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All societies and cultures place a great emphasis on the differences between males and females

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Introduction

Using anthropological study explore the notion that gender is more than male or female All societies and cultures place a great emphasis on the differences between males and females. When a child is born we categorise its gender as being either male or female, or of either being a girl or a boy, and depending on which of these categories you fall in to will have a huge bearing on how your life will evolve. Some basic facts can serve as starting points. The unique reproductive capacities of females normally mark their lives by menstruation, pregnancy, parturition, lactation, and menopause. Males are, on average, larger and have greater physical strength than females in the same population. The burden of evidence also indicates that males are more aggressive, although this is not as well established as the facts of physical morphology and reproductive capacity (Nadelson, pg 3, 1991) However, as Nadelson states none of these capacities or apparent predispositions are uniformly translated into adaptive outcomes across human populations because of variations in technology, socioeconomic organisation, and cultural values. Female reproduction can be halted by celibacy or infertility or delayed by the use of contraception, and lactation can be avoided by using infant formula. The strength of males can diminish as machinery becomes available to do the heavy work. The aggressiveness of young males, though valuable for defence can become socially disruptive if there is no need for local troops. Behavioural differences between boys and girls can be reduced in later childhood when they are raised together and boys perform tasks defined as feminine. ...read more.

Middle

(Giddens, pg 149, 1987) Anthropologists such as George Peter Murdoch argue that biological differences such as the greater physical strength of men and the fact that women bear children lead to a sexual division of labour in society. Murdoch surveyed 224 societies and found that tasks such as hunting, lumbering and mining are usually part of the male role, while cooking and child care were usually assigned to the women. Murdoch states that women were handicapped by the physiological burdens of pregnancy and nursing. (Haralambos, pg 267, 1986) The rise of the Women's Liberation Movement have contributed to the criticism that gender roles are shaped by biology, and more are now arguing that the roles of men and women are determined by culture and are therefore learned as part of the socialisation process, and ultimately there is nothing natural about the roles that women play. It is all learnt behaviour, and as Marjorie Garber states in Vested Interest (1991) the reason that that female to male transgendered people are not generally seen as that remarkable as their male to female equivalents is because it is quite normal in our male dominated culture for a woman to want to become a man, as it is still recognised that social power is most often attached to being male. Even Sigmund Freud's theory on gender was based on the idea that the ownership of a penis reflects masculinity and power, and being female means simply being absent of a penis. ...read more.

Conclusion

In Western society it could be argued that the media plays a huge role in depicting how males and females should behave, with women usually portrayed in the traditional role of mother and wife, or damsel in distress. Indeed, many fairytales, which have a huge influence on children still tend to portray men as the heroic male, who along with saving the planet will ultimately also have to save the female too. Even in non Western societies were the media have very little or no influence gender roles are still very apparent, Ian Hogbin's account of childbirth and the role of men in a New Guinea villages gives an account of men supposedly being too clumsy and unskilled to minister to a tiny infant, and therefore, the father does not touch his young offspring. After about two weeks the women may give it to him for a few minutes, but six months elapse before he holds it for any length of time. (Hogbin, pg 58, 1963) From birth this child will know his or her place within the village and thus history continues to repeat itself. Nobody within the village will question why things are done this way and social pressure will ensure that this is how things continue. It could therefore be assumed that it is in fact social pressure which ensures that most within society conform to the gender role bequeathed to them, a role which they are led to believe is "normal" and this is why those who elect their own gender, whether that be male, female or something entirely different are usually pushed out of society and not accepted. ...read more.

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