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Introduction to Sociology

Ron Hammond, Paul Cheney, Raewyn Pearsey

Chapter 10 - Sex and Gender

What Is the Difference Between Sex and Gender?

By far, sex and gender has been one of the most socially significant social factors in the history of the world and the United States. Sex is one's biological classification as male or female and is set into motion at the moment the sperm fertilizes the egg. Sex can be precisely defined at the genetic level with XX being female and XY being male. Believe it or not, there are very few sex differences based on biological factors. Does this surprise you? Many of my students say, "But what about that whole opposite-sex argument?" Truth is, biologically there is no opposite sex. Look at Table 1 below to see sex differences. For the sake of argument, ignore the reproductive differences and you basically see taller, stronger, and faster males. The real difference is the reproductive body parts, their function, and corresponding hormones. The average U.S. woman has about two children in her lifetime. She also experiences a menstrual period. Other than that and a few more related issues listed in Table 1, reproductive roles are a minor difference in the overall daily lives of women, yet so very much importance has been placed on these differences throughout history.

Table 1. Known Biological Sex Differences
  Females Males
  Uterus Testicles
  Ovaries Scrotum
  Breast development Breast dormant
  Cyclical hormones -
  Shorter Taller
  Less aggression-Testosterone More aggression-Testosterone
  Runs a bit slower Runs a bit faster
  Less upper body strength More upper body strength
  Lives longer
(7 years in developed countries)
Lives shorter
(3 years shorter worldwide)
* See World Population Data Sheet for Current Year

We have much more in common than we have differences. In Table 2 you see a vast list of similarities common to both men and women. Every major system of the human body functions in very similar ways to the point that health guidelines, disease prevention and maintenance, and even organ transplants are very similar and guided under a large umbrella of shared guidelines. True, there are medical specialists in treating men and women, but again the similarities outweigh the differences. Today you probably ate breakfast, took a shower, walked in the sunlight, sweated, slept, used the bathroom, were exposed to germs and pathogens, grew more hair and fingernails, exerted your muscles to the point that they became stronger, and felt and managed stress. So did every man and woman you know and in very similar ways.K

Table 2. Known Biological Sex Similarities
  1. Digestive System
  2. Respiratory System
  3. Circulatory System
  4. Lymphatic System
  5. Urinary System
  6. Musculoskeletal System
  7. Nervous System
  8. Endocrine System
  9. Sensory System-5
  10. Immune System
  11. Urinary System
  12. Integumentary System (skin, hair, and nails)
  13. Excretory System

Answer this question: Which sex has Estrogen, Follicle Stimulating Hormone, Luteinizing Hormone, Prolactin, mammary glands, nipples, and even Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (at times)? Yes, you probably guessed correctly: both males and females have all these hormones, plus many others, including testosterone.

Not only are males and females very similar, but science has shown that we truly are more female than male in biological terms. So, why the big debate of the battle of the sexes? Perhaps it's because of the impact of the fact that Gender is the cultural definition of what it means to be a man or a woman. Gender is culture-based and varies in a thousand subtle ways across the many diverse cultures of the world. Gender has been shaped by political, religious, philosophical, language, tradition and other cultural forces for many years. To this day, in most countries of the world women are still oppressed and denied access to opportunities more than men and boys. This can be seen through many diverse historical documents.

When reading these documents, the most common theme of how women were historically oppressed in the world's societies is the omission of women as being legally, biologically, economically, and even spiritually on par with men. The second most common theme is the assumption that women were somehow broken versions of men (Google "Aristotle's The Generation of Animals," "Sigmund Freud's Penis Envy," or "John Grey's Mars and Venus").

Biology has disproved the belief that women are broken versions of men. In fact, the 23rd chromosome looks like XX in females and XY in males, and the Y looks more like an X with a missing leg than a Y. Ironically, science has shown that males are broken or variant versions of females, and the more X traits males have the better their health and longevity.

Debunking Myths About Women

In Table 1 you saw how females carry the lion's share of the biological reproduction of the human race. Since history assumed that women were impaired because of their reproductive roles (men were not), societies have defined much of these reproductive traits as hindrances to activities. I found an old home health guide at an antique store in Ohio and was fascinated that in 1898 the country's best physicians had very inaccurate information and knowledge about the human body and how it worked (see if you can find a copy of this book: The Book of Health: A Practical Family Physician, 1898, by Robert W. Patton). Interestingly, pregnancy was considered "normal" within most circumstances, while menstruation was seen as at type of disease process that had to be treated (back then and still today most physicians were men). On pages 892-909 the book refers to menstrual problems as being "unnatural" and normal only if "painless," and thus the patient should be treated rather than the "disease." Indeed from a male scientific perspective in 1898, females and their natural reproductive cycles were problematic.

But, to the author, females were more fragile and vulnerable and should be treated more carefully than males, especially during puberty. Patton stated, "The fact is that the girl has a much greater physical and a more intense mental development to accomplish than the boy." As for public education, he stated that "The boy can do it; the girl can -- sometimes." He attributed most of the female sexual and reproductive problems to public school, which he referred to as a byproduct of "women's rights, so called."

He'd probably be stunned to see modern medicine's discoveries today. In our day, women are not defined as being inferior in comparison to men. But in 1898, a physician (source of authority and scientific knowledge) had no reservations about stating the cultural norm in print -- that women were considered broken in contrast to men.

