Chapter 9: Gender

Chapter 9: Gender
What Makes Men and Women Different?
• Is it something biologically determined, or is it the result of
social and cultural processes?
• The term sex was taken to refer to the biological
characteristics associated with maleness and femaleness.
• The term gender was used to refer to the social and cultural
characteristics of masculinity and femininity.
• However, this distinction appears likely to be come less clear
because the cultural processes of gendering have been found
to have a multitude of effects on biology.
Transvestites vs. Transsexuals
• Transvestites: Men who prefer to dress as
women or women who prefer to dress as
• Transsexuals: Individuals who believe their
anatomy is out of synch with their gender
Biological Determinism
• Biological determinism: The idea that certain
characteristics are inherently distinct as a
result of biological factors.
• Auguste Comte believed that the division of
labor between males and females was
biologically determined.
• Sociologists today regard gender not as a inevitable
outcome of biology but as a process and product of
social construction.
• Gendering: The process by which individuals take on
gender identities, behaviors, and actions. There is no
such thing a a single, fixed gender identity, such as
“man” or “woman.”
• Gendering is a fluid process that intersects with
other identities or aspects of identity, including class,
status, ethnicity, and sexuality.
Gender and Sports
• Body image: A person’s perception of his or her
own appearance. Body image is not a neutral
perception but, rather, is heavily influenced by
cultural and social norms and values regarding
what is beautiful, masculine, feminine, strong,
• Body image disorder: A condition characterized
by excessive emphasis on the development and
appearance of one’s body. Individuals with
body image disorders have inaccurate
perceptions of their appearance and act in
accordance with these distorted perceptions.
Gender & Stereotypes
• Gendering: The process by which individuals take on
gender identities, behaviors, and actions. It is a fluid
process that intersects with other identities or
aspects of identity, including class, status, ethnicity,
and sexuality.
• Stereotype: An oversimplified (and often
exaggerated) belief that is applied to an entire social
category and/or the individuals within it.
Gender at Work
• Horizontal segregation: Gender segregation across
occupations. For example, nursing and school
teaching are jobs typically held by women, whereas
construction work and engineering are jobs typically
help by men.
• Vertical Segregation: Gender segregation within an
occupation. In situations characterized by vertical
segregation, one gender is concentrated at lower
levels of the occupations hierarchy in terms of status
and pay.
Figure 9.1
Women in Selected Traditionally Male
Explaining Segregation
• Gender ideologies: Sets of cultural beliefs, values,
and attitudes about the genders that contribute to
the rationalization of inequalities in society.
• For example, gender ideologies about women’s roles
and the lower value of their work help to perpetuate
the lower wages they receive relative to men.
Explaining Segregation (cont.)
• The way the economy works encourages the
development of a reserve army of labor
• Reserve army of labor: A pool of workers who are
available for full-time work in times of scarce labor
and can easily be fired or put on part-time schedules
when there is less work.
• Typically composed of women and minorities.
Figure 9.2 Percentage
of Adult Women Reporting
Physical Assault by a Male Partner
Exploitation and Abuse (cont.)
• Gender abuse: Exploitation and violation of
people (more often women than men) on the
basis of their gender.
• Gender abuse includes but is not limited to
sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, and
genital mutilation.
Culture and Mass Media
• Gender-neutral language: Language that avoids
gendered nouns and pronouns such as mankind and
• Many feminists have argued that gender inequalities
and discrimination are promulgated by terminology
that subtly implies masculine dominance and,
accordingly, have campaigned in favor of everyday
speech that employs gender-neutral language such
as humankind and they.
Culture and Mass Media (cont.)
• Cultural scripts: Patterned norms, values, and
behaviors that serve as guidelines for social
interaction. Cultural scripts are different for different
“characters” such as men and women.
• For example, because cultural scripts for men differ
from those for women, there are different
expectations for single males and females on a first
Culture and Mass Media (cont.)
• Cultural dopes: Unthinking followers of
fashions and trends. Feminist theorists, in
particular, caution against labeling women
who adopt beauty regimes as cultural dopes
who unconsciously subscribe to a trend that
keeps them subordinate to men.
• Identity Politics: A category of cultural issues
being addressed by feminists that concerns
gender identities and includes such topics as
mass-media images of women, attitudes
toward sexuality, and physical appearance.
Strategies for Achieving Gender Equality
For liberal feminists, who emphasize the
classical liberal philosophy of individual rights,
the main task is to increase women’s freedom
of choice and provide more opportunities to
exercise their talents.
Social Feminists
Social feminists advocate more fundamental
changes, especially in the economic system,
where the exploitation of women’s labor,
whether through low-paid employment or
unpaid housework, is seen as just one aspect
of the drive to make profits by keeping down
labor costs.
Radical Feminists
Radical feminists want fundamental changes
as well, but they believe that male dominance
will be abolished only when our cultural ideas
and practices base on gender are eliminated
altogether. Their goal is a “gender-free”
Study Questions
• What is the difference between “sex” and
“gender”? Why was this distinction
introduced? How has it become problematic?
• What was the major finding from George
Murdock’s survey? In what way does his work
resonate with classical sociology’s
understanding of the social division of labor?
Study Questions
• How has biological determinism been challenged?
What kind of evidence contradicts its claims? What
accusations have been made about its proponents?
• How is gender understood in current sociology?
• What is the difference between horizontal and
vertical gender segregation in the workplace?
Study Questions
• What is the reserve army of labor? Why do women
and immigrants make up the overwhelming majority
of this reserve army?
• Discuss feminists’ use of Foucault’s theories to
condemn diet and beauty regimes as symbolic of
female submission. Why have other feminists been
reluctant to do so?
• How do liberal, socialist, and radical feminists differ
in terms of their strategies fro achieving gender

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