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Write one single-spaced page answer for each essay. Use APA citations where appropriate. Support you examples with your own real life observations and experiences. Be descriptive, using specific details, so that it is clear how the examples support your answer.Include the number of the essay question before each essay and add a page break between each.1. How is gender socially constructed?2. Take one theory of gender development and argue for or against it (not both), using your own personal experiences.3. Name and define 3 ways the English language shows gender differences. Why, or why not, (choose one view point only) are these valid viewpoints.4. Do you identify with any of the groups mentioned in Week 1 reading under Feminism versus Feminisms. If so, state your choice and provide examples of how you fit that group. If not, state why and illustrate with examples (maybe you straddle more than one group).
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II. Gender Development and Gender Identity Theories
We will look at four different groups of theories that attempt to explain how gender is developed
and how we obtain our gender identities. Before we examine gender theories, however, let’s
first discuss the usefulness of theories. A theory explains or represents a phenomenon.
According to Littlejohn & Foss (2004), theories:
facilitate the organization and synthesis of information
aid us in sharing knowledge
identify key variables and relationships
promote evaluation and dialogue
challenge our current cultural experience and provide us with alternatives
The theories we will examine look at gender development and gender identity from four different
perspectives: biological, cultural, psychological, and sociobiological. As you read the module
commentary, decide which theory or category of theories makes the most sense to you.
A. Biological
Researchers from the biological perspective believe that gender is based primarily on biological
differences. We all know the obvious differences between boys and girls at birth, but how do
these differences influence our behavior, perceptions, and experiences? Sax (2005) argues that
substantial research produced over the last 20 years has shown that sex differences are more
profound and important than anyone ever suspected. Sax warns against confusing gender
differences with gender stereotypes. He specifically mentions the following inaccurate gender
differences that are commonly perpetuated in our society:
Boys are inherently more skilled at science and math than girls are.
Girls are inherently more emotional than boys are.
Girls inherently work together to accomplish things, while boys are more competitive.
Although Sax states that these beliefs are false and not based on substantiated empirical
evidence, he is clear in his belief in the existence of many innate gender differences that
originate in the brain (2005). We will focus our attention on sex differences in hormones, sex
chromosomes, and brain development and structure.
1. Hormonal Differences (Testosterone and Estrogen)
Gamble and Gamble (2003) state that hormonal differences among men and women are central
to many of the biological theories of gender development and identity. Although all human
bodies contain the three primary hormones known as progestrogens, androgens, and estrogens
(Ivy & Backlund, 2004), these hormones exist at different levels in males and females.
Testosterone (androgen) and estrogen are the hormones most central to the discussion of
gender differences.
Lorber and Moore (2007) note that increases in testosterone and estrogen levels are
responsible for shaping boys’ and girls’ bodies in the teenage years. Some researchers have
found that “… men produce ten to twenty times as much testosterone as women do, and
testosterone profoundly affects physique, behavior, mood, and self-understanding” (Gamble &
Gamble, 2003, p. 35). A high level of testosterone in males produces an increase in bone mass,
muscle size, and bone size, and these changes result in growth spurts for males (Lorber &
Moore). Testosterone is also responsible for the increase in facial and bodily hair and the
deepening of the voice in males.
In females, estrogen brings about menstruation, ovulation, enlarged breasts, and hair under the
arms and in the pubic area (Lorber & Moore, 2007). Also, the pelvis expands, while pockets of
fat appear in the buttocks, hips, and thighs.
Even with all of these differences, men and women need both of these hormones for healthy
bodies. Men who are estrogen-deficient are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis (Ehrenreich,
1999). Women’s bodies create and use testosterone, and there are indications that women
require testosterone to become sexually aroused.
Ivy and Backlund (2004) have examined the role of female hormones in nurturance, and they
report that researchers have found a link between female hormones and a person’s propensity
to nurture. A woman’s neurological experience is more likely to be profoundly affected by
hormonal surges that vary over the course of her life (Garofoli, 2006). They also mention,
however, that societal pressures, culture, opportunities to fill nurturing roles, and personal
experiences also contribute to an individual’s ability to nurture others.