Gender Socialization is the shaping of individual behavior and perceptions in such a way that the individual conforms to the socially prescribed expectations for males and females. One has to wonder what might have been different if all women were born into societies that valued their uniqueness and similarities in comparison to men. How much further might civilizations have progressed? It is wisdom to avoid the exclusion of any category of people -- based on biological or other traits -- from full participation in the development of knowledge and progress in society. In the history of the world, such wisdom has been ignored far too often. The American Sociological Association provides students and professionals with membership opportunities, including belonging to subject-based groups they call, "sections."

Gender Roles as a Social Force

One can better understand the historical oppression of women by considering three social factors throughout the world's history: religion, tradition, and labor-based economic supply and demand. In almost all of the world's major religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and many others), very clear distinctions have been made about Gender Roles, which are socialized expectations of what is normal, desirable, acceptable, and conforming for males and females in specific jobs or positions in groups and organizations over the life course. These gender roles have very specific meanings for the daily lives and activities of males and females who live under the religious cultures in nations throughout history and even in our day. The Book of Leviticus in the Judeo-Christian Old Testament has many biological rituals based specifically on women's hygiene. A close friend of mine performed her master's thesis in Ancient Near East Studies on the reproductive hygiene rituals described in the book of Leviticus (see Is God a Respecter of Persons?: Another Look at the Purity Laws in Leviticus, Anne M. Adams, 2000, in BYU Library holdings). In brief, she found no modern-day scientific support for these religious rituals on female's health nor on their reproduction. Her conclusion was that these were religious codes of conduct, not biologically based or scientifically beneficial codes.

Many ancient writings in religions refer to the flaws of females, their reproductive disadvantages, their temperament, and the rules that should govern them in the religious community. Please don't get me wrong -- if it sounds like I'm bashing religious beliefs, I'm not. In fact, many current religious doctrines have transformed as society's values of gender equality have emerged. I am also a fan of religious worship and participation in whatever religion a person chooses to follow. My point is that throughout history, religions were a dominant social force in many nations, and the religious doctrines, like the cultural values, often placed women in a subjugated role to men on a number of different levels.

After religion, the next social force is tradition. Traditions can be and have been very harsh toward women. The United Nations has established 52 indicators of well-being for women in the world SOURCE. Many of these standards were established with the hope of improving well-being for women throughout the world and especially in certain regions where oppression is quite severe. One might ask why such standards would even be necessary in a world that truly valued all of its citizens (men, women, and children).

Look at Table 3 below, which shows a scale of the outcomes of oppression toward women that have and currently do exist somewhere in the world. I have always found it remarkable that even though the average woman outlives the average man by five years worldwide and seven years in developed countries, there are still a few countries where cultural and social oppression literally translates into shorter life expectancies for women.

Table 3. Outcomes of the 10 Worst Forms of Oppression of Women -- Worst to Least
  1. Death from cultural and social oppression1 (various countries)
  2. Sexual and other forms of slavery (Western Africa and Thailand)
  3. Maternal deaths (sub-Saharan Africa and developing nations)
  4. Female Genital Mutilation (Mid-Africa -- about 120 million victims)
  5. Rape and sexual abuse (South Africa and the United States are the worst countries)
  6. Wage disparity (worldwide)
  7. No/low education for females (various degrees in most countries of the world)
  8. Denial of access to jobs and careers (many developing nations)
  9. Mandatory covering with inordinate punishment for non-compliance of females' bodies head to toe (traditional countries, Muslim)
  10. Public demeaning of women (still practiced, public and private), World Population Data Sheet 2013 (Sierra Leone, Malawi and Lesotho have a tie between men and women's life expectancy -- this even though in more developed nations the average woman outlives the average man by five years)

Death from cultural and social oppression

Some cultural traditions are so harsh that females are biologically trumped by males -- by withholding nutrition, abandoning wife and daughters, abuse, neglect, violence, refugee status, diseases, and complications of childbirth unsupported by the government. If you study this subject online looking at the Population Reference Bureau's many links and reports, you will find a worldwide concerted effort to persuade government, religious, and cultural leaders to shift their focus and efforts to nurture and protect women/females (, see also United Nations, Progress has already been made to some degree, but much change is still warranted because life, health and well-being are at stake for billions of women worldwide.

Sexual and other forms of slavery

One of the most repugnant traditions in our world has been and is the sale of children/women into sexual and other forms of slavery. A non-profit organization funded by the Walk Free Foundation has recently provided a 2013 annual report on all forms of slavery, highlighting sexual slavery as one of many forms SOURCE. Countless civilizations that are still influential in our modern thought and tradition have sold girls and women the same way one might sell a horse or cow. It's estimated by a variety of organizations and sources that about 1 million women are currently forced into the sex slavery industry (boys are also sold and bought into slavery). India, Western Africa, and Thailand are some of the most notorious regions for this atrocity (Google "Amnesty International," "Sexual Slavery,", and "United Nations," and search Governments fail at two levels in the sexual slavery trade. First, they allow it to occur, as in the case of Thailand, where it's a major draw of male tourists; and second, they fail to police sexual slavery, which is often criminal and/or organized-crime in nature. The consequences to these girls and women are harsh, and the practice is often connected to the spread of HIV and other communicable diseases.

