Gender and Sex

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When considering gender and sex, a layman’s idea of these terms might be very different than a sociologist’s. There is an important distinction: sex, in terms of being “male” or “female,” is purely the physical biological characteristic differences – primarily anatomical differences. (There are also rare cases of “intersexual” individuals as outlined in the Navarro article, “When Gender Isn’t a Given”.) Gender, on the other hand, is an often misconstrued concept that is commonly mistaken as synonymous with sex. A non-sociologist might surmise the following, “men act masculine and women act feminine, therefore, it must follow that gender is inherent to sex,” however, this is not necessarily the case.

Biological factors (sex) and gender are correlated, but gender may or may not be caused by biological factors. Cherlin proposes four models of how gender is created: the biosocial model, the socialization model, the interactionist model and the patriarchic model. Only the first model, the “biosocial” model, allows for heredity and biological factors to play a role in determining gender. This model is based on the idea that biologically, men and women are predisposed to act a certain way “on average,” but also, that social factors play a strong role in determining whether biological tendencies prevail. According to this theory, biological differences account for only about a quarter of behavioral gender differences while social influences account for the remaining portion. Socialized traits are stronger than biological traits, and can eliminate biological traits, but biological tendencies are still important because it is a challenge for socialized traits to subdue biological traits. A good example of this is outlined in Ke...

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...t exist if gender roles perpetuate, but I don’t think that gender roles are quite as fragile as supposed by this model. Finally, the patriarchic model is the least compelling to me. There are two reason: first, even in non-male dominated societal structures, such as socialist and communist societies, women have still held different gender roles. Second, I may be wrong in this perception, but even if this model is correct, patriarchy is socialization reinforcement and could be included in any of the biosocial, socialization or interactionist models as a socialization factor. To isolate this factor in a model of its own seems misandrist.

In sum, all models are important to understand and struggle with. After all, people need to question why gender roles differ, and question if the current gender roles are fair, in order to improve upon the current structure.
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