Issues of Sex and Gender

Sex the biological characteristics that distinguish males from females.  Primary sex characteristics consist of the reproductive organs, and secondary sex characteristics are the physical distinctions between males and females that are not directly connected with reproduction. 

       The Jonas Brothers                         Miley Cirus

While  gender will vary from one social group or society to another, it refers directly to your masculinity or femininity.  In contrast gender is social, not a biological characteristic.  It consists of whatever behaviors and attitudes a group considers proper for its males and females, and is of learned values and customs distinctly found within in that society.

Gender Differences in Behavior:  Biological or Cultural?   
Gender meaning will differ greatly from society to society, country to country, and person to person sociologist Cynthia Fuchs Epstein and Steven Goldberg have very different views on Biology verses Gender.  Fuchs Epstein, takes a firm stance from “nature versus nurture”; while Goldberg takes a firm stance that Biology is the answer to gender. 

Biology Versus Culture - Culture is the Answer 
Cynthia Fuchs Epstein 

For sociologist Cynthia Fuchs Epstein the difference between the behavior of males and females are soley the result of social factors – specifically, socialization and social control. 

1.         The anthropological record shows greater equality between the sexes in the past then we had through.  In earlier societies, women as well as men hunted small game, made tools, and gathered food.  In hunting and gathering societies, the roles of both women and men are less rigid than those created by stereotypes.  For example the Agta and Mbuti are egalitarian.  This proves that hunting and gathering societies exist in which women are not subordinate to men.  Anthropologist claim that in these societies women have a separate but equal status. 

2.        The types of work that men and women do in each society are determined not by biology but by social arrangements.  Few people can escape these arrangements, and almost everyone works within his or her allotted narrow range.  This gender division of work serves the interest of men, and both information customs and formal laws enforce it.  When these socially constructed barriers are removed women’s work habits are similar to those of men. 

3.        Biology “causes” some human behaviors, but these are limited to those involving reproduction or differences in body structure.  These differences are relevant for only a few activities, such as playing basketball or “crawling though a small space.”

4.       Female crime rates are rising in many parts of the world.  This indicates that aggression, which is often considered a biologically dictated male behavior, is related instead to social factors.  When social conditions permit, such as when women become lawyers, they too, become “adversarial, assertive, and dominant.”  Not incidentally, another form of this “dominant behavior” is the challenges that women make in scholarly journals to the biased views about human nature proposed by men. 

In short, rather than “women’s incompetence or inability to read a legal brief, perform brain surgery, [or] to predict a bull market,” social factors -  socialization, gender discrimination and other forms of social control – create gender differences in behavior.  Arguments that assign “an evolutionary and genetic basis” to explain differences in the behaviors of women and men are simplistic.  They “rest on a dubious structure of inappropriate, highly selective, and poor data, oversimplification in logic and inappropriate inferences by use of analogy.”
Except provided by Sociology, A Down-To-Earth Approach, Core Concepts 2d Edition, by James M. Henslin, 2007

Biology Versus Culture – Biology is the Answer 
Steven Goldberg

Sociologist Steven Goldberg finds it astonishing that anyone should doubt “the presence of cure-deep differences in males and females, differences of temperament and emotion we call masculinity and femininity.”  Goldberg’s argument – that it is not environment but inborn differences that ‘give us masculine and feminine direction to the emotions and behaviors of men and women” is as follows: 

1.     The anthropological record shoes that all societies for which evidence exists are (or were) patriarchies (societies in which men dominate women).  Stories about long-lost matriarchies (*societies in which women dominate men) are myths. 

2.    In all societies, past and present, the highest statuses are associated with men.  In every society, politics is ruled by “hierarchies overwhelmingly dominated by men.” 

3.    Men dominate societies because they “have a lower threshold for the elicitation of dominance behavior…a greater tendency to exhibit whatever behavior is necessary in any environment to attain dominance in hierarchies and male-female encounters and relationships.”  Men are more willing “to sacrifice the rewards of other motivations – the desire for affection health, family life, safety, relaxation, vacation and the like – in order to attain dominance and status.” 

4.    Just as a 6-foot woman does not prove the social basis of height, so exceptional individuals such as highly achieving and dominant women do not refute “the physiological roots of behavior.”  

In short, there is only one valid interpretation of why every society from that of the Pygmy to that of the Swede associates dominance and attainment with men.  Male dominance of society is “an inevitable resolution of the psychophysiological reality.”  Socialization and social institutions merely reflect and sometimes exaggerate – inborn tendencies.  Any interpretation other than inborn differences is “wrongheaded, ignorant, tendentious, internally illogical discordant with the evidence, and implausible in the extreme”.  The argument that males are more aggressive because they have been socialized that way is equivalent to the claim that men can grow mustaches because boys have been socialized that way.  