Maternal deaths

Although pregnancy is not a disease, it carries with it many health risks when governments fail to provide resources to expecting mothers before, during, and after delivery of their babies. Maternal Death is the death of a pregnant or recently delivered woman resulting from pregnancy, delivery, or recovery complications. Maternal deaths number in the hundreds of thousands and are estimated by the United Nations to be around 200,000 per year in the world (see Typically very little medical attention is required to prevent infection, mediate complications, and assist in a mother's recovery. To answer this problem, one must approach it at the larger social level with government, health care systems, economy, family, and other institutional efforts. The Population Reference Bureau puts a woman's risk of dying from maternal causes at 1 in 92 worldwide with it being as low as 1 in 6,000 in developed countries and as high as 1 in 22 for the least developed regions of the world (see, World Population Data Sheet 2008). The PRB reports "little improvement in maternal mortality in developing countries" (see page 3 of the Data Sheet).

Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation is the traditional cutting, circumcision, and removal of most or all external genitalia of women for the end result of closing off some or part of the vagina until such time that the woman is married and cut open. In some traditions, this practice has religious underpinnings. In others, it is part of customs and rituals that have been passed down. In no way does the main body of any world religion condone or mandate this practice. Many countries where this takes place are predominantly Muslim, yet local traditions have corrupted the purer form of the religion and its beliefs, and female genital mutilation predates Islam (see Obermeyer, C. M. March 1999, Female Genital Surgeries: The Known and the Unknowable. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 13, pp. 79-106; retrieved 5 December 2008 SOURCE ). An analogy can be drawn from the Taliban, which was extreme in comparison to most Muslims worldwide and which literally practiced homicide toward its females to enforce conformity. It should also be explained that there are no medical therapeutic benefits from female genital mutilation. Quite the contrary, there are many adverse medical consequences, ranging from pain, difficulty in childbirth, and illness to even death.

Many human rights groups, the United Nations, scientists, advocates, the United States, the World Health Organization, and other organizations have made aggressive efforts to influence the cessation of this practice worldwide. But progress has come very slowly. Part of the problem is that women often perform the ritual and carry on the tradition as it was perpetrated upon them. In other words, many cases have women preparing the next generation for it and at times performing it on them.

Rape and sexual abuse

As will be mentioned in the chapter on rape and sexual assault, rape is not the same as sex. Rape is violence, motivated by men with power, anger, selfish, and sadistic issues. Rape is dangerous and destructive and more likely to happen in the United States than in most other countries of the world. There are 195 countries in the world today. The U.S. typically is among the worst 5 percent in terms of rape (yes, that means that 95% of the world's countries are safer for women than the U.S. is). Consecutive studies performed by the United Nations Surveys on crime Trends and the Operations of Criminal Justice Systems confirm that South Africa is the most dangerous, crime-ridden nation on the planet in all crimes, including rape SOURCE.

With very few exceptions, the world's histories have recorded the pattern of sexually abusing boys, girls, and women. Slavery, conquest of war, kidnapping, assault, and other circumstances are the context of these violent practices. The website is a tremendous resource for knowledge and information especially about rape, assault, incest, and similar issues relating to the United States. The United Nations reported that in 2013 "Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank data" (Retrieved 12 June 2014 from ). The UN calls for a criminal Justice System response and for increased prioritization and awareness. Anything might help since almost every country of the world is struggling to prevent sexual violence and rape against its females.

Wage disparity

Wage disparity between males and females is both traditional and labor-based economic supply and demand. Statistics show past and current discrepancies, always with lower pay for women. Diane White, in a 1997 presentation to the United Nations General Assembly, stated that "Today the wage disparity gap costs American women $250,000 over the course of their lives" (retrieved 5 December 2008 SOURCE ). Indeed, evidence supports her claim that women are paid less in comparison to men, and their cumulated losses add up to staggering figures. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2008 that U.S. women earn 77 cents for every U.S. man's $1 (Google "American Community Survey"). They also reported that in some places (Washington, DC, for example) and in certain fields (computers and mathematical) women earn as much as 98 cents to a man's $1.

At the worldwide level, "As employees, women are still seeking equal pay with men. Closing the gap between women's and men's pay continues to be a major challenge in most parts of the world" (retrieved 5 December 2008 from, "The World's Women 2005: Progress and Statistics" ). The report also discussed the fact that about 60 countries have begun to keep statistics on informal (unpaid) work by women. Needless to say, even though measuring paid and unpaid work of women is not as accurate as needed for world considerations, "Women contribute to development not only through remunerated work but also through a great deal of unremunerated work" (p. 47).

Why the lower wages for women? The traditional definition of the reproductive roles of women as being "broken, diseased, or flawed" is part of the answer of wage disparity. The idea that reproductive roles interfere with the continuity of the workplace and the idea that women cannot be depended on plays heavily into the maltreatment of women. The argument can be made that traditional and economic factors have led to the existing patterns of paying women less for the same education, experience, and efforts as men.

No/low education for females


Efforts to provide formal education to females worldwide have escalated over the last few decades. The 2002 Kids Count International Data Sheet estimated rates as low as 11 percent of females in primary school in Somalia (retrieved 8 December 2008 from ). A 1993 World Bank report made it very clear that females throughout the world were being neglected in receiving their formal educations when compared to males (see Subbarro, K., and Raney, L., 1993, "Social Gains from Female Education: A Cross-National Study," World Bank Discussion Papers 194; retrieved from Eric ED 363542 on 8 December 2008). In 1998 another example is found in efforts specific to Africa via the Forum of African Women Educationalists, which focuses on governmental policies and practices for female education across the continent (retrieved 8 December 2008 SOURCE ). Literally hundreds of studies have since focused on other regions around and below the equator, where education levels for females are much lower.

