My inquiry question is: Is being masculine or feminine biological or social construction?
In this blog post, I will be researching another theory of gender development. It contradicts the concepts I researched in my last post. The socialization of gender opposes biological determinism because does not see femininity and masculinity as innate (4).
The theory describes gender as a social construct (3). Socialization is the process in which a child learns to be feminine or masculine (4). According to the theory, feminity is taught to females (3) and masculinity to males. The reasons why gender exists vary. Some authors, such as Catharine A. MacKinnon, argue that femininity and masculinity are the results of female “objectification” (3). However, most of them agree on how children are socialized.
They learn by what they observe in the world and how they are treated. The most common places or people that influence them are “parents, teachers, schools, and the media.” (4) Socialization starts in the family when parents “expose” the child to gender (2). They do this by treating them differently, sometimes even without realizing it. For example, many of them “assume” it is better to buy dolls and house-related toys for girls while giving their male children toys like cars and toy robots. According to the theory, this encourages a “dynamic” in which “dominance” is expected from boys and girls to be “passive. ” (2)
The media also plays a significant role in socialization. The reinforcement of gender is present in all parts of the media; from comics to magazines and tv shows (2). Magazines, for example, feature mostly feminine females (2). Women always wear make-up, look young, and use very feminine clothing. If the only representation girls see in the media is this, they will also try to be feminine. .
The idea of socialization is recent (4) if compared to biological determinism. However, some older philosophers and sociologists introduced some concepts similar to it.
In 1949, Simone de Beauvoir published her book, “The Second Sex.” In the second volume of the book, she claimed, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” “No biological, psychological, or economic destiny defines the figure that the human female acquires in society,” she continues, “it is civilization as a whole that develops this product, intermediate between females and eunuch, which one calls feminine.”(1) Since the concept of gender socialization and differences in the meaning of gender and sex did not exist then (4), many people have different interpretations of the quote (3). In my view, after reading her book, Beauvoir’s quote was indeed related to socialization; In her book, she used the words “female,” “woman,” and “feminine” interchangeably. This leads me to believe that Beauvoir used the word “woman” to refer to femininity. I take that to mean that females are not born feminine, but they are rather socialized into it.
Even though this theory is the most believed today, it still has some flaws. By claiming all parts of gender are learned, rather than inherent in our biology, they are ignoring some important scientific facts. For example, they do not mention the effect of hormones on behaviour. On the other hand, many concepts in biological determinism are outdated. In my next and last blog post, I will try to find a final answer to my inquiry question and reflect on the impact gender has on our lives.
- Beauvoir, D. S., Borde, C., & Malovany-Chevallier, S. (2011). The Second Sex (1st ed.). Vintage.
- Greco, J. (2013). Gender: A Social Construction. Sociological Imagination: Western’s Undergraduate Sociology Student Journal, Vol. 2(2).
- Mikkola, M. (2019, Autumn). Feminist Perspectives on Sex and Gender. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Published. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2019/entries/feminism-gender/
- Vinney, C. (2019, February 4). What Is Gender Socialization? ThoughtCo. Retrieved November 20, 2021, from https://www.thoughtco.com/gender-socialization-definition-examples-4582435