“Is Gender Biologically Determined?”- Drawing upon ethnographic examples from 2-3 societies. Gender being ‘biologically determined’ means that whether gender is inherited or passed down by genetics. If a person is a man or woman, (which is usually called ‘The Sex’), that is biologically determined because they inherit the chromosomes to be born a man, or to be born as a woman. In the early 1970’s sex was described by “biology as: anatomy, hormones, and physiology” (West and Zimmerman 1987). Apart from gender being a biological factor, there are other things which are not biologically determined; “Gender was an achieved status, which was constructed through psychological, cultural and social means” (West and Zimmerman1987). Hence the answer to the question “is gender biologically determined?”Is no, Gender is a socially constructed phenomenon. Gender refers to a set of roles people perform in their communities, which are their values and attitudes that people have toward man and woman (Bonvillain 2006). In this essay, the topics which would be discussed to support this argument are Gender Identity with examples of how men and women are expected to act, walk, talk and dress in a certain manner which is suitable in their society, Gender and Sexuality with the examples of culturally in-built norms of sexual behaviour, along with existing issues surrounding sexuality, and finally Gender and Status with an example of male dominance in Traditional Chinese society.
Gender identity is defined in terms of how people (i.e. men and women) are supposed to behave in the social category. Their attitudes and the way the dress, talk and carry themselves in the public are encoded “in a set of cultural assumptions” which are based on the culture’s values and roles and people are expected to learn these as they are a part of that society (Bonvillain 2006). Each culture has certain ‘norms’ for gender and these ‘norms’ vary from culture to culture, most of these norms have a universal common pattern and people seem to dwell on these social constructs as they make a living based on these ideologies. “Cultural constructs are models of behaviour and attitudes that a particular culture transmits to its members. These constructs are shared beliefs and values that become taken for granted guiding principles” (Bonvillain 2006). There are so many ways that these socially constructed behaviours are exhibited in different communities, the messages about how each man and woman should act depends upon several factors such as language and religious beliefs. Men and Women were distinguished based on their clothing, what they were allowed to wear as a man and woman, hence publically signalling their genders, men wore pants and had other bodily arts such as tattoos while woman adorned dresses, jewellery and make up. This made up the very basic structure of Gender Identity. Apart from, the basic examples of gender identity, there are several other cases where women and men have unequal identities, one such case is the, Identity inequality of men and woman in family farms. In today’s world, Gender revolves around being the fact that women are less recognised than men, and are subjected to work which are in the shadows of confinement. That being the generalised factor, the study of the ‘European family farm’ only made this issue recognizable to the world. Farms were considered to be the dominant agricultural production in the capitalist countries (Brandth 2002). The study used theories of gender role and identity, explaining the issue in the form of discourses. In the 1990’s questions were being raised towards identity of women and men in the rural farms, these questions eventually shifted towards feminism (Brandth 2002). “Discourses are forms of power. They constitute minds, bodies, identities of individuals as parts of wider networks of power relations” (Brandth 2002). It was used in the context of giving out a meaning towards the differences of men and...
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Bonvillain, Nancy. 2006. Chapter 10, “Gender” from Cultural Anthropology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. Pp. 251-282. ISBN: 0-13-045545-8
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