To acknowledge this reality is not to defend discrimination against women.  Approval or disapproval of what societies have done with these basic biological differences is not the issue The point is that biology leads males and females to different behaviors and attitudes – regardless of how we feel about this or whether we wish it were different. 
Except provided by Sociology, A Down-To-Earth Approach, Core Concepts 2d Edition, by James M. Henslin, 2007

So What Happens When Biology and Culture Collide? 

Social Learing Theory in Action! 

David Reimer:  The Boy Who Lived as a Girl

CBC News Online | May 10, 2004

Summer 1965. In a Winnipeg hospital, Janet Reimer's lifelong dream comes true as she gives birth to twin sons, Bruce and Brian. But within six months, both boys develop difficulty urinating. The doctors suggest they be circumcised. On April 27, 1966, Janet drops her boys off for the routine procedure and her dream turns into a nightmare. The doctors had chosen an unconventional method of circumcision, one in which the skin would be burned. The procedure goes horribly wrong and Bruce's penis is burned so badly it can't be repaired surgically. Over the next few months, the Reimers consult with countless doctors. None can offer any hope. Bruce Reimer would have to live with his non-existent penis. One night, the Reimers see a television profile of an American doctor and his theories on sex and gender. Dr. John Money of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore argues that boys – caught early enough – could be raised to be girls. Nurture and not nature determines a child's gender, the doctor argued. Janet Reimer thought it was worth exploring. The family went to Baltimore to see Dr. Money, who decided that Bruce Reimer was a perfect candidate. At the age of 21 months, Bruce's testicles were removed. What remained of his penis was left, not to interfere with his urinary tract. When Bruce was released from hospital, his parents were told to raise him as a girl. The family was told not to divulge anything to anyone. They went home with a girl they called Brenda. "We relatively quickly came to accept that," Janet Reimer told CBC News in 1997. "He was a beautiful little girl." Janet Reimer did her best to raise Bruce as a girl. She dressed him in skirts and dresses and showed him how to apply make-up. But the transformation was anything but smooth. Bruce Reimer didn't like playing with the other girls – and he didn't move like one either. He got into schoolyard fistfights. The other kids called him names like "caveman," "freak" and "it." In an interview with the CBC's The Fifth Estate, Reimer said it got so bad he didn't want to go to school anymore. He felt picked upon and increasingly lonely. By the time Bruce turned nine, the Reimer family was having serious doubts. Not John Money. He published an article in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour pronouncing the experiment a resounding success. It became widely known in medical circles as the Joan/John case. Money wrote: "The child's behaviour is so clearly that of an active little girl and so different from the boyish ways of her twin brother." The twin brother, Brian, remembered it differently: "The only difference between him and I was he had longer hair." "I tried really, really hard to rear her as a gentle lady," Janet Reimer said. "But it didn't happen." By the time Bruce was reaching puberty, it became increasingly clear the experiment was not working. He started developing thick shoulders and a thick neck. At the same time, the Reimers were under pressure from Money to take the final step: allow surgeons to create a vagina. But Bruce rebelled. He protested that he didn't need surgery and threatened to commit suicide if he was forced to make another trip to Baltimore to see Money. That's when his father broke down and told him everything. Bruce Reimer said he had one thought at the time: to go to the hospital and track down and shoot the doctor who had botched his circumcision. In the end, he was unable to exact his revenge, but turned his anger on himself. He attempted suicide three times. The third – an overdose of pills – left him in a coma. He recovered and began the long climb towards living a normal life – as a man. Bruce Reimer left his Brenda identity behind. He cut his hair and started wearing male clothing again. He changed his name to David. Earlier, the Reimer family had sued the hospital where the botched circumcision was performed. They settled for about $60,000, which was held in trust for David until his 18th birthday. By then, the settlement was worth about $100,000. Initially, David Reimer only told his story from the shadows – he refused to talk about it if his identity were revealed. That changed in 2000, when American author John Colapinto wrote As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. A whirlwind of media exposure followed, across Canada and the United States. Around the same time, research was sounding the death knell for the nurture vs. nature theory. Two studies – released by the Johns Hopkins Children's Center – concluded that it's prenatal exposure to male hormones that turns normal male babies into boys. The studies "seriously question the current practice of sex-reassigning some of these infants as females…" Janet Reimer said it was a difficult thing for her son to go public with his story, but he wanted to help other children facing a similar fate. David Reimer underwent four rounds of reconstructive surgery to physically make him a man again. The surgery enabled him to enjoy a normal sex life, but he was unable to father children. "I'm not going to cry a river of tears over that, because I've got three great kids. I've got a wonderful wife. I've got a good home," he told CBC News in the wake of the release of the book. Recently, David Reimer's life had taken another turn. He lost his job and was separated from his wife. His mother said he was still grieving the death two years ago of his twin brother. David Reimer committed suicide on May 4, 2004. He was 38