In 1999 UNICEF reported that 1 billion people would never learn to read as children, with 130 million school-aged children (73 million girls) without access to basic education (retrieved, 8 December 2008 SOURCE ). Another 2008 UNICEF report clearly identifies the importance of educating girls, who grow up to be mothers, because of the tremendous odds that those educated mothers will ensure that their children are also formally educated SOURCE. In its statistical tables, the report shows that Somalia is now up to 22 percent for boys and girls in primary schools, yet in most countries females are still less likely to be educated SOURCE. The main point from UNICEF and many other formal reports is that higher formal education for females is associated with life, health, protection from crime and sexual exploitation, and countless other benefits, especially to females in the poorer regions of the world (for most recent statistics SOURCE ).

In the United States most females and males attend some form of formal education. After high school, many go to college. Even though the U.S. numbers of 18-24-year-old men are higher than women ( ) women are more likely to attend college based on percentages (57% of college students are women; retrieved 8 December 2008 SOURCE ).

A projection from the National Center for Education Statistics projects a continuing trend up and through the year 2016, where about 58 percent of U.S. college students will be female (retrieved 8 December 2008 from "Projections of Education Statistics to 2016," SOURCE ). By 2016, about 60 percent of graduated students will be females SOURCE. These numbers reflect a strong and concerted push toward equality of opportunity for females in formal education that does date back over a century. The challenge is to avoid defining progress for U.S. females in public and private education as having been made at the expense of males. That's much too simplistic.

These projections reflect a change in the culture of breadwinning and the adult roles of males. Males and females who don't pursue a college degree will make less money than those who did. To make sense of this trend, many males have been identified as having a prolonged adolescence (even into their 30s), video game playing mentality, and a "live with your parents indefinitely" strategy until their shot at the labor force has passed them by. Others have pointed out the higher rates of learning disabilities in K-12, the relatively low percentage of K-5 teachers who are males, and the higher rate of male dropouts. Still others blame attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity as part of the problem. Here is a truism about education in the U.S.

Higher education = higher pay = higher social prestige = higher income = higher quality of life

Denial of access to jobs and careers

Many countries of the world have neutralized the traditional, religious, and labor-force based biases against women and have moved to a merit-based system. Even in the U.S., there have been "men's wages, then women and children's wages (1/10 to 1/3 of a man's). In a sense, any hard-working, talented person can pursue and obtain a high-end job, including women. Communism broke some of these barriers early on in the 20th century, but the relatively low wages afforded those pursuing these careers somewhat offset the advances women could have made. In the U.S. progress has come more slowly. Physicians are some of the brightest and best-paid specialists in the world. Salaries tend to begin in the $100,000 range and can easily reach $500,000 depending on the specialty SOURCE. Prior to 1970 most physicians were white and male, but things are slowly changing. See Table 4 for trends between 1970 and 2006.

Table 4. The Percentage of Physicians Who Are Male and Female1
Year %Male %Female
1970 92.4% 7.6%
1980 88.4% 11.6%
1990 83.1% 16.9%
2000 76.3% 24.0%
2002 74.8% 25.2%
2003 74.2% 25.8%
2006 72.2% 27.8%
2009 70.4% 29.6%
1 Retrieved from the American Medical Association, 8 December 2008, from "Table 1: Physicians By Gender (Excludes Students)" For Year 2009 Retrieved from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2 June 2014, from "Table 164: Physicians by Sex and Specialty: 1980 to 2009" SOURCE

The upward trend shows a concerted effort to provide equal opportunity for females and males. Engineers have also seen a concerted effort to facilitate females entering the profession, but progress has been slower in the engineering field. The Society of Women Engineers is a non-profit organization that helps support and recognize women as engineers (see ). Figure 1 shows that there has been an increase in the numbers of Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree graduates in the US, but the percent who are female is far lower. For example, in 2012 only 19 percent of Bachelor’s degrees and 23 percent of Master’s degrees in engineering went to females.

Figure 1. Percent Females graduating in Engineering 2002-2012*
Primary vs. Secondary Groups
*Retrieved 18 June 2014 from SOURCE and SOURCE Figure 2 shows the percent of US female graduates at the Master’s in a variety of fields for 2012. There were only 36 percent of graduates in the science and engineering fields at this level in 2012 with 64 percent in the other fields. There were only 36 percent of physical science; 41 percent of math and statistics; 43 percent of earth, atmospheric, and oceanic sciences; 54 percent of agricultural and biological sciences; and 58 percent of computer sciences who were female. While there were 56 percent of all social sciences and 79 percent of psychological sciences who graduated with a Master’s degree.
Figure 2. US Percent Female Graduates with Master’s Degrees in Various Disciplines*
Primary vs. Secondary Groups
*Retrieved 18 June 2014 from SOURCE and SOURCE

Computer-based careers are seeing striking gains in some areas for women who will be hired competitively based on merit. The same cannot be said for doctoral-level employment in the more prestigious fields. Medical doctors are some of the best paid professionals in the US. As of data accounting for 2011, nearly 50 percent were female (retrieved 18 June 2014 SOURCE original calculated from: Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Dept. of Education. 2012. Digest of Education Statistics. SOURCE and American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). 2010. Table 1: Medical Students, Selected Years, 1965-2010. Another great paying profession is engineering. Yet, (retrieved 18 June 2014 from: SOURCE National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. 2013. Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2013. Special Report NSF 13-304. Arlington, VA. Available at SOURCE.

