Chapter The study of gender

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Chapter 1. The study of gender:

Essentialist/Maximalist views

  • —knowing the gender of an individual is sufficient to understand the individual

  • can lead to viewing sexes as opposite—gender and sex in this perspective are isomorphic

Minimalist views

  • —while gender contributes to our understanding, there are numerous other categories/attributes/processes that interact to allow us to construct an understanding of the individual

What are ways we name other differences that help us understand ourselves and others?

How do we incorporate those named differences in our understandings?
Which names are primary in our interactions with others?
Schools of thought & research on gender

  • Structuralism

  • the mind has a structure and we can know the structure; we search for generalized model of the mind;

  • Early studies were based on males so, the early conceptualization was masculine/male

  • Functionalism—how does the mind work? What models can we create that allow us to explain how some models were more adaptable than others

  • —individual differences

  • —since males were more successful, then they must be more adaptive models…….sociological factors

  • —culture of masculinity (incidentally, the same could be said for race, income, and other ways we classify individuals)

  • Behaviorism

  • —sought “lawful rules” for behavior; the impact of the environmental forces on individuals did not differ by gender; again, seeking universals

  • Psychoanalytic

  • —focused on “hysterical” women’s self-reports of early experiences; based on “organismic” view viewed feminine role as inherently inferior; to question the interpretation meant a need for therapy; later interpretations refocused “penis envy” as quest for egalitarian status within an oppressive system

  • Social Cognitive theory

  • —modeling, interpretation of others’ motives, sense of efficacy—Bandura;

  • --attribution of success, failure based on gendered perspectives—to what do we attribute our outcomes?

  • BioPsychoSocial—our human condition is based on a dynamic interaction among our biological (genetic, health, etc), social (culture, peers, etc) and individual psychological characteristics; dynamic in that the tension between stability and change is constant.

  • Response to Perspectives on Gender

  • Women’s studies emerged as individuals recognized the male bias in research—(late 1800’s—Kathrine Chopin--Awakenings

  • Researchers were male;

  • Models developed were based on male/masculine

  • Criterion of success in science, business, etc., were based on domains in which males were dominant

  • Weisstein—existing models devalue female/feminine perspectives (if one exists)

  • Womanist movement—response of women of color to the white, upper middle class orientation of the women’s/feminist movement—again, demonstrating that the essentialist view is not valid

  • Walker (1990) womanist comes from the word womanish: opposite of girlish—i.e. frivolous, irresponsible, not serious. A black feminist or feminist of color; from the colloquial expression of mothers to daughters “ You’re acting womanish,” i.e. like a woman. Usually referring to outrageious, audacious, courageous, or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered “goof” for one. Interested in grown-up doings. Acting grown-up being grown-up. Interchangeable with other colloquial expressions: “You’re trying to be grown.” Responsible. In charge. Serious.

  • Men’s movement

  • Male feminists—seeking to identify and minimize limitations due to gender stereotypes;

  • Studies of masculinities—in quest of the masculine identity beyond traditional stereotypes—one outgrowth is “queer theories/studies”

  • Boy Scouts—aimed at re-connecting urban/industrialized males with their agrarian/frontier “roots.”

  • Million-Man March, Promise Keepers—quest to reclaim the position of authority over one’s household including the woman/wife;

  • Queer Studies—focused on understanding issues of importance to gay men; reaction to the perception of hetrosexism in research and political system

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