Gender and Sexuality Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Gender and Sexuality

Define sex.

The term sex means those characteristics, biological as well as physiological, that define men and women. Sex is better defined by categorizing sexes such as make and females. Major characteristic of sex is that its aspects do not considerably change within different societies. To further explain, specific sex related examples are that women menstruate and have breasts developed capable of lactation. Such characteristics are absent in male sex. Male sex on the other hand has testicles and carries stronger bones. Such is not the case with female sex (WHO).

Define gender.

Gender is different from sex and is generally referred as socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and expectation societies that are associated with male and female sex. The gender roles are usually the construction that a society gives to male and female roles. For instance women in the U.S. earn significantly less money than male role. This is due to the role (male as breadwinner) that American society has assigned to respective genders. In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive whereas men are and in Vietnam more men as compared to women smoke. It is the society in which the women live that has considered inappropriate for women in Saudi Arabia to drive and in Vietnam to smoke. The aforementioned differences, with help of examples and explanation, helps differentiate between 'sex' and 'gender'. Sex is related to biological and physiological characteristics whereas gender is related to role constructed by the respective society. Sex is what a human being is born with whereas gender is what is constructed by the society where he/she lives (WHO).

3. Fausto-Sterling argues that labeling someone a man or woman is a social decision (Dualing Dualisms, p. 7). Why does she make this argument? Be specific.

Fausto-Sterling argues so because she opines in her work "Dueling Dualisms" that the decision to label only two sexes i.e. male and female is based on socialization rather than scientific inquiry or empirical evidence. Thus, in reality there exist five sexes such as male, female, merm, ferm, and herm. Principally, Sterling argued that there are more than two sexes and that dualism of sexes in only due to social construction and the process through which male and female sexes interact defines what sex he/she will be labeled in. Rather than any 'factual' evidence, it is the expectation of society regarding behaviors and roles that creates two sex systems. She supports her argument by stating that labeling sexes into male and female only does not do justice with individual conditions of persons that do not belong to this category just because they do not behave and act in socially acceptable and expected manners. She further asserts that if only differences between physiology and emotions are to be considered, then there are more differences within females as a group as compared to men and women as two different groups or sexes. Thus, there are more sexes than the society is willing or able to recognize (Allan 276).

4. Name and describe four theoretical perspectives that sociologists use to explain gender.

Functionalism: The theory states that our society is made up of different groups that are interdependent on each other's role performance to enable collective functioning of the society. Each part or group assumes role and responsibility with respect to the function it performs in existence of society. Preindustrial society women were assigned domestic role as it was functionally convenient due to reasons such as pregnancy, nursing, and menstruation. This required them to be close to home. Men were assigned the role of hunters since it was functionally more convenient to them. In contemporary society, same roles got carried forward and men assume the 'instrumental' whereas women assume 'expressive' role. Another assertion of functionalists is that disruption in society is 'self-corrected' due to in-built self-control mechanisms as these are more effective when common values are shared across the society (Lindsay 5-13).

Conflict theory: Unlike functionalism theory that asserts that society is self-corrected in face of disruption to social order through 'value consensus', the social conflict theory contends that social order is maintained due to dominance of one social class over the other. The theory is rooted in theoretical position held by Karl Marx that there in is an inherent struggle of power and dominance in society. Extending the theory to gender roles, it is stated that household is an autocracy and man is the dominant class whereas women is being dominated. Economic superiority is therefore vital in providing dominance of men over women and results in the establishment of a society that forms gender roles and expectations.

Symbolic interaction: The 'interactionism perspective' states that people respond to situations and world around them through the meanings they associate to such situations. This actually may not be reality but what the realty is perceived to be by the people interacting. Therefore, people whom we call 'male' and 'female' are defined by what society members associate with these sexes or roles. Thus, gender rather than being an objective thing is something subject to interpretation and meanings given by socially constructed perspectives. An alteration in socially constructed meanings of male and female roles will alter the genders as well. Symbols have more importance to society members than form or actual object of discussion.

Feminist sociological theory: The theory is feminist if it challenges the status quo that is disadvantageous to women. Therefore, feminist sociological theory has incorporated things from social conflict theory and symbolic interactionism theory. It holds that patriarchal family as an established institution is oppression to the females and restricts their independence. Gender therefore is what society has constructed and given to it meanings that we 'assume' to be true. In realty the gender roles are not the same as defined by the society. Biological construction of male and female bodies is different but explained and theorized in wrong manner. Women are considered to be physically weak whereas they are not (Lindsay 5-13).

5. Name the two arenas that men's power over women is expressed.

The two arenas in which men's power over women is expressed are 'public patriarchy' and 'domestic patriarchy' (Kimmel, 2-3).

6. Bell hooks define feminism as a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. Why does she frame feminism this way?

She frames feminism this way because the definition clearly states that feminism is not about hating males not it is anti-male but it is a movement against such bigotry and discrimination that is based on sex, the victim of which can be female or male (Hooksvii-ix). Since most of the confusion in general public regarding feminists is that they are anti-male, anti-god, and anti-nature, Hooks argues that framing the subject in correct perspective is appropriate for both general public as well as feminist scholars as well.

7. Name and describe three major branches of feminism (Note: You should know five).

Liberal Feminism: Known as 'mainstream' feminism, the branch states that all people are born equal and there should be no inequality of opportunities based on gender of a person. The main of this branch is to eliminate gender-based discrimination (Lindsay 13-16).

Socialist Feminism: States that 'patriarchy' is essentially based on oppression of women by men and creation of class-based society through capitalism is the main reason that women are kept weak and oppressed. Capitalism and sexism are mutually supportive to each other. Therefore, only a socialist movement can eliminate sexism and promote feminism.

Radical feminism: As opposed to liberal feminism that aims to end sexism in workplace and legal settings, radicals argue that neither capitalism nor socialism can address the issues raised by feminist and it is the patriarchal family system that gives birth to such sexism. Therefore, they exclude men from their institutions as well as collective efforts to eliminate sexism…

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