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SEX-ROLE DETERMINATION.

  Term Paper ID:18385
Essay Subject:
Cultural, natural, family influences on child's sexual identity. Covers models, masculine-feminine roles, self-image.... More...
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Paper Abstract:
Cultural, natural, family influences on child's sexual identity. Covers models, masculine-feminine roles, self-image.

Paper Introduction:
Male and female sex-roles are determined by a variety of biological and cultural influences on a society. The biological factor in gender role determination is arrived at through noting the physical differences which exist between the male and female bodies. Because men's bodies in general are physically stronger than women's bodies, it is assumed that men were intended by nature to serve as the hunters and warriors of a society. On the other hand, because women's bodies are uniquely designed to bear children, it is assumed that women were created for the purpose of caring for the home and family. This division of labor between the sexes has existed in one form or another since the earliest period of human history. However, the status of the male in society as the aggressive hunter who provides food for the family has caused men to traditionally be "more highly valued

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Men and women will continue tobe biologically different; however, there is no reasonable or trulyjustifiable basis for continuing the subordination of women along genderlines. It has been found that almost everything the parents do with thechild has some bearing on gender. Some individuals believe that thesesex-roles are normal in human society because they arose out of the innatebiological differences which exist between men and women. 19-2 ). In this regard,the anthropologist Margaret Mead once said that the sexual division oflabor exists everywhere. The unopposite sex: The end of the genderbattle. 6). Nevertheless, traditional sex-roles havebecome so ingrained in society that it is difficult for many people to seebeyond them. Onthe other hand, because women's bodies are uniquely designed to bearchildren, it is assumed that women were created for the purpose of caringfor the home and family. New York: Harper & Row. In N.Bernards, & T. Biology determines gender roles. Later in life, the early sex-role socialization provided by theparents is reinforced by various other models. 26). Some people have argued that thismeans that men are biologically smarter than women, and that they arebetter able to deal with such mental tasks as problem-solving and decision-making. 5 ). ofall the cultural influences, however, it may argued that the child's peershave perhaps the strongest impact. Dobson, J.C. Because of modern technology, there is no longer any needfor a division of labor in terms of sex-roles, as the one which was seen inearlier times. In particular,both teachers and schoolmates provide important models for the continuanceof traditional gender roles. In her words: "We know of no culture that hassaid, articulately, that there is no difference between men and womenexcept in the way they contribute to the procreation of the nextgeneration; that otherwise in all respects they are simply human beingswith varying gifts, no one of which can be Exclusively assigned to eithersex" (Badinter, 1989, p. 39). 31-39). (1989). People in modern times still need to be a part of society in order tosurvive. This is particularly true during theteen-age years, when children undergo a transition into adulthood and thesolidification of the roles which they have adopted during the process ofgrowing up. In this regard, it has been noted that: "Much of theinteraction that takes place between adolescent peers helps to reinforcetheir conceptions of gender roles. . (1985). 59).This factor can be seen in the attempts that male politicians still maketoday toward the control of women's reproductive rights, particularly theright to choose abortion. Yet anotherbiological basis for sex-roles is found in the differences which exist incomparing the male and female brain. In this regard, the normal model for femininity is contained inthe idea that all women should be married and have children. These elements of patriarchal society areclearly designed to keep women at a low level of status which issubservient to men. After that, the family continues to havea strong influence on the cultural development of sex-roles in the child.Of all the members of the family, the parents decidedly play the most vitalrole. However, it is evident that "the qualities which may havefostered human survival in the Neolithic are no longer required of modernpeople" (Lerner, 1989, p. It is argued that women experience fluctuationsbetween low and high emotions as a result of their menstrual cycles(Dobson, 1989, pp. Young boys show off their 'masculine'behaviors for girls, and girls act as if they find the boys' 'masculine'behaviors quite appealing" (Doyle, 1989, p. 52).This reveals another biological area in which men are physically strongerthan women. 182). This argument again relegates women to a subordinateposition in society, because it claims that men are stronger since they arenot distracted by uncontrollable changes in their emotions. Another biological difference between men and women which somesociologists associate with gender roles is seen in the fact that womenmenstruate and men do not. New York: Basic. In addition, it has been noted that"the main characteristic of the patriarchal society in its most absoluteform is the strict control of female sexuality" (Badinter, 1989, p. Thus, "men, in contrast,have highly specialized brain halves--the left side confining itsactivities solely to verbal problems, the right side solely to spatialones" (Fausto-Sterling, 1985, p. O'Neill (Eds.). Doyle, J. . This is a process whichstarts very early in the child's life. This self-image is an important part of what it means to be apart of a particular culture and society. The reason that gender roles have become so deeply ingrained insociety can be seen in the fact that such roles have been common sinceprehistoric times. Because of their innate aggression, men in general have come to theassumption that they are stronger and more powerful than women and thushave the right to have rulership over women. Teachers, like parents, provide importantrole models for childhood socialization of all types, including sexual. In this regard, things have not changed much since Neolithictimes. Benderly, B.L. (1989). 