Sex, Gender and CultureBased on thorough reading of the chapter, students should be able to: ● Discuss the physique and physiology of males and females. ● Discern gender roles from biological roles. ● Compare male and female relative contributions to subsistence. ● Analyze political leadership and warfare as part of a pattern in sex, gender, and culture. ● Discuss the relative status of women. ● Analyze the many components of human sexuality and the regulation of sexuality. A. Physique & PhysiologySexually dimorphic – differences in female & male appearance ● Females have proportionally wider pelvises ● Females have larger proportion of body weight in fat ● Males are taller & have heavier skeletons ● Males have a larger proportion of body weight in muscles ● Males typically have greater grip strength, proportionally larger hearts & lungs, greater aerobic capacityPossible Evolutionary Explanations for Differences in Human Male & Female Physique ● Females bear children; selection may have favored earlier cessation of growth, therefore less ultimate height, in females so that nutritional needs of a fetus would not compete with a growing mother’s needs. ● Females are less affected than males by nutritional shortages, presumably because they tend to be shorter and have proportionately more fat.These may have been favored by nature as they resulted in greater reproductive success.Possible Cultural Explanations for Differences in Human Male & Female Physique ● Societal expectations on how far males & females are allowed to engage in muscular activity. ● Social construction of expected behaviors in certain given situations. B. Sex Roles and Gender RolesWhat is Sex? ● Biologically determined ● What makes one either male or female ● Physical characteristics ● Constant across time ● Constant across different societies and cultureSex is the biological difference between males and females or men and women. Sex is: Genital (i.e., penis, vagina, womb, breast) Hormonal (i.e., estrogen, testosterone) Chromosomal – (XX, XY, XXY, XXXY, XYY) Social – (face-to-face position) Surgical – (in/fertility, impotence)
What is Gender? ● Socially constructed, socially defined ● What makes one feminine or masculine ● Learned behaviors ● Changes across time ● Changes across places and culture ●Gender refers to the economic, social and cultural attributes and opportunities associated with beingmale or female in a particular social setting at a particular point in time. They are socially constructed, notphysically determined. Gender is: ● Relational (social construction) ● Hierarchical (power relations) ● Dynamic (change over time) ● Context-specific (variation due to ethnicity, class culture, etc.) ● Institutional (systemic)Gender role socializationGender role socialization refers to the process of learning among men & women, culturally approved waysof thinking, feeling and behaving which may be shaped by family, school, state, church and media. In allsocieties, males and females are expected to behave in ways that are very different. They are socializedfrom early childhood to conform to masculine and feminine roles and norms. ● Sex roles, as earlier mentioned, are activities based on biological function, for instance, pregnancy. ● Gender roles, on the other hand, refer to: ● What women and men do ● Activities that are learned and NOT inborn ● Behaviors learned in early childhoodACTIVITY: Identify the male and female members of your family. Give the sex role and gender role ofeach member.ACTIVITY 2: Check out women’s work in Sierra Leone at http://www.fao.org/NEWS/FACTFILE/FF9719-E.htm. How does this compare to work of women in our society? How does this compare to males inour society? Type of Activity Males Almost Males Usually Either Gender or Females Females Almost Always Both Usually Always
Primary Hunt & Trap Fish, herd large Collect shellfish, Gather wildSubsistence animals animals, collect care for small plantsactivities wild honey, clear animals, plant, land & prepare soil tend to crops & for planting harvest crops, milk animals, preserve meatSecondary Butcher animals Preserve meat & Care for children, Care for InfantsSubsistence fish cook, prepare vegetable, food, drinks, dairy, launder, fetch water collect fuel, spin yarnOther Lumber, mine, Build houses, Prepare skins, quarry, engage make nets, rope, make leather in combat, make exercise political products, baskets, boats, shell leadership mats, clothing, objects pottery Theories that Explain Differences in Gender Division of Labor ● Strength Theory (males have greater aerobic capacity) The strength theory states that “the greater strength of males and their superior capacity to mobilize their strength in quick bursts of energy (because of their greater aerobic capacity)” is the reason for the near universal patterns of in the division of labor by gender. Activities that require lifting heavy objects (hunting large animals, butchering, clearing land, and working with stone, metal or lumber) may generally be performed best by males. ● Compatibility-with-Child-Care Theory This theory asserts that worldwide patterns in division of labor can be best explained by the fact that women’s tasks tend to be those that are compatible with childcare. In other words, women’s tasks are usually those that do not take them away from home for long periods, that do not place children in potential danger if they are taken along, and that can be stopped and resumed if an infant needs care. ● Economy-of-Effort Theory This theory suggests that individuals in society tend to perform tasks which they are more knowledgeable of, and which are located near each other. Hence, males would find it more advantageous to make musical instruments because they collect the materials involved, for example, by lumbering. Females, on the other hand, have to be near home to take care of young children, hence it would be economical for them to perform chores that are located in or near the home. ● Expendability Theory This theory puts forward the argument that men, rather than women, will tend to do the
