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Gender Issues. Varying perspectives on what it means to be a male or female. Big Confusing Questions. What does it mean to be a male or female in our society? Are the behavioral preferences of males and females based on biology or culture?
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Gender Issues Varying perspectives on what it means to be a male or female
Big Confusing Questions • What does it mean to be a male or female in our society? • Are the behavioral preferences of males and females based on biology or culture? • Do our society’s attitudes and expectations hurt or help our sexual relations?
Definitions • SEX – biological maleness or femaleness genetic – determined by chromosomes anatomical – obvious physical differences between males and females
Gender – psychological aspects of maleness or femaleness • Gender Identity – the subjective sense of being either male or female • What sex you think you are, or really should be.
Gender Role – attitudes and behaviors considered appropriate in a specific culture for people of a particular sex • Expectations we should fulfill • Masculine or Feminine • Vary widely from culture to culture but rapidly evolving
Forming a Gender Identity • Does it simply flow from anatomy? For some of us, it’s not always that easy • For all of us, it all starts in our mother’s womb, at the instant of conception, as prenatally we begin the tortuous path of sexual differentiation.
Chromosomal Influences • We receive 23 chromosomes from each parent. • Of these, 22 pairs are identical in structure. • The 23rd pair, the sex chromosomes, determines whether we are genetically male or female.
More Chromosomes • If we receive an X from both parents, we will be female (XX). • A y from our father, and we are male (Xy). • One gene on the y (SRY) leads to testes development. • Perhaps one gene on X (DSS) leads to the development of female characteristics. If so, we are not inherently female.
The Gonadal Stage • Males and females have identical gonads (reproductive organs) until about 6 weeks after conception when SRY or DSS spur their development • Once the testes or ovaries become functional their release of hormones controls further differentiation
The Crucial Role of Hormones • The gonads release the sex hormones into the blood stream • Ovaries produce: 1) estrogen a hormone which develops female sexual characteristics and regulates menstruation, as do 2) progestational compounds
Testes release androgens which promote the development of male genitals and secondary sexual characteristics • Another hormone released by the testes, testosterone, also promotes sexual motivation • Both males and females produce the sex hormones typically associated with the other (testosterone and estrogen) but in much smaller quantities
Internal reproductive structures - males • At about 8 weeks after conception: Males – androgens stimulate the woffian ducts to develop into the “plumbing” which will allow semen creation and transmission another hormone causes the mullerian duct system to vanish
Female reproductive organs • Without the influence of androgen, mullerian ducts develop into female structures and the woffian duct system fades into nothingness
External reproductive structures • A product of testosterone – DHT – causes portions of the undifferentiated sex organs to fuse and form the scrotum and penis • Without DHT this fusion does not take place and the clitoris, labia minora, and labia majora form • By the 12th week, it’s all done and our sex is apparent
Brain Differentiation • For males, in the Hypothalamus, testosterone exposure leads to insensitivity to the effects of estrogen, preventing the establishment of the menstrual cycle at puberty • Also, some of its regions are much larger in heterosexual males than females
The Cerebral Cortex • Are differences between the sexes on verbal and spatial cognitive skills caused by differences in their cerebral cortexes? • Men appear to often rely on just one hemisphere. • Women have a thicker corpus callosum facilitating the use of both hemispheres
But there’s more • Are there other reasons why men perform better on spatial tasks while women shine in verbal measures?
The power of Expectations • Recent research highlights the importance of psychosocial, not biological, influences. • Social Expectations – girls do just as well as boys initially in science and math, but falter in high school. Where they discouraged ? • Changing Expectations – by the late 90’s, the gap had largely vanished.
Atypical Differentiation • How, and why, do things go awry? • Hermaphrodites/Intersexed – people who possess biological attributes of both sexes • Very few have both ovaries and testes, most have ambiguous anatomy but their gonads match their chromosomes and they are called pseudo hermaphrodites
Problems at the Chromosomal Level • Turner’s Syndrome • Just one sex chromosome – X • Left with 45 rather than 46 • Normal external female genitals but little or no evidence of ovaries/hormones • Despite that, feminine in interests and behavior • 1 of 2000 births
Faulty Chromosomes cont. • Klinefelter’s Syndrome • XXy occurs in 1 of 500 births • Anatomically male • Presence of extra X stops development of male structures, resulting in sterility • No interest in sex, no testosterone • Tall, “rounded”, feminine, but content as males
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome • An otherwise normal male, unaffected by prenatal exposure to androgen • Results in female genitals, including a shallow, but nonfunctional vagina • Raised as girls, they assume a female gender identity and thrive as females
Fetally Androgenized Females • Chromosomally normal females exposed to excessive androgens • At birth genitals appear to be male • “Corrected” by minor surgery, most still reject a female gender identity with some assuming a male gender identity and behavior
DHT-Lacking Males • Males who cannot produce crucial DHT • Result – femaleappearing external genitals, at least initially • Typically raised as girls, they suddenly sprout into males at puberty • In one study, 16 of 18 cast off their female gender identity and happily assumed male sex roles
The Puzzle of Gender Identity • Why do we think we belong to one sex, even though our anatomy tells us differently? • Evidence, both cross-cultural, and otherwise, points to the importance of social-learning forces.