33).Thus, it can be seen that the way in which parents socialize sex-roles intotheir children is almost automatic. It is true that women's bodies are biologically designed for bearingand nursing children. 25). Such arguments are weak and inconclusivebecause they oversimplify the reality of what men, women, and humans ingeneral are like. As in the case of the parents,the mere examples of characters in these media sources is enough to providean effective model for the sex-role socialization of boys and girls acrossthe country. 35). The discovery of the natural differences between men andwomen in terms of the body led to a division of labor in which menspecialized in aggressive activities to support society, and womenspecialized in domestic tasks to do the same. It also serves to demonstrate yet another way in whichpatriarchies justify themselves, because the existence of rape implies thatwomen need to be protected from sexually-dominating men by other men whoend up dominating them in a different way. The fact that traditional sex-roles are found in almost all culturesshows that, in addition to being grounded in biological differences, genderroles are related to cultural influences. Another biological factor which has contributed to this divisionbetween the sexes is the fact that men tend to be more aggressive thanwomen. Parents and society then consider it a boy ora girl" (Badinter, 1989, p. learn what is expected of them through theirinteractions with others" (Doyle, 1989, p. Male/Female Roles: Opposing Viewpoints(pp. Wright (Trans.). One reason why sex-roles are so deeply ingrained in modern society isthe fact that they have existed since the earliest periods of humandevelopment. Some experts have argued thatthe biological construction of the genitals enables men to rape women, andthat this further strengthens the existence of a male-dominated socialsystem. For example, the massmedia, as seen in books, magazines, comics, radio, television, film, andrecords, are important for the role they play as they "teach, persuade, andshape people's lives" (Doyle, 1989, p. 39). 24-3 ). New York: Doubleday. socialization has been defined as "the process bywhich all people . The biological factor in gender roledetermination is arrived at through noting the physical differences whichexist between the male and female bodies. (1989). Fausto-Sterling, A. As early as one and a half or two, most kids have the ideal"(Benderly, 1987, p. References Badinter, E. The way in which masculine and feminine roles are defined makeit appear that men are stronger and thus more competent in terms of rulingthe world. (1987). In modern times, technology has made it possible forwomen to perform most of the same tasks that have traditionally been openonly to men. Studies have proven that parents tendto identify their children in terms of gender even when they are only oneday old, before any real signs of gender are visible (Doyle, 1989, p. This division of labor between the sexes hasexisted in one form or another since the earliest period of human history.However, the status of the male in society as the aggressive hunter whoprovides food for the family has caused men to traditionally be "morehighly valued and honored than women" (Lerner, 1989, p. Thus, "children need to know very early where in our two-by-twouniverse they belong, so they can learn the skills and habits of theirhalf. Thus, "the norms for malesusually prescribe that a male should shun acting feminine, be a success, beaggressive when the occasion warrants it, be the initiator in sexualrelations, and be self-reliant and tough" (Doyle, 1989, p. However, this fact does not justify the subjugationof women to the lower-class status which has been attached to the roles ofmotherhood and housekeeping. Male and female sex-roles are determined by a variety of biologicaland cultural influences on a society. Because of the statusimplications of this division of labor, a male-dominated patriarchal systembegan to develop in human society. 17-23). Recently, it has been discovered that women often perform verbal functionsusing both sides of the brain. However, there is no evidence to support this claim; nor is there anyevidence to support any of the other biologically-based arguments whichfavor the existence of sex-roles. San Diego: Greenhaven.----------------------- 11 Although they are no longer necessary forsurvival, sex-roles continue to be found throughout American culture inmodern times. 