dangerous work in society because men are more expendable, because the loss of men is less disadvantageous reproductively than the loss of women. (However, these theories, singly or in combination, don’t explain certain cases. For example, the Nepal women, who do farming in the mountain areas of Nepal, and when we consider that the tedious task of agricultural work in the mountains are hardly compatible with childcare; and the Agta women of our own country who hunt alone or in groups almost 30 percent of the large game.) Conclusion: None of the available theories implies that worldwide patterns of division of labor will persist. In industrial societies, where machines have replaced humans’ strength, a strict gender division of labor begins to disappear.C. Relative Contributions to Subsistence Relative contributions – measure of “who contributes more to subsistence” in terms of time spent away from home versus caloric measures.● Primary subsistence activities – food-getting activities (gathering, hunting, fishing, herding and agriculture)● Secondary subsistence activities – involve preparing and processing of food● In most societies, both women and men typically contribute to primary-food getting activities, but males tend to contribute more in terms of calories.● Women are pre-occupied with infant & child-care responsibilities.● But, generally contribution to primary-food getting activities will depend on type of societies. For instance, hunting & fishing are typically male activities; but societies that depend primarily on gathering, food-gathering is a woman’s task.D. Political Leadership & Warfare In almost all known societies, men rather than women are the leaders in the political arena. Some possible explanations for male dominance in politics & warfare will include the following: ● Warfare requires strength (for throwing weapons) & quick bursts of energy (for running) ● Combat is not compatible with childcare ● Women’s potential fertility is more important than their potential usefulness as warriors. ● Men’s activities typically take them farther from home; women tend to work more around the home. If societies choose leaders at least in part because of what they know about the larger world, then men will generally have some advantage.● One important determining factor for exclusion of women in politics was the organization of communities around male kin. If a society is patriarchal, and majority of societies are, and as women usually have to leave their communities and move to their husband’s place, they will definitely have less political advantage as they are “strangers” in that place and have no knowledge of community members and past events.E. The Relative Status of Women The phrase “relative status of women” can mean many different things. According to anthropologists, it may mean: ● How much importance society confers on males versus females?
● How much power and authority men and women have relative to each other? ● What kinds of rights women and men possess to do what they want to do? Social scientists are curious to know why status of women appears to vary from society to society. In other words, why is there variation in degree of gender stratification? Theories that Attempt to Explain the Relatively High or Low Status of Women: 1. Women’s status will be high when they contribute substantially to primary subsistence activities. 2. Where warfare is equally important, men will be more valued and esteemed than women. 3. Where there are centralized political hierarchies, men will have higher status. 4. Men usually play a dominant role in political behavior, so men’s status is more important wherever political behavior is more important or frequent. 5. Women will have higher status where kin groups and couples’ place of residence after marriage are organized around women. A cross –cultural researcher, Martin Whyte, attempted to evaluate these theories and the following are some of his findings from his study: 1. The idea that generally high status derives from a greater caloric contribution (see theory number 1 above) to primary subsistence activities is not supported at all. 2. There is no consistent evidence that a high frequency of warfare generally lowers women’s status in different spheres of life. 3. Where kin groups and marital residence are organized around women, women have a somewhat higher status. 4. Women have lower status in societies with political hierarchies. Although Whyte’s studies and other researches of the same nature has yet to come up with very strong results, anthropologists are now beginning to understand some conditions that may enhance or decrease certain aspects of women’s status. Finding out which among these conditions are most important may help us reduce gender inequality. Think: Assess the current status of women in our society. Would you say they are higher or lower than, or equal to the status of men? Be able to support your claim. F. SexualitySexuality refers to the expression of who we are. It involves a person’s thoughts, feelings, and sexualexpression and relationships, as well as the biology of the sexual response system.We are all sexual. Our sexuality includes: ● our bodies and how our bodies work; ● our gender—masculine or feminine; ● our sexual orientations—heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual; and, ● our values about life.Sexual/Gender orientation, Sexual behavior/activities ● Sexual orientation is the erotic or romantic attraction (or “preference”) for sharing sexual expression with the opposite sex (heterosexuality), one’s own sex (homosexuality), or both sexes
(bisexuality). ● Sexual behaviors are actions (touching, kissing, and other stimulation of the body) related to the expression of one’s sexuality. ● Sexual activities related to sexual expression that are performed habitually or repeatedly can be referred to as sexual practices (although some use the terms “sexual behaviors” and “sexual practices” interchangeably).Sexuality is socially constructed. The social construction of sexuality incorporates collective andindividual beliefs about: ● the nature of the body. ● what is considered erotic or offensive. ● and what and with whom it is appropriate or inappropriate for men and women (according to their age and other characteristics) to do or to say about sexuality.In other words, no society we know of leaves sexuality to nature; all have at least some rulesgoverning “proper” conduct. Societies differ markedly in degree of social activity permitted or encouragedbefore marriage, outside marriage, and even within marriage; and in their tolerance of nonheterosexualbehaviors.Actvitiy: Research on permissiveness versus restrictiveness among various societies in thefollowing practices: premarital sex, extramarital sex, sex within marriage and homosexuality.Hypothesize on why such variations on cultural regulation of sexuality exist. How tolerant is ourown society with such practices? Can you back up your position with available data?