-10 % of women have severe changes.
PMS? How much is learned behavior? What are attitudes regarding menstruation? What could it be? -Declining progesterone levels/adrenal hormone regulates body function as fluid retention, allergic reactions, blood sugar level ->progesterone as a cure -Vitamin B deficiency, imbalance in electrolyte metabolism -Stress -No evidence that premenstrual period leads to any decline in task performance A few even did better (premenstrual elation syndrome) -It appears many women have some physical discomfort, but accept this as normal/non debilitating -Questionnaires that were less biased into the negative showed women who were affected I mood and performance, but also saw things positively.
PMS? Many cures for PMS. May not be good for health i.e. progesterone May be ineffective Alleviate symptoms when present: Low fat vegetarian diet Reduce stress
The Interaction of Biology and Culture Biology not a base on which to pin experience and socialization Social constructionism can’t replace biological determinism Transformative account of gender development: A theory of gender development that recognizes the truly interactive nature of biology and environment as well as individual agency in the creation of gender by examining how culture an d individual behavior may impact biology and physiology and vice versa.