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Discuss The Acquisition Of Gender Roles And Implications For Experience

1692 words - 7 pages

Understanding gender roles and how they are acquired is both very interesting and very important for the psychological community. As gender is so paramount to our social lives research into the area will undoubtedly have real life applications, such as addressing the question of why women are paid, on average, 17% less than men for full time work (and 38% less per hour for part time work) or why males are more likely to suffer from stress-related illnesses. The differences between males and females are vast, as noted by John Gray who famously wrote a book on the subject in 1992 entitled "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus". The psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud has also been quoted as saying that despite his thirty years of research he is still unable to answer the question of what women want. Not only are there clear differences between males and females themselves but there is also undeniable asymmetry in the rolls that they assign themselves in society. This perhaps dates back to the times when males would go hunting for food and women would stay home taking care of any children, (although in modern times the gender roll variation is much more complex). The question that presents itself is why do our rolls in society vary so much depending on our gender, and how are they acquired?First of all it is vital to understand the difference between gender and sex as although they are often used interchangeably, these terms actually have quite different meanings. While sex simply refers to the biological differences between males and females, determined at conception by our 23 pairs of chromosomes, the concept of 'gender' is slightly more complicated and is thought to be socially and culturally constructed. That is to say that our DNA is not important in determining gender, only sex. At least that's what was thought to be true in the early to mid 20th century, however this viewpoint is nowadays questioned by many who the who cite, among others, the case of David Reimer.Indeed, back in the 60's a radical surgery for children up to the age of two years known as sex reassignment surgery was an acceptable and not uncommon method of dealing with complications such as mutilation of the genitals or the unfortunate condition known as micropenis (where the maximum length of a penis is at least 2.5 standard deviations smaller than the average penis size (1)). This 'sex reassignment' operation continued to be encouraged by doctors until the late 1980's. The treatment involved removing the penis and constructing an artificial vagina so that the patient would be able to live a full and healthy life as a female, rather than the alternative of a male with deformed or abnormally small genitals. Infamously, David Reimer was given this treatment in 1966. At the age of 6 months, after a botched circumcision that made use of an unconventional burning method, Bruce Reimer (as he was then named) was taken to see Dr. John Money, a leading American psychologist with an...

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