An Interesting report released by the US Census Bureau identified the percentages of Women in a variety of scientific fields. Figure 3 shows these trends between 1970 and 2011 for the United States. While it is obvious that certain fields have seen a dramatic rise in the proportion of women scientists (Social Scientists, Mathematical Workers, and Life and Physical Scientists) there are two specific fields where the rise has not risen in the same manner (Engineering rose from only 3% to 13% and Computer workers rose from 15% in 1970 to about 30% in 1990, but has declined somewhat back down to 27% in 2011). In Engineering and Computer work, the salaries and prestige are higher than for the other professions listed here.

Figure 3. Percentages of Scientific Occupations Comprised of Women between 1970 and 2011 US*
*Retrieved 29 August 2014 from Disparities in STEM Employment by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin; American Community Survey Reports Landivar, L.C. (2013) September, ACS-24 Figure Four Women’s Employment in STEM Occupations 1970 to 2011

Mandatory covering of females' bodies head to toe

The mandatory covering of females' bodies head to toe has been opposed by some and applauded by others. Christians, certain Native American Tribal groups, Hindus, and many other religious groups have the practice of covering or veiling in their histories. Yet, over the last 30 years, as fundamentalist extreme Muslim nations and cultures have returned to their much more traditional way of life, Hijab, the Arabic word that means to cover or veil, has become more common. In Islamic countries, wearing the Hijab is not in itself oppressive any more than wearing a dress could be considered oppressive in the US. Often Hijab means modest and private in the day-to-day interpretations of the practice. For some countries it is a personal choice, while for others it becomes a crime with inordinate punishments affixed to non-compliance for those who fail not to comply. The former Taliban punished such a crime with death (they also punished formal schooling of females and the use of makeup by death).

Many women's rights groups have brought public attention to this trend, not so much because the mandated covering of females is that oppressive, but because the veiling and covering is symbolic of the religious, traditional, and labor-forced patterns of oppression that have caused so many problems for women and continue to do so today.

I interviewed a retired OBGYN nurse who served as a training nurse for a mission in Saudi Arabia on a volunteer basis. She taught other local nurses from her 30 years of experience. Each and every day she was guarded by machine-gun-toting security forces everywhere she went. She was asked to cover and veil and did so. I asked her how she felt about that, given that her U.S. culture was so relaxed on this issue.

"I wanted to teach those women and knew that they would benefit from my experience. I just had to do what I was told by the authorities," she said.

"What would have happened if you had tried to leave the compound without your veil?" I asked.

"I suspect I would have been arrested and shot." She chuckles. "Not shot, perhaps, but if I did not comply, my training efforts would have been stopped and I would have been sent home."

"So, you complied because of your desire to train the nurses?"

"That and the mothers and babies."

(Interview with HB, 12 June 2005)

Public demeaning of women

The public demeaning of women has been acceptable throughout various cultures because publicly demeaning members of society who are privately devalued and/or considered flawed fits the reality of most day-to-day interactions. Misogyny is the physical or verbal abuse and mistreatment of women. Verbal misogyny is unacceptable in public in most Western nations today. With the ever-present technology found in cell phones, video cameras, and security devices, a person's private and public misogynistic language could easily be recorded and posted for millions to see on any number of websites. Perhaps, this fear of being found out as a woman-hater is not the ideal motivation for creating cultural values of respect and even admiration of women and men. As was mentioned above, historically most of the world's leaders assumed that women were not as valuable as men, and it has been only a few decades since changes began. Yet an even more sinister assumption has and does persist today -- that women are the totality of their reproductive role, or Sex = Gender (Biology = Culture). If this were true, then women would ultimately just be breeders of the species rather than the valued human beings they are throughout the world today.

An early pioneer and one of my personal heroines is an anthropologist named Margaret Mead (1901-1978). Dr. Mead earned her Ph.D. under the direction of some of the best anthropologists of her day. But, she was a woman in a mostly male-dominated academic field. In my own readings of her works -- her works are regularly quoted in many different disciplines today -- I marvel that she successfully challenged the sexist and misogynistic notions established in academics at the time.

Bold Research on Gender

Mead's work entitled Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935) became a major seminal work in the women's liberation movement and thereby in the redefinition of women in many Western societies. Her observations of gender in three tribes -- Arapesh, Mundugamor, and Tchambuli -- created a national discussion that led many to reconsider the established Sex = Gender assumption. In these tribes she found the following:

Arapesh -- both men and women displayed what we typically call feminine traits: sensitivity, cooperation, and low levels of aggression.

Mundugamor -- both men and women were insensitive, uncooperative, and very aggressive. These were typical masculine traits at the time.

Tchambuli -- women were aggressive, rational and capable and were also socially dominant. Men were passive, assuming artistic and leisure roles.

Why then, Mead argued, if our reproductive roles determined our cultural and social opportunities, were the gender definitions varied and unique among less civilized peoples? Were we not less civilized ourselves at one point in history, and have we not progressed on a path similar to the one the tribal people take? Could it be that tradition (culture) was the stronger social force rather than biology? Mead's work and her public influence helped to establish the belief that biology is only a part of the Sex and Gender question (albeit an important part). Mead established that Sex ≠ Gender. But, even with the harshest criticism launched against her works, her critics supported and even inadvertently reinforced the idea that biology shapes but cultures are more salient in how women and men are treated by those with power.