A recent study conducted by psychologists at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, illustrates how
experience can also influence testosterone levels in males. In the study, researchers measured
the testosterone levels of male participants and then seated the males individually at a table in
an empty room (Carey, 2006). They were asked to choose to disassemble either a game (the
board game Mouse Trap) or a gun and then write instructions for the task they chose. The
testosterone levels were reassessed after the males completed this task.
The males who disassembled the gun yielded higher levels of testosterone, and the males who
disassembled the game held constant testosterone levels. The males were then asked to taste
a glass of water that contained a drop of hot sauce, and after doing so they were required to
prepare a glass of water with as much hot sauce as they desired for the next participant. The
males who disassembled the gun and measured higher levels of testosterone put three times
the amount of hot sauce in the water than those who took apart the game (Carey, 2006). This
example reveals that biological differences can become more prominent through our
experiences.
2. Sex Chromosomes
Other theorists working from the biological perspective have explored the relationship of our
chromosomes to our sex. One very interesting area of study examines the genes for
intelligence. Many of the genes for intelligence are attached to the X chromosome (Tanouye,
1996). Males inherit an X genetically only from their mothers; therefore, their intelligence comes
primarily from their mothers. Because women inherit an X chromosome from both parents, they
are able to inherit their intelligence from either parent.
Tanouye (1996) notes that males and females have basically the same mean IQ scores, but
men make up more of the mentally challenged and genius populations. This may now
potentially be explained by this new finding, because males inherit only a single X chromosome
and experience the full influence of intelligence genes that lead to either mental handicaps or
genius. Because females can receive the gene from both their fathers and their mothers, “the
effect of a gene on one X chromosome may be diluted by the matching gene on the other”
(Tanouye, 1996, p. B-1). This research provides another interesting piece of evidence to
suggest that there are biological differences between the sexes.
3. Brain Development and Structure
Scientists studying brain structures also argue for differences among males and females.
Neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine of the University of California at San Francisco and
founder of the Women’s and Teen Girls’ Mood and Hormone Clinic, argues that the brains of
women and men are different in structure and chemical make-up (Garofolio, 2006). Her
research shows that our brains are hardwired for “Stone Age necessities.” When we are born,
we are already hardwired based on our sex, and this hardwiring will influence our behavior.
Brizendine believes that society must recognize, accept, and appreciate how neurological
differences influence behavior. Brizendine feels that understanding and accepting these
differences will lead to better relationships (Garofoli, 2006). One of the differences she notes is
that, although a man’s brain may be larger overall, the area of a woman’s brain that creates
memories, emotion, and language and decodes emotions in others is larger than that of their
male counterparts.
Sax (2005) reviewed the literature on male-female brain differences and shared the following
findings:
Women have better brain blood flow.
In some important portions of the brain, women have larger brain cells that allow them to
receive more inputs than men can.
“For many tasks, brain imaging studies show that women use the most advanced areas of the
brain, the cerebral cortex, whereas men doing the same task use the more ‘primitive’ areas of
the brain such as the globus pallidus, the amygdala, or the hippocampus” (Sax, 2005, p. 31).
Girls develop a link between the amygdala (responsible for negative emotions) and the
cerebral cortex at a significantly earlier age than boys. This allows younger girls to discuss their
feelings, while a boy the same age may be unable to do so.
Biological researchers are clear that nature is an important influence on gender identity and
should not be excluded from the equation for the purposes of political correctness or in
response to feminist criticism. The majority of researchers today view nature and nurture as
working together to form gender identity.
Researchers view biology as a factor that influences gender, not the sole determiner of gender.
Scientists such as Neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine of the University of California at San
Francisco and researcher Bruce S. McEwen of Rockefeller University, who study sex
differences in the brain, clearly recognize the roles that experience, parenting, and environment
play in molding a person (Garofoli, 2006). Physician and psychologist Leonard Sax (2005)
acknowledges that culture, family, and society have powerful roles in influencing gender but
urges educators and parents to acknowledge and comprehend sex difference to better
understand children and how they learn. Sax is clear, however, in his desire that parents and
educators reach beyond gender stereotypes.
