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How far can differences between men and women be attributed to biology and how far are they culturally determined? Which aspects of the socialisation process are most influential in your opinion?

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Introduction

How far can differences between men and women be attributed to biology and how far are they culturally determined? Which aspects of the socialisation process are most influential in your opinion? Support your views with examples and theories. Between men and women there are obvious biological differences that we can identify with. I am going to discuss how much biology compared to culture can affect a person's gender. Sociobiology is the way social behaviour is determined by biological drives and genetic programming. E.O. Wilson (1975) describes that each sex has different strategies for mating and reproduction and that these are reflected in a variety of aspects of social behaviour. For example males are genetically programmed to be more promiscuous, while females are disposed to nurture their offspring and remain loyal to one partner. But there are women who are promiscuous and men that stay loyal. This theory could be argued against that this behaviour by males and females is more culturally determined. As men could just take on this promiscuous role to fit in with their peer group for example. Differences between men and women can also be a result of our evolutionary past. Robin Fox (1976) states that throughout our human history men were hunters and women stayed at home nursing children. Women developed skills of foraging and nurturing children rather than the strength and aggression required for hunting. Fox sees these differences in physique and mental skills as part of our genetic inheritance today. ...read more.

Middle

Some differences are attributed to biology for example in Freud's theory he talks about the genitals in relation to the male and female identifying with their mother and father. Also Parsons explanation of gender differences is mainly in biological terms but now we can see how cultural has influenced that. I feel that culture plays the more dominant role in nearly all of the theories I have researched. Socio-biology ignores the way culture shapes gender. Wilson's and Fox's theories could be argued against that these attributes of males and females have simply remained in society and are now expected of us. Chodorow's theory concentrates on the parent's role and the influence it has on the differences between male and females. Then from a feminist view Friedan describes how female attributes are determined by ideology. Culture is not the only influence on the differences between males and females. The socialization process is also a major influence. Much of our identity and behaviour is the result of experiences of interaction with other people, especially during childhood. I feel that gender socialization is the first influence for individuals and is important as it makes them aware of gender-appropriate attitudes and behaviour. By the age of five most children are aware of this and have acquired a clear gender identity. This view can be supported by William Damon (1977) when he carried out various tests on children. What we are taught and told to do by our parents at a very young age is vital to the development of ourselves. ...read more.

Conclusion

Stereotypes for women were used a lot in adverts in the past. The mum would be seen doing all the cooking and the housework while the father went out to work. The main expectation of a woman in the past was to be a good wife and mum. This expectation still lies with us today even if the woman goes out to work. The influence adverts had in the past played important roles in people's lives as it set societies expectations of each gender. When recent adverts where shown four out of five had a male voice over. The women that did feature all took on stereotypical roles and activities, such as washing their hair. Rosemary Betterton (1987) criticised the fact that when women were portrayed, even in a less stereotypical role, they were still shown as attractive or desirable. This quality appeared in nearly all adverts and programmes I watched. Male and female specific magazines influence our gender differences in a big way. Angela Mcrobbie (1982) found that the main message for girls in magazines was that falling in love and getting married was the main aim for teenagers. In women magazines they contained the latest diet and how to brighten up your home. This influences women to think that being slim and looking good is one of the most important things in life. I feel that gender socialization and the mass media are most influential. Gender socialization is very influential at a young age and therefore gives the foundations of understanding our identity. The mass media is the most influence throughout the rest our lives. ...read more.

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