Sociology of Women October 18th, 2012 Are men and women more similar or different from each other? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each position? If not a gender dichotomy (male/female), then what? Can we unlearn, as a culture, the ins and outs of gender? Is gender a question of exclusion or is it a question of difference? Women and Men are more similar than people believe them to be. People focus on the evident physical differences we see on a daily basis in men and women.
Women are commonly described to have breasts, a vagina, and are considered more “voluptuous” or curvy than men, Whereas men are known for their manly tools, their penis, and all the preconceived social and cultural notions that go along with that. However, aside from these minor physical differences men and women are innately the same. Although most people do not realize this, the only legitimate difference that is scientifically proven between men and women is that a woman’s body contains two X chromosomes and a man’s contains an X and Y chromosome (Connell, 2012, pg. 1). This biological difference then allows a woman’s body to develop slightly differently to enable reproduction, such as a womb, breasts, and wider pelvis. A man then develops testes but surprisingly both men and women’s genitals come from the same embryonic tissue. In other words biologically a penis and clitoris, scrotum and labia, come from the exact same starting place, and until people age these physical characteristics aren’t drastically visibly different (Connell, 2012, pg. 52).
One of the most ridiculous arguments about the differences between men and women comes back to our hormones. Many people are taught the differences between men and women throughout popular culture and education but not similarities. We are taught that our gendered bodies do not share any of the same physical characteristics. Men should be buff, taller, and able to do more in terms of strength while women should be graceful, dainty, caregivers that are objects to look at. Most people are unaware of all the commonalities that men and women share.
In fact our hormones function in the same ways, and there are not “male” or “female” hormones. The difference is the levels and patterns our hormones take on. Men generally have higher levels of androgens such as testosterone whereas women have higher levels of reproductive organs at certain points. What most people are unaware of is that the same reproductive hormones present in women also work in men to enable the process of sperm production (Women’s Studies Collective, 2005, pg. 87). There is a huge overlap in the levels and process our bodies take on.
As explained in the text, “Even in early adulthood the physical characteristics of males and females as a group overlap extensively” (Connell, 2009, pg. 52). Height is used as an example, because adult men are generally slightly taller than adult women, but the variety of heights within each biological group is large, in relation to the average difference. Many argue that the build of a man and a woman are completely different. It is true that men on average grow about 10 to 15 percent larger than females and tend to have more upper body strength, but in comparison to other mammals the margin is slim.
Universities across the United States are providing new research that suggests it was similarities among men and women of our early ancestors, not differences which helped early humans evolve to become the dominant species that we are. To understand the similarities of men and women you must understand that sex is a biological categorization based primarily on reproductive potential, whereas gender is the social elaboration of biological sex. Not surprisingly, social norms for heterosexual coupling and care of any resulting children are closely intertwined with gender.
But that is far from the full story. Gender builds on biological sex, but it exaggerates biological difference, and it carries biological difference into domains in the world which it is completely irrelevant. There is no biological reason, for example, why women should take more delicate roles in the world and men should dominate in society, or why women should have red toenails and men should not, but as we consider sex as biological and gender as social, this difference is not clear-cut.
Men and women require the same types of emotional and physical care from the time of birth to adulthood, in order to remain healthy and functioning members of society. Both male and female brains are exactly the same. An argument that is commonly seen about the male and female brain is that on average a man’s brains grows for a bit longer and are a bit larger than females, but aside from the slight size difference both a male and females brain can function the same way. Size does not relate to function. Both men and women go through life trying to fulfill a desire to have emotional connections with others.
Whether these are positive or negative emotional connections based on the persons experiences, men and women still try to fulfill the same voids. Men and women also require the same physical care from birth to adulthood. Both men and women need to be physically cared for in order to survive. Men and women both require the basic needs to have food, water, shelter, and personal hygiene in order to maintain their health. Without one of these things either sex could die. This is explained clearly is Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which explains that you satisfy your biological needs before your personal and social needs.
According to Maslow, when it comes to satisfying your needs, you begin at the bottom of the needs hierarchy, with physiological needs, and then work your way toward the top. Every level on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs explains needs that both men and women require such as Level 1-Physiological needs: Food, water, sex, and sleep, Level 2-Safety needs: Protection from harm, Level 3- Love and belonging needs: Affiliation with others and acceptance by others, Level 4-Esteem needs: Achievement, competency, gaining approval and recognition, Level 5- Self-actualization: Fulfillment of one’s unique potential (Plotnik ; Kouyoumdjian, 2011, pg. 33). Another huge argument regarding the differences between men and women is sexual behaviors and urges. However, it is becoming more obvious that both men and women have the same sexual desires and urges and it’s becoming more socially acceptable for both man and woman to engage in these behaviors in Western Society. In previous times men were described to have more sexual urges and behaviors than women which excused them from any promiscuous behavior they engaged in. However, if a woman chose to do similar things she ould be shunned and looked down upon because she was being “too promiscuous” or a “whore. ” Reality is that both men and women have very complex sexual lives, with few major differences. Often time’s differences are seen across sexes because of societal and cultural beliefs within that community. If a woman having sex with more than one partner is considered a sin and dirty in many cultures these instances are kept quiet to keep order. The same goes with a man, but often only men’s sexual tales are spoken of as less sinful.
Society proves time and time again to be sexual biased on what is acceptable for men and women. Men and women are both simply results of societal and cultural upbringing. A woman in a Western society versus a Middle-Eastern society would behave differently due to family, beliefs, values, and Religion. Strengths for a man versus a woman are based on personal beliefs. I think that both men and women have too many similarities to not be considered equal, but there are not enough strong-willed women such as myself with the same thought process.
Western culture presents men as stronger physically, and ultimately the bread winner, where a woman is considered a caregiver, and delicate. It’s very hard to explain the strengths and weaknesses of two different sexes that are innately the same. A dichotomy is any splitting of a whole into exactly two non-overlapping parts, meaning a gender dichotomy is a procedure in which biological sex is divided into two parts, male and female. Societies around the world use a gender dichotomy to keep order and help better organize and understand sex and gender.
Although with how much evidence there is on both man and woman overlapping we have no use for a gender dichotomy, and yet society remains the same to keep gender in order. With the elimination of a gender dichotomy society may eventually be able to see both man and woman as equal, but truth is we are still so far from that. In order to eliminate the separation of biological sex into two parts people would need to unlearn what they know about gender, which is far from happening. As a culture to unlearn something mass groups of people need to step forward with new information proving the previous to be wrong.
However, feminism is still a growing movement with small numbers, and in order to make social change, sadly enough, we need large numbers of people to explain the facts. If people understood the real depths of feminism and what it entails in a positive way, The Feminist movement could help move forward how people view men and women as more similar than different. Human beings are like sponges for knowledge, and are able to obtain new information to help remove the old, so I am not saying that it is impossible to unlearn the ins and outs of gender, I am simply saying that as most progression does, it will take time.
References Connell, R. (2012). Short introductions gender. (2nd ed. , pg. 50-71). Massachusetts, USA: Polity Press. Women’s Studies Collective, H. C. (2005). Women’s Realities, Women’s Choices- An Introduction to Women’s Studies. (3rd ed. , pg. 85-87). New York, New York: Oxford University Press. Plotnik, R. , ; Kouyoumdjian, H. (2011). Introduction to Psychology. (9th ed. , p. 333). Belmont, CA, USA: Wadsworth- Cengage Learning.