Do you think biology alone explains how gender is developed? Or are you like most biological
researchers, who think that both nature and nurture play roles?
Please read the case study The David Reimer Story for the biological perspective, while
keeping in mind what we have discussed regarding biology and gender. The story of David
Reimer, although sensational and tragic, clearly supports the theory that biology plays a strong
role in sex and gender identity.
B. Cultural Perspectives
Researchers from the cultural perspective believe that culture is central to our gender identity.
We will examine three prominent cultural perspectives: genderlect style theory, the standpoint
theory, and the muted group theory.
1. Genderlect Style Theory
Dr. Deborah Tannen (1995), a well-respected sociolinguist and author, examines gender and
language through the lens of sex-linked patterns. Her methodology involves analyzing individual
interactions and taking into account cultural context. Tannen (1995) believes that
misunderstandings occur in cross-gender interactions as a result of differences in
conversational style. She asserts that men and women live in very different worlds and use
different words. She calls this genderlect style theory (Tannen, 2001).
Tannen (2001) asserts that understanding the style of the opposite sex is crucial to bridging the
communication gap and establishing and maintaining effective relationships. Most women use
communication to compromise, negotiate, and connect with others. Men tend to use
communication to establish and maintain their independence and to negotiate status.
Men are also more likely to engage in report talk, while women are more likely to use rapport
talk (Tannen, 2001). Report talk is used to provide information and enhance men’s status,
power, and position. Rapport talk is used to disseminate information and to build relationships
and connections with others. Tannen has observed that men tend to solve problems and
women tend to tell each other stories. Read some examples of Rapport and Report Talk.
Tannen (2001) believes that men are still concerned with building relationships and that women
are also interested in power, but it is a matter focus and degree. The use of rapport talk among
women in a mixed-sex business setting may be detrimental because the women’s
communication style may not be perceived as representative of a leader or an expert.
Certain conversation rituals are typical of men, and others are more typical of women. Tannen
(1994) also notes these rituals that women and men frequently use in the table found below.
Table 2.1
Conversational Rituals
Conversational Rituals Frequently Used by Men
Conversational Rituals
Frequently Used by Women
Banter
Downplaying their own authority to accomplish a task without emphasizing their superior
position
Joking
Taking into consideration the influence that the interaction will have on the other person
Teasing and playful putdowns
Promoting equality
These differences in conversational rituals are believed to have developed from childhood
experiences in which children naturally gravitate toward same-sex play groups (Lovell, 2002).
Groups of girls tend to interact in pairs or small groups that are close-knit. Talk is central to their
relationships, they share secrets, and they generally solve disagreements through negotiation,
compromise, and turn-taking (Tannen, 2001). Tannen observes that girls prefer to be alike,
discourage bossiness, and are most fearful of feeling excluded (Lovell, 2002).
Boys’ play groups tend to be larger, and they usually have a clear leader. Boys jockey for
status, compete, boast, and are generally more active than girls. Boys afford their leaders
respect and are most fearful of being pushed around (Lovell, 2002).
Men and women often experience difficulties in communication because they don’t understand
one another’s style, and they expect the other person to use a style similar to their own
(Tannen, 2001). Although Tannen finds value in both communication styles, she acknowledges
that style differences can work to the disadvantage of those who are less powerful and to the
advantage of those who possess the power to impose their interpretations on others (Tannen,
1995). Tannen believes it is possible for men and women to learn from one another. For
example, in the workplace, women can learn about ritual fighting and men can learn to consult
others and praise others more frequently (Tannen, 1994).
Tannen recognizes that her research provides generalizations and that these generalizations
are clearly not an accurate representation of all men and women. She also acknowledges the
danger of stereotyping, but ultimately seeks to “describe the world the way it is” (Lovell, 2002).
Think About It Think About It 2.5: Communication Styles
Do you find Tannen’s representation of children’s play groups accurate in terms of your
childhood? Do you adopt a more direct communication style that is characterized by banter,
joking, teasing, and playful putdowns? Do you try to avoid being put in an inferior position? Or
are you more likely to use talk to create asymmetrical connections with others where status is
downplayed? Do you make a conscious effort to take people’s feelings into consideration when
communicating?
