"Gender Roles are culturally rather than biologically produced" - Discuss and give examples from sociological studies.

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Neville Borg                                                 Sociology A-level

“Gender Roles are culturally rather than biologically produced” Discuss and give examples from sociological studies

        Societies have always placed great importance on differences between males and females, both in positive, as well as in negative manners. Some societies have used them as a justification to ostracize members of the other sex, whilst other societies have tried to exalt the both sexes. These differences are both biological and psychological. This is reflected in the difference between the terms ‘Gender’ and ‘Sex’.

        ‘Sex’ refers to the biological, anatomical differences between males and females, whilst ‘Gender’ refers to the psychological, social and cultural differences between them. This is why sex is a biological construct and gender is a social construct. A person’s sex is an innate quality, but a person acquires his/her gender through a process called gender socialization. This is the learning of a particular social role according to one’s sex. Through this process, a person learns what is masculine and feminine and learns to act accordingly. The period in a person’s life when this process begins and ends is debatable. In fact, some sociologists argue that it begins at infancy, whilst others state that it takes place later in a child’s life.

        Amongst the various theories of gender learning, Sigmund Freud’s stands out as being one of the most influential. Freud based his theory on gender on the idea that the ownership of a penis reflects masculinity and power. Being female was simply the absence of a penis. Therefore everything was automatically compared to the male. According to Freud, at around three years of age, the male child might begin to see his father as a threat, because he believes that he holds a special place in his mother’s life, and since they both are male, are rivals for the mother’s affection. Eventually, the boy will view his father as a superior being and associates with him through their common masculinity. At that point he represses his feelings for his mother because he fears castration from his father. This process is called the Oedipus Complex.

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        On the other hand, girls suffer from penis envy, because they see that they do not possess the male organ. Due to this, they devalue the mother’s position in the family because she also lacks a penis and is unable to provide herself or her daughter with one. The father is generally in power, thus making all females in the family sub-ordinates and causing them to adopt a submissive attitude. This is referred to as the Elektra Complex. Freud refers to the period between 5-10 years of age as the Latency Period. This is when sexual emotions are paused until ...

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