Misogyny is easier to perpetrate if one assumes the weakness, biological frailty, and perhaps even diminished capacity that women were claimed to have had. I personally witnessed the rise and fall of some who tried to persist in the traditional definition of women. Andrew Clay Silverstein (1957-present) was a nationally successful comedian who also played in a movie and TV show (he recently appeared on Celebrity Apprentice). His career ended abruptly because of his harsh sexist themes, which were being performed in an age of clarity and understanding about gender values. Mr. Clay failed to recognize the social change that surrounded him. We often overlook the change and the continuing problems ourselves. It is advantageous to you and me not to make the same mistake in our own career paths.

Professional and volunteer organizations have made concerted efforts to raise awareness of the English language and its demeaning language toward females. English as a derivative of German has many linguistic biases against women, non-whites, poor people, and non-royalty. Raising awareness and discussing the assumptions within English or any other language has been part of the social transformation toward cultural and biological fairness and equality. If we understand how the words we use influence the culture we live in and how the values of that culture influence the way we treat one another, then we begin to see the importance of language on the quality of life.

The quality of life for women is of importance at many different levels in the world. As you've read through this chapter, you've probably noticed that much is yet to be accomplished worldwide. The United States has seen much progress, but other nations continually rank the "world's best nation for women." Many European countries far outrank the U.S. for quality of women's lives. In Fact, in 2012 the U.S. ranked number 22 (retrieved 9 December 2013 SOURCE ). The Save the Children Foundation reported that the US ranked 5th best in terms of countries which supports its mothers SOURCE.

The Global Gender Gap Index was developed to measure the quality of life for women as compared between countries. It measures the gap between males and females in objective statistics that focus on equality. There are four pillars in the index: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, and health and survival. These are measured using 14 indicators from each country's national statistics. From 1998-2006, there was a reported net improvement for all countries (p. 27).

When one considers the day-to-day lives of women in these national statistics, and perhaps more importantly in their personal lives, the concept of what women do as their contribution to the function of society becomes important. Instrumental Tasks are goal-directed activities that link the family to the surrounding society, geared toward obtaining resources. This includes economic work, breadwinning, and other resource-based efforts. Expressive Tasks pertain to the creation and maintenance of a set of positive, supportive, emotional relationships within the family unit. These include relationships, nurturing, and social connections needed in the family and society. Today, women do both and typically do them well.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, both males and females combined their local economic efforts in homemaking. Most of these efforts were cottage industry-type, where families used their children's labor to make products they needed -- items like soap, thread, fabric, butter, and many other products. When the factory model of production emerged in Western civilizations, the breadwinner and homemaker became more distinct. The Breadwinner is a parent or spouse who earns wages outside of the home and uses them to support the family. The Homemaker is typically a woman who occupies her life with mothering, housekeeping, and being a wife while depending heavily on the breadwinner.

What About Men?

In the past two decades a social movement referred to as the Men's Movement has emerged. The Men's Movement is a broad effort across societies and the world to improve the quality of life and family-related rights of men. Since the Industrial Revolution, men have been emotionally exiled from their families and close relationships. They have become the human piece of the factory machinery (or computer technology in our day) that forced them to disconnect from their most intimate relationships and to become money-acquisition units rather than emotionally powerful pillars of their families.

Many in this line of thought attribute higher suicide rates, death rates, accident rates, substance-abuse problems, and other challenges in the lives of modern men directly to the broad social process of post-industrial breadwinning. Not only did the Industrial Revolution's changes hurt men, but the current masculine role is viewed by many as being oppressive to men, women, and children. Today a man is more likely to kill or be killed, to abuse, and to oppress others than he was before the Industrial Revolution. Table 5 lists some of the issues of concern for those in the Men's Movement.

Table 5. Concerns in the Men's Movement

  1. Life and health challenges
  2. Emotional isolation
  3. Sexual research and rights
  4. Post-divorce/separation father's rights
  5. False sex of physical abuse allegations
  6. Early education challenges for boys
  7. Declining college attendance
  8. Protection from domestic abuse
  9. Man-hating or bashing
  10. Lack of support for fatherhood
  11. Paternal rights and abortion
  12. Affirmative action -- sex and race

The list of concerns displays the quality of life issues mixed in with specific legal and civil rights concerns. Men's Movement sympathizers would most likely promote or support equality of rights for men and women. They are aware of the Male Supremacy Model, where males erroneously believe that men are superior in all aspects of life and that they should excel in everything they do. They also concern themselves with the Sexual Objectification of Women, where men learn to view women as objects of sexual consumption rather than as a whole person. Male Bashing is the verbal abuse and use of pejorative and derogatory language about men.

These and other concerns are not being aggressively supported throughout the world as are the women's rights and suffrage efforts discussed above. Most of the Men's Movement efforts are in Western societies, India, and a handful of other areas.

Figure 4 below shows the transition in family gender roles over the course of the Industrial Revolution through to Post World War II. Families in Pre-Industrial Europe and the U.S. were subsistence-based, meaning they spent much of their daily lives working to prepare food and other goods on a year-round basis. Men, women, children, and other family and friends succeeded because they all contributed to the collective good of the family economy.