2. Standpoint Theory
We will now examine a cultural theory that is quite different from Tannen’s nonjudgmental
approach (Standpoint Theory, 2006). The standpoint theory seeks to expose the ability of
language to reinforce power imbalances and ultimately bring about social change. Julia Wood
(2007), a communications professor and standpoint theorist, defines the theory as one that
“Focuses on how gender, race, class, and other social categories influence the circumstances
of people’s lives, especially the social positions they have and the kinds of experiences fostered
within those positions” (p. 304).
Standpoint theory is founded on the belief that gender is socially constructed. A standpoint is a
location from which you observe and examine the world. Your standpoint affects how you
socially construct the world and, in turn, how your membership in a variety of groups influences
your standpoint. Various groups have diverse economic, social, and ethnic viewpoints. These
groups influence the knowledge and information that we obtain, as well as our communication
(Standpoint Theory, 2006).
Introduced in the 1970s and 1980s, standpoint theory is considered a feminist critical theory
(Harding, 2004). The standpoint theory argues that there are no objective viewpoints because
everyone is biased by his or her own situation or context. Standpoint theorists believe, however,
that groups who are marginalized or experience inferior treatment are better able to provide a
more accurate and objective view of the world. This occurs because they are knowledgeable
about their oppressors (out of necessity) and are not preoccupied with preserving the status
quo. The standpoint theory attempts to empower disadvantaged groups, value and share the
experiences of marginalized groups, and provide an alternative way of seeing the world
(Harding, 2004). Women are considered a marginalized group because of their gender.
Standpoint theory has identified profound differences in the manner in which men and woman
communicate (Standpoint Theory, 2006). Theorists argue that the differences stem from cultural
influences, as well as how men and women treat one another. Further, standpoint theorists feel
that people experience culture differently because of the inequalities that exist in society. This
theory argues that women are disadvantaged and men are privileged. The theory further asserts
that there is more value in the perspective of those whom society marginalizes than in the
perspective of those who are advantaged.
Think About It Think About It 2.6: Standpoint Theory
Do you think the standpoint theory has merit? Can we gain new insights from those who are
less powerful or disadvantaged? In what way(s) do you feel there is more value in one
standpoint than in another? Why do you think the standpoint theory generates a lot of
controversy?
3. Muted Group Theory
Muted group theory, developed by women’s studies and communications professor Cheris
Kramarae (1981), is a critical feminist theory that has it origins in the study of contemporary
cultures and marginalized groups. People who are marginalized not only lack a voice in society,
but they are also silenced. Dominant groups silence subordinate groups by their lack of interest
in what the subordinate group has to say. The result is that marginalized groups develop
alternative ways of communicating, called back-channel communication. Women use backchannel communication in private to share their experiences but must rely on male-oriented
language when expressing themselves in public.
Muted group theory asserts that men and women view the world differently because they have
different experiences as a result of the division of labor. Men have created language because of
their power and dominance and, as a result, the vocabulary we use reflects male perceptions
and experiences. The theory seeks to change the biased, sexist, male-created linguistic system
(Kramarae, 1981). We will explore the relationship between language and gender in module 3.
Thus far, we have examined biological and cultural perspectives of gender identity. The
biological perspective reveals that gender has some basis in physiological differences, and
cultural perspectives identify how our cultural experiences, societal position, and upbringing
influence the way gender is acquired. We will now turn our attention to the psychological
perspectives on gender development.
C. Psychological Perspectives
Psychological perspectives emphasize how gender is learned through observation, imitation,
interactions with others, and cognitive development. We will now examine five psychological
perspectives of gender development: identification theory, the social learning approach, social
cognitive development theory, moral voices theory, and the gender similarities hypothesis.
1. Identification Theory
The first psychological theory of gender identity we will examine is that of famous psychiatrist
Sigmund Freud. Freud’s work has its origins in psychoanaly …
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