Sex and Gender

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‘One is not born, but rather becomes a woman’, this is the first sentence from Book 2 of The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, this statement will be discussed in this essay by firstly defining sex and gender and the major difference between these two terms. The socialisation of gender which means the way in which people are treated by society and especially by the family based on their sex which begins in the womb will be discussed, as well as gender appropriate behaviour; this is what behaviours are seen to be normal for each sex masculine or feminine traits. The essay will look at the difference of gender socialisation in different countries, then go on to discuss transsexuals which challenge the idea that we are socialised into our sex and finally economic and social change and the impact the feminists have had on gender ideologies over the years.

Simone de Beauvoir statement is true in many ways, she is saying that women are not born feminine but are rather socially constructed to what being feminine means in what ever culture or time define it to be. When looking at sex and gender, these are two very different terms even though they do sound quit similar and people do see them as going hand in hand. The term sex is biological, it refers to a persons anatomy, whereas gender is socially constructed by our environment, it is seen as a pattern of behaviours, these behaviours are known as feminine or masculine which are learned. Gender is seen as ‘every society expects men and women to behave differently to various degrees (Holmes et al, 2003) based on their sex, which agrees with ‘one is not born, but rather becomes a woman’. Sociologists have ‘distinguished between sex and gender as it means they are able to explore the social features of gender’ (Holmes et al, 2003). Gender is socially constructed from the moment a child is born; their sex decides how they will be treated (Holmes et al, 2003). Boys are treated more roughly for example, not comforted as much when they hurt themselves to develop masculinity. Females are treated in a softer way, for example they will be comforted if they get hurt to develop femininity (Holmes et al, 2003). From even before we can know what is going on, gender construction has begun. We receive certain cues that tell us how to act, how to talk to others, what we are supposed to look like, how we should present ourselves and also what those around us expect of us according to if we are male or female (Rosenberger, ).

When a baby is born the first thing that is usually said is either ‘It’s a boy’ or ‘It’s a girl’. This statement is actually very defining as it determines from that moment on how the baby will be treated (Holmes et al, 2003), ‘boys will be handled, talked to and treated in such a way as to develop masculinity. Girls will be handled, talked to and treated in such a way to develop femininity (Yeland, 1998). It has been seen that parents exhibit gender stereotyping behaviour as early as 24 hours after the child is born (Rubin, Provenzano & Luria, 1974 cited in Paludi, 2004). Parents have an influence on the gender socialisation of their children both directly and indirectly through their interactions, gender attitudes and the way the model gender behaviour (Paludi, 2004). Masculine and feminine traits are separate from being a male or female biologically, they are secondary sex traits. Masculinity or masculine behaviour is seen as behaviours and traits more desired from a male than a female, some of these behaviours include from a young age playing with sports equipment and vehicles as to develop independent or competitive activity that requires less verbal interaction (Basow, 1992; Fagot, 1985 cited in Paludi, 2004) and in older years developing to be not emotional, objective, aggressiveness and competiveness just to name a few (Holmes et al, 2003). Femininity or being feminine is seen as the opposite of being masculine; girls are usually given dolls to play with which...
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