Figure 4. Gender Roles Before and After the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution created the roles of breadwinners and homemakers. After the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, women continued their subsistence work and remained homemakers while men continued in their breadwinning roles. After World War II, there was a social-structural change where women began assuming the breadwinner role and became more and more common among the ranks of paid employees, especially in the 1960s-1980s. They had managed to remain homemakers, but men had not moved into the homemaking role to the same degree that women had moved into the breadwinning role. This created a strong level of burden and expectation for U.S. women, who find themselves continuing to work outside the home for pay and inside the home in their informal domestic roles.

You will read later about intimacy and how it works between people. For now, suffice it to say that men often find a closer bond to their wife, children and other family members when they engage in domestic homemaking roles. Mundane family work is the activity that facilitates ongoing attachments and bonds among those who participate in it together.

Many couples today already share homemaking roles, just out of practical and functional need. They often find the co-homemaking/breadwinning role to be defined in a few typical styles. First is the Tourist Husband style. The Tourist Husband is a visitor to the homemaking role who contributes the occasional assistance to his wife as a courtesy -- much like a tourist might offer occasional assistance to his or her host. He often believes himself to be very generous since homemaking is her role and not his. Second is the Assistant Homemaker style, where the husband looks to his wife for direction and for instruction on how to "help" her out in her homemaking role. Like one of the children, he sees housework and homemaking tasks as the mother/wife's job, and he helps if called upon.

Finally, there is the Co-homemaker Husband, who never "helps" his wife with homemaking tasks, but assumes that she and he equally share their breadwinning and homemaking responsibilities. The Co-homemaker husband is most likely to bond with his children, understand the daily joys and sorrows of all his individual family members, and feel a strong connection to his home and family (something Men's Movement advocates lament having lost).

Housework is one area of life that allows men to return to the intimacy and close familial influences they once enjoyed prior to the Industrial Revolution. Housework is mundane and repetitive, yet studies have shown that when men do housework with their children an emotional bonding process takes place and they create positive working memories together. I once heard it explained by a friend of mine who is a clinical psychologist. He suggested, "turn off the TV, shut down the computer, unplug the games, take all phones of the hook. Then just try one hour of housework. Something magical will happen between parents and children as the boredom of housework begins to settle in -- they begin to talk about things." This is often true. Parents are much more interesting to children when all their friends and electronic distractions are removed. Children will open up while working with parents. And parents who avoid the urge to preach or make a speech, and who just talk to their children the way they might to their friends, will find this very rewarding.

Listen carefully. I've said for nearly 30 years that "men and children should never help their wife or mother with housework." I truly mean this. If nearly 2/3 of women work for pay, and if women have an average of two children each, and if men truly respect and support their wives, they will assume the responsibility as co-homemakers and not leave the burden solely upon her. They can't "help" her if it is their work too! It baffles me how husbands and wives even talk about work. She might ask, "I'm going out tonight, so can you babysit the children?" I say, "How can a man babysit his own children?" He can't. He just serves as a father to them while his wife is away.

With housework, it is his and his children's house too. Children and fathers who do housework together with their wives/mothers find less stress for her and more closeness between family members. For women who come from traditional homes, it is tempting to take on the role of housework police. The woman has in her mind what needs to be done and how the home should appear once everything is finished. To truly incorporate all members of the family in the housework, she often has to accept a clean house that may not exactly fit her ideals.

Figure 7 shows a continuum of housework standards. On the far left little to no housework gets done. The home is not clean, nor is it attractive. Confusion is common in unclean households. No one has control over cleaning. On the far right the woman (wife, mother, or partner) does all the work and can keep the home precisely as she wants it to be. She may have to use coercion to get other family members to comply. One of my fellow professors is quoted as having said, "Do you want it clean, or do you want us happy?"

Even if a woman in the sole home cleaning role find themselves capable of resisting the urge to manipulate other family members to join her in her ideal cleaning efforts, she keeps all the control and essentially becomes the ruler of house cleaning. Her children may grow up expecting to be cleaned up after by a woman. They may also feel emotionally disconnected from her. She can present a clean and attractive home, but she does not have the benefits of the bond that comes with all family members doing their part.

Today, the average U.S. woman works for money outside the home. She has children or grandchildren and a male spouse or partner. If she chooses to share control and to accept a moderate level of hygiene and appearance, she can facilitate a group effort that includes all family members in the house cleaning work. This teaches children how to work and work well with others. This also facilitates time spent together, away from the distractions of technology, where all members take responsibility for the home's care and maintenance. There is great potential for family unity and close bonds. The matriarch of the home often leads the family on this matter.

Androgyny is the presentation of oneself as being a combination of male and female in gender identity, gender-specific clothing and attire, and in gender role acquisition and role performance. It is very common to encounter people in real and virtual life who appear to have ambiguous visual gender identifiers. A popular photo once circulated around the internet showed the two pop stars Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus side by side. They had so many features in common, some accused them of being twins or even the same person (they are not). My children attend a local festival of colors each year and come home smiling and covered in the variety of colors they happily throw at one another for fun. Figure 5 shows a picture of some of their friends. Because my son knew these young people, he was able to provide me with a description of the 4 men and 4 women visible in this picture. It might surprise you to know which four are males and which four are females. Part of the ambiguity comes from these typical androgyny identifiers which are vague in this photo: body shape and size, hair length and style, full access head-to-toe of the persons appearance, and of course, colors of dyed cornstarch which further interfere with these details.

