Haralambos & Holborn (2004)
Haralambos & Holborn (2004), state that the differences between men and women are sometimes seen as the basis for inequality between them as the use of biological, socialisation, and learning explanations take centre stage. Biologically based explanations of the behaviour of men and women now include physical appearances between men and women, the allocation of roles socially, hormones, brains, and sexual reproductive organs differences. George Peter Murdock states that the biological differences between male and female is based on the sexual division of labour in the society (Murdock, 1949), Haralambos & Holborn (2004).
Here men are seen as someone who is able to do work that is difficult and in need for great physical strength which women do not possess and can be seen as a disadvantage but also women on the other hand seem to be having an advantage over men in the roles that they do such the being pregnant, taking care of the family, nursing as well as doing small menial tasks such as house hold chores. Abbott, Wallace & Tyler (2005) state that women have a unique outlook on the social world, rooted in the ‘special’ nature of their experiences of the body, and in particularly motherhood, which are different from those of men.
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This idea sets out the main differences between men and women biologically. Their ability to bear children put men at a disadvantage but they do need men in order to be pregnant. This has given ammunition to feminists who argue that differences between men and women are socially constructed and can be overcome. Andersen (1997: 23) states that the biological sex of a person is established at the moment of conception and is elaborated during the period of fetal development in the womb. The determination of the sex as now some parents can ask their doctors to tell them have a strong bearing on how the child is growing to be raised up.
This scenario overlaps from a biological perspective to the socialization and learning experiences for the child. The last two have an active role in the way a child is raised and model him/her to be some person in the future. An interesting observation on ambiguous sexual identities going by the name of Klinefelter’s syndrome, a person may be born with extra X chromosomes (47 XXY or 48 XXXY). Genetically they have both female (XX) and male (XY) chromosomal patterns and, thus have ambiguous sexual characteristics.
These people who have this syndrome are male in external appearance, although they show low levels of testosterone and they show breast enlargement and have small penis, (Andersen 1997: 25). Another area is the birth of children who have failed to develop fully their sexual organs during the pregnancy period and they produce both internal and external sex organs, that is testes and ovaries or will appear ambiguous or incomplete, (Andersen 1997: 25). These children face a tough period in their lives as they have to undergo operations to correct their gender.
Some show traits of being boys when born due to the appearance of male sexual organs but when the operation is done to change them to girls the way they are treated by their families bear strongly on their growth as they will now be treated as girls and they learn to live like girls and vice versa for girls who are changed to boys. Socialisation and learning on the other hand is derived from the way the society interacts and models the person into what the society deems to the correct norm. Most society’s construction of gender is based upon whether one is male or female.
Differential treatment of female and male children by parents and other socialization agents creates gender differences in behaviour. Most parents are not aware of the fact that the actions that they do in front of the children are reinforcing agents regardless whether they intended in doing so or they were aware of their actions. Boys are taught not to cry when they fall, but with girls it’s the opposite as the parents especially mothers are overly protective of them, thus when they grow up they have been taught how to handle different situations in life.
Andersen (1997, 19), gives a scenario where by when one wants to buy a gender neutral toy…. , it is hard as the aisles in toy stores are highly stereotyped by concepts of what boys and girls do and like. This is the way in which the society views a child when he/she is growing up. It is not proper for a boy to be seen playing with dolls and wearing colours that are deemed to be that of girls such as pink. He is taught to be strong when growing up and not to cry. Haralambos & Holborn (2004: 100), state that Oakley (1974) outlined how socialisation in modern industrial societies shapes the behaviour of boys and girls from an early age.
Basing her work on the findings of Ruth Hartley, Oakley discusses four main in which socialisation into gender roles takes place and these are manipulation, canalisation, verbal appellation and different activities. * By manipulation mothers tend to pay more attention to girls’ hair and to dress them in feminine clothes. * Canalisation is the direction of boys and girls towards different objects. In the above example in shops the way toys are arranged is done in a way that appeal to buyers to know which ones to buy for boys and girls.
Boys are given toys which encourage practical, logical, and aggressive behaviour and girls being given dolls, soft toys, and miniature domestic appliances. These toys play a huge role in modeling the behaviour of these children as they grow up and they strive to achieve what they were taught when they were growing up. * Verbal appellation is the use of words that have a huge bearing on children when they are growing up and some of the words used are, ‘good girl’ or ‘naughty boy’, and these lead the children to identify with their gender and imitate adults in the same gender.
The different activities that the children are exposed to lead them to learning their roles in the society. Girls are encouraged to do domestic tasks and boys tasks which require physical strength, (Haralambos & Holborn, 2004) Although men are, on average, larger than women, body size is known to be influenced by diet and physical activity, which in turn are influenced by class, race, and gender inequality. Explanations of sex differences that ignore these sociological factors are incomplete and misleading, (Andersen, 1997).
The expectation of the society of men is that they have to exhibit masculinity and women show the feminine side and this has been cultivated into the minds of the people by learning and socialisation. The gender in society is systematically structured in social institutions that surround us. For example here in South Africa, the traditional men are the ones who have been known to frequent drinking places and women are expected to stay home and take care of the family and do all the household chores, seeing ladies in these places frequented by men was unheard of and seen as taboo in the drinking circles.
This was embedded on boys as they grew up they knew where their fathers were and they also knew that they would one day be part of the men in these drinking places. Girls on the other hand knew that their place was at home as they saw their mothers doing all the chores. Women’s as well as men’s behaviour is embedded in the gender system, which provides the guiding principles for the organisation of behaviour and thought, and a value scheme that supports the dominant position. In this logic, women are valued not only by others but also by themselves through their capacity to give birth to males.
The system legitimises these principles through its various components and tends to perpetuate them through its different members. Interventions that seek to change gender relations by targeting only one aspect of the system are not likely to be effective. Systemic forces that tend to reinforce and perpetuate the system should be identified and explicitly tackled, (Villarreal & du Guerny, 2000). The differences in ways that males and females are treated in the society stems from our learning the ways that the society deems to fit for us.
The difference between the biological and socialisation and learning explanations have been a sticking point as there have been differences as to how to tackle each explanation. The biological explanation sought to show that sex and gender are things which we are born with yet the socialisation and learning experiences teach us that in what ever we do the society and the family play a huge role in helping to shape an individual. Socialisation helps us to learn what is expected of us and how to show these characteristics later in life.