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Gender Roles: Biology or Culture Essay

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Brettell and Sargent open their book Gender in Cross Cultural Perspectives with a question: What is the role of biology in human behaviour (Brettell and Sargent, 2009, 1). Ward and Edelstein approach this question using cross-species analysis. They compare chimpanzee biology and behaviour to humans. There are four reasons that Ward uses comparisons to chimpanzees. First, because chimpanzees represent our closest genetic relative and second, the social activities and behaviours may be reflective of human ancestors. Third, cross-species analysis is the best way to overcome cultural biases (Ward and Edelstien , 2009, 101). Finally, there is extensive and scientifically recognized body of work on the relationship between biology and behaviour.
Several of the authors also use cross-species analysis and studies to compare humans to animal models of behaviour. When using biological models to explain human behaviour, there is the fear of the justification of sexism (Zuk, 2009, 7). Stereotypes often arise from the animal kingdom (Zuk, 2009, 7).This can pose a problem for accepting biology as an explanation for gender in modern humans. Zuk counters this belief, promoting an understanding of the biology of human sexual behaviour through an examination of animal models (Zuk, 2009, 8). Ehrenberg presents primate models to show the lack of difference biologically between males and females (Zuk, 2009, 17). Ward also uses primate models, specifically chimpanzees and baboons, to illustrate the similarities between humans and animals (Ward and Edelstien , 2009, 101).
Zuk does warn against attempting to use animal models as a single model for the origin of sex roles as the animal kingdom represents a wide variety of sexual behaviours including int...


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...roline B., and Carolyn F. Sargent, eds. 2009. Gender in Cross-cultural Perspective, 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Ehrenberg, Margaret. 2009. ``The Role of Women In Human Evolution``. In Gender in Cross-cultural Perspective, 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Martin, Emily. 1991. ``The egg and the sperm: how science has constructed a romance based on stereotypical male-female roles``.
Peach, Lucinda J. 2009. ``Gender and War: Are Women Tough Enough for Military Combat``. In Gender in Cross-cultural Perspective, 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, pp. 21-32.
Zuk, Marlene. 2009. ``Animal Models and Gender``. In Gender in Cross-cultural Perspective, 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Ward, Martha and Monica Edelstein. 2009. A World Full of Women, 5th ed. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.



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