2 ). O'Neill (Eds.). In the prehistoric development of humankind, the sexual division oflabor may have been necessary for survival against the harsh conditions ofthe time. O'Neill (Eds.). Despite this fact, women, as well as men, are expected tofollow the same traditional sex-roles that have existed since prehistorictimes. Again, men are made to appear superior towomen by the fact that they lack this deficiency. In N.Bernards, & T. Because men are free from such monthlyfluctuations, it is implied that they are more capable of handlingimportant matters. However, the adoption of traditional sex-roles in which menare dominant and women are submissive contribute to the existence ofdifferent self-images in the two sexes which, in turn, helps to perpetuatethe system. In N.Bernards, & T. However, the different self-images which are socialized in boys and girls also help to perpetuate thetraditional system of male-dominance which has existed since prehistorictimes. The fact that male and female roles are a stronglyconditioned aspect of the human experience can also be seen in the factthat they exist in almost all known cultures in the world. By the time most children reach school-age, theyhave become quite familiar with the specific masculine or feminine rolesthey are expected to play among their peers. Thus, "the choice of name, the style ofclothes, the way the child is carried, the kind of games, etc., constitutethe greater part of the child's training in the development of its genderidentity" (Badinter, 1989, p. San Diego: Greenhaven. As a result,gender roles have been responsible for the widespread acceptance of women'ssubordination "as universal, God-given, or natural, hence, immutable"(Lerner, 1989, p. Lerner, G. The unique roles which are assigned to each gender arefurther reinforced when the child begins to attend school. Thus, "the traditionalist explanation focuses on woman'sreproductive capacity and sees in motherhood woman's chief goal in life, byimplication defining as deviant women who do not become mothers" (Lerner,1989, p. It has long been known that all humanbrains are divided between their right and left halves, with the left braincontrolling verbal functions and the right brain controlling the nonverbal. It is important to note that such attitudes arebeginning to change, as more people come to realize that traditional genderroles are not well-suited for the advancement of modern society.Nonetheless, sex-role socialization in both boys and girls leads to thecreation of a specific self-image about what it means to be masculine orfeminine. Myths of gender: Biological theoriesabout women and men. 5 ). Humankind has reached a phase in its development in whichit is ready to give full equality to women. The parents also teach their children by example, and as suchthey provide models for the different male and female roles which areexpected of their children. Children need to begin learning all their roles in societyat an early age because the social system is such that people need roles inorder to make sense of their own lives. Thus, sex-roles which dictate male dominance are in partattributable to the fact that "male genitals permit intercourse with anunwilling partner, but female genitals do not" (Benderly, 1987, p. As notedearlier in this paper, any male or female in society who switches theseroles is consider deviant. 32). Through this process of socialization,young children of both sexes are effectively trained in what their acceptedroles are. Because thissystem views men as stronger and women as weaker, it tends to justify theunfair domination of men over women. In order to become comfortably socialized, people generallyadopt a variety of roles and models to help them understand their functionin the world. (1989). There are many women who choose to followthat role in their lives; however, there are many others who prefer notfollow these traditional roles. In fact, it has been noted that"everything begins at birth, when the doctor declares the child's sex andit is officially registered. The effects of this system can still befelt today, for example, in the fact that women generally receive less payfor performing the same work as men. In particular, they areassociated with the socialization process, in which the child learns his orher place in society. 25). Human beings tend tocompartmentalize all aspects of existence in order that they may findgreater comfort in living. 182). Male/Female Roles: Opposing Viewpoints.(pp. Because men's bodies in generalare physically stronger than women's bodies, it is assumed that men wereintended by nature to serve as the hunters and warriors of a society. This is true also in the case of sex-roles,which help to define the specific functions of both men and women insociety. Biology does not determine gender roles. Culture influences gender roles. In fact, there is evidence that the sexual division oflabor had its origins in the Neolithic period, when men first began tospecialize in hunting and warfare, leaving women to raise the children, dothe cooking, and otherwise tend to the home. A. 3 ). Still others argue that the system is a naturaldevelopment of human culture because young children are socialized in it ata very early age. on the otherhand, the models which have been created for men are more forceful andenergetic in terms of confronting the world. San Diego: Greenhaven. Male/Female Roles: Opposing Viewpoints.(pp. B. In addition, the prevalenceof traditional sex-roles in contemporary society can also be attributed tothe fact that the socialization process begins at a very early age in thechild's life. It is true that gender roles help both men and women tounderstand their functions within society. However, this should only betrue to the extent that it defines the different reproductive functions ofmen and women. Because of this, it is possible for verbaltasks in women to "'spill over' to the right side of the brain, [and]interfere with the right hemisphere's ability to perform spatial tasks"(Fausto-Sterling, 1985, p. It is obvious that people always need other people in one way oranother and thus socialization continues to be a vital part of growing intomaturity. The myth of two minds: What gender meansand doesn't mean. People who favor this traditional social system justify it byclaiming that men and women have innate biological differences which provethat men are stronger than women and thus better suited for rulership.others argue that the system is natural simply because it has existed forthousands of years.

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