Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Spring 2012 7.1 Gender and Sexuality Sex / Gender • Sex: biological differences that are more or less unalterable (e.g., Y chromosome in males, different genitalia). • Gender: the traits that a culture assigns to and inculcates in males and females (social and cultural construction of male and female characteristics). Margaret Mead (1901 – 1978) • Student of Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict. – Culture and Personality: How does culture determine personality of the individual? • Popular writer; public face of anthropology (1930s-70s). Mead’s Predecessors • Cultures can only be understood with reference to their particular historical developments (Boas’ Historical Particularism). • Each culture shapes personality of individual (Benedict’s Culture and Personality). • “Having originally taken its values from the values dear to some human temperaments and alien to others, a culture embodies these values more and more firmly in its structure, in its political and religious systems, in its art and literature; and each new generation is shaped, firmly and definitely, to the dominant trends.” (Margarent Mead) One of Mead’s Contributions • Gender roles, stereotypes, and stratification are socially and culturally constructed (emphasis of Mead’s research). The Social Construction of Gender (Lorber) • Something we take for granted in everyday social practices and interactions. • We “do gender” without thinking. We notice it most when encountering “disruptions”. Gender Construction • Starts at birth (dressing, naming): sex category becomes gender status. • Once gender is evident, people treat that individual accordingly. • Gender behaviors and roles change (constantly created and recreated through social interactions). • If they were natural (biologically determined), then they would be immutable. But . . . – They vary cross-culturally. They vary across time within a culture. Gender Roles: The tasks and activities a culture assigns to the sexes. Gender Stereotypes: Strongly held ideas about the characteristics of males and females. Gender Stratification: Rights and responsibilities allocated according to gender (ordering of society). • What men do is often valued more highly (education; economic activities; politics; etc.). • Gender ideology legitimates stratification. Domestic-Public Dichotomy (differentiation between home and outside world). – Strong differentiation correlates with more gender stratification (higher status for men). Beyond Male and Female Transgender includes: Intersex individuals who have both male and female biological traits. Individuals whose gender identity is different than biological sex and gender identity assigned in infancy. “Biology isn’t destiny; people construct their identities in society.” Hijra • Member of the “third” gender in India (seen as neither male nor female). • Often are intersex (genitalia is neither exclusively male or female). • Low status, marginal members of society. • Make living by performing at weddings and birth ceremonies (association with fertility) . Sex & Social Control: Formal Means – Jim Crow Prohibitions; Statutory Rape; Bestiality Laws; Sodomy Laws Sex & Social Control: Informal Means How do informal means of social control influence sexual behaviors? Sex and Culture Culture and Nature: cultural traditions convert natural acts into cultural customs. • Sex is a natural act (procreation) surrounded by a variety of cultural customs.
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