Social-Learning Influences • Familial expectations (blue room vs. pink room) start before birth • Familial perceptions/interpretations vary • Familial responses vary similarly • By 3, most of us have a firm gender identity, and reinforcement momentum builds as kids mimic same-sex parent
Cross-Cultural Evidence • Margaret Mead’s ground-breaking studies • In Mundugumor, both sexes are aggressive, insensitive – Masculine ? • In Arapesh, both sexes are nurturing and gentle – Feminine? • In Tchambuli, we find a reversal of our customary sex roles • Therefore, it’s more culture than biology
Are We Sexually Neutral at Birth? • In the 1960’s, Dr. John Money at John Hopkins thought so • Intersexed infants were surgically “fixed” to have female genitals, regardless of their chromosomal sex • It’s easier to make a functional vagina than a penis • Initially, this approach seemed to work
Chromosomes Win Out • As these individuals matured, some of the children assigned a sex at odds with their chromosomes rejected their expected gender identity • “The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl” • Since the social learning model obviously has its limits, now even John Money endorses an interactional model
Transsexualism & Transgenderism • Transsexual (TS) – someone whose gender identity is opposite to their biological sex • TSs feel that their biological sex is mistaken. Many seek sex-reassignment, many do not.
Transgendered (TG) – people whose appearance and/or behaviors do not match traditional gender roles. • TGs behave in a way that flouts society’s expectations. Often, they cross-dress. • TGs do not seek sexual reassignment – surgery.
Gender Dysphoria • Some, but not all, of TSs and TGs experience gender dysphoria – unhappiness with their biological sex or expected sex role.
Gender Identity/Orientation • Sexual Orientation – the sex we are emotionally and physically attracted to • Gender Identity – the sex we believe we belong to, even despite biology • Most TSs are attracted/oriented to those who share (pre-surgery) their anatomy • But some male to female TSs prefer females
Gender-Identity Disorder • According to DSM IV TR, to fit the Gender-Identity Disorder “tag”, individuals must: 1) have pervasive cross-gender beliefs, 2) dysphoria 3) lack a physical intersex condition, & 4) show great distress and problems functioning in society and at work
Transsexuals: Why? • Most have no problems with chromosomes or anatomy • 90% lack any hint of mental illness • While at first 75% were male, this gap has narrowed • Most develop their desire to change sexes in childhood • Dating!
Fine, But Why? • We still don’t know, two theories exist. • Hormonal – prenatal exposure to inappropriate levels alters brain differentiation – But most are normal. • Social Learning – children are conditioned to behave in a manner consistent with the other sex and reinforced for mimicking other sex parent.
OK(?) What Do We Do? • Perhaps psychotherapy can alleviate the need for reassignment surgery. But often it can’t, leaving no choice but: • SEX-REASSIGNMENT SURGERY
PROTOCOL • 1) Interviews • 2) Living the life – for a year or longer • 3) Hormone therapy – reverse secondary sexual characteristics, and, finally,
The Surgery • Works better for male to female switch • Penis tissue becomes the vagina • Some can even experience arousal and orgasm • Additional surgery can change the pitch of their voice
Female to Male • Breasts, uterus, ovaries removed • Vagina sealed, penis constructed – but no erection from sexual arousal • Does it work? • Most report a significant increase in their overall adjustment to life
Cultural Gender Roles • Men – assertive, logical, competitive, competent • Women – submissive, warm, nurturing, emotional • Most psychologists argue that our gender roles arise from socialization – our learning histories, through which we accept our society’s expectations for our behavior
The Socialization of Sex Roles • Who and what shapes our assumed sex roles? • Parents – often have differing expectations for, and treatment of, boys and girls Encourage or discourage certain toys “gender appropriate” play • But today sports are pushed for both
Other Socializing Forces • Peers • Voluntarily segregation, even in pre-school • Reinforces sex-typing in play • Influence even increases in adolescence • Otherwise face social ridicule • Often produces stereotyping
Schools & Textbooks • From the 70’s to the early 90’s, girls and boys were treated quite differently • Boys were encouraged to be assertive, received more tolerance when “bad”, more attention, help and praise • Girls praised for “neatness” not substance, encouraged to be dependent and to avoid math and sciences • Recently, these attitudes have shifted
Television • Also perpetuates gender stereotypes • Women are both underrepresented and presented stereotypically • Hope springs from The Wild Thornberrys, Alias, and Judging Amy • Marketing concerns should push this positive trend since women both watch and buy more
Religion • Promotes males as superior – God, Pope, Bishop, Priest, etc. • Women portrayed as Eve, Virgin Mary • Encouraged to model roles such as educators, nurses, charity workers • Recently, many denominations have ordained women ministers and moved to eliminate masculine metaphors for God
Gender-Role Assumptions • Women as undersexed, mean as over women have been told that they should not desire or enjoy sex men should pursue every chance unfairly limits both
More Assumptions • Men initiate, women respond Men approach, “ask out”, “pick up”, “make the move” Women respond with submission or rejection • Causes men to feel pressure and anxiety • Women may wish to initiate but feel pressure
Finally • Men as unemotional • Women as nurturing • Do these assumptions still prevail?