‘Women and men are made, not born’
The statement by Simone de Beauvoir, ‘Women and men are made, not born’ proposes that a person acquires the identity of a man or a woman over time, by means of complex social processes. Beauvoir’s statement suggests that gender roles and behaviour are not inherent and that social positioning should not be determined by sex. This essay will begin by drawing a distinction between sex and gender, and will then discuss two arguments that explore the origins of gender difference; social construction theory as implied by Beauvoir’s statement, and the biological determinist position. Gender refers to the socially constructed categories of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ and the attributes and behaviours that are assigned to the categories by society. Conversely, ‘sex’ refers to the universal distinction between men and women based on biological and physical differences as characterised by internal and external sex organs, hormones and genetics. It is difficult for the author to explain how sex and gender relate or to even argue that there is no relationship between the two, because to make any of these assertions, is to express a tentative position about the origins of gender difference. If it is argued that there is no relationship between sex and gender, it is then reasonable to assume that our notions of sex and gender are social constructs, a theory known as social construction thesis. If there is a definitive relationship between sex and gender, it is logical to then assume that the sex of a person will determine their gender, implying that sex and gender are innate; a position referred to as biological determinism. Social constructionists contend that gender differences derive from social and cultural processes, and are not grounded in nature or biology. They also argue that social and cultural processes create gender discourses that can vary across time and space. The gender discourses allocate different responsibilities and...
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