Is Gender Socially Constructed Or Biologically Determined?

2320 words - 9 pages

Although men and women have significant biological differences, the question whether gender-specific labels stems from these biological differences or are gender constructed remains a polarised nature versus nurture debate. Whether it is through the process of socialisation or genetic make-up, “gender identity” is given from a person’s birth, determining how a person culturally interacts and the expectations society places on them. Along with a “gender identity” comes a whole set of “norms”, “values” and so-called “gender characteristics”, which are supposed to define the differences between a male and a female. According to the World Health Organisation (n.d.), the term “sex” is often used to define the biological and physiological differences between a male and female. The World Health Organisation (n.d.) also state that the term “gender” refers to the social and cultural differences which are “socially constructed” and characterised by appropriate gender behavioural traits. Although scientists currently believe that since pre-historic times, men and women have been regarded as the “hunters and gathers”, laying the foundation for the “division of the sexes”, this long-term cast-iron notion has been recently challenged. For example, Pringle (1998) makes the point that American archaeologists, Professor Olga Soffee, Professor David Hyland and James Adovasio, proposed that hunting wasn’t about hurling spears, while the women watched on, but was a technique called “Net hunting” and was a communal activity which also involved the labour of children and women. Moreover, through anthropological research, Soffer discovered that women were critical for survival and “dug starchy roots and collected other plant carbohydrates essential to survival. They even hunted, on occasion, with the projectile points traditionally deemed men’s weapons”, suggesting that the Paleolithic life was a lot more egalitarian than previously thought, revising the notion that men alone were only “biologically equipped” to carry out “hunting duties”.
Although, in the Western world, we can refer to biological differences to explain the origins of division of labour and in some cases “inequality” in the workforce, historically women and men have shared economic and religious duties across the ages. According to Garbacik (2013), in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Japan, American Indians and Ancient Sumerian women were held in high regard, taking up “leadership posts” and were not considered “inferior” by their male counterparts. In fact, the terms “misogyny” and “Patriarchy” became more prominent in Victorian Britain, where the concept of “gender roles” were closely linked, which advocated female subordination and male dominance. In particular, through his ground-breaking theory of natural selection, Darwin (1859) depicted women as being inferior to men. Darwin theorised about “natural selection” and he suggested that men were “more courageous, pugnacious and energetic” (Darwin, 1859)...

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