Figure 5. Photo of Participants in a Local Festival of Colors (Circa 2012)

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

One of the modern issues facing men and women in the workplace is the issue of sexual harassment. Sexual Harassment is the use of intimidation, bullying, force or threat of force to coerce a fellow employee into unwanted or unwelcome sexual interactions. The Power Exchange form of sexual harassment occurs when there is a difference in status such that a supervisor, manager, or boss is involved with a subordinate employee. This type is often called "quid pro quo," or something exchanged for sexual favors.

A Hostile Work Environment is the most common form of sexual harassment, in which an employee fears going to work because of the sexually offensive, intimidating, and bullying environment that exist there. This is when the workplace becomes sexualized and uncomfortable. Basically, the workplace feels sexually unsafe or threatening. This is both illegal and civilly litigable. Fines and lawsuits can result from sexual harassment in the workplace.

A legal website stated that there are thousands of cases of sexual harassment brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2014 (retrieved 12 June 2014 SOURCE . According to the EEOC data, most cases are filed against male supervisors or co-workers. But men can be victimized too. The percent of charges filed by men has also been rising.

I'm not an attorney, and this is not in any way legal advice. I feel the need to raise awareness of an important issue here. Once you find employment, it falls on you to learn and comply with the company's sexual harassment policies. You work hard to earn a degree, you compete to get hired, and you also have to be diligent in knowing and abiding by sexual harassment policies in the workplace. Here are some general guidelines for dealing with it if you are sexually harassed.

First, don't tolerate any sexual harassment. Immediately talk to the offending party and clearly express your disapproval of unwanted behaviors. Second, document every act, interaction, conversation, and attempt to express disapproval with dates, places, and names of people involved. Third, report it to your supervisor and document that effort. Fourth, be willing to follow through. Sexual harassment is illegal, unprofessional, and costly to employers. It falls on you to avoid it and to protect yourself from it.

We’ve included four personal assessments designed to help you understand your own experiences in relationship to some of the core concepts we discussed in this chapter: Gender/Androgyny Role Attitude Assessment; Personal Men’s Issues Assessment; Softening Patriarchal or Matriarchal Heads of Families; and Television Messages about Gender Roles. You might learn some things about yourself you did not know before.

Gender/Androgyny Role Attitude Assessment

Please answer T=True or F=False on each of the items below. If you are married or other wise committed then have your partner take the assessment. Compare and discuss only after each has completed it. If you are single have your parents or close friend take the assessment and discuss it.

  1. T/F Women with school or preschool aged children should stay home if at all possible
  2. T/F Cleaning dishes, laundry, cooking, etc... are really a woman=s responsibility
  3. T/F Men should be the only breadwinners in the home
  4. T/F Women are less capable of making important decisions than are men
  5. T/F Women are naturally dependent on men
  6. T/F When a woman pursues a career, it's because she has problems with relationships
  7. T/F When a woman flatters a man to get what she wants, it's O.K.
  8. T/F It would be difficult for me to work for a woman
  9. T/F You can tell a great deal about a woman by her appearance and sex appeal
  10. T/F Most women admire the qualities of men and would like to be more like them
  11. T/F Husbands should really make all the tough decisions in the home
  12. T/F Women are not as dependable in terms of job stability and commitment
  13. T/F Women should pursue an education that would directly benefit their homemaking role
  14. T/F Women are simply not as rational/logical as men
  15. T/F Women are more social than men
  16. T/F If she were qualified, I=d vote for a woman for president of the U.S.
  17. T/F Lawmakers should support gender equality issues in the legislation they pass
  18. T/F Women are no more emotional than men tend to be
  19. T/F Careers provide women with opportunities for self-fulfillment and growth
  20. T/F Sexuality is enjoyed just as much by women as men
  21. T/F Men are as capable of loving children as much as women
  22. T/F Overall, genetics have little to do with the way men and women behave
  23. T/F Men and women are equally as capable of dominance in society
  24. T/F Pay should be based on performance, not gender
  25. T/F Men tend to welcome their wife=s earnings in today=s tough market
  26. T/F Neither men nor women are superior to one another
  27. T/F Both fathers and mothers are essential to the child=s upbringing
  28. T/F The way men and women communicate depends more on their individuality than gender
  29. T/F Couples should negotiate housework, yard work, and child care duties
  30. T/F The birth of the child is cause enough to celebrate, not its sex

Scoring your gender role attitudes:

Give yourself 1 point for each True answer in questions 1-15 _____

Give yourself 1 point for each False answer in questions 16-30 _____

Total Score___________

The closer your score is to 30 points the more traditional your attitudes tend to be. Couples and family members enhance the quality of their relationships as they sit down and discuss their gender values and negotiate on those issues which are most significant to those involved. Do these findings accurately reflect you, your expectations, and life experience? Why or Why not?

Personal Men's Issues Assessment

Answer yes or no to all of the events below that actually have or currently are occurring to you. Be as accurate as possible. Females can interview a close male friend or family member. Do not read the answer key until you have taken the assessment.

Event Yes No
I was labeled a trouble maker in public school    
I had learning challenges in public school    
I was not athletic in public school    
I never had a good male role model in my early years    
I feel that I never measure up    
I feel like a mechanical cog in the big economic machinery    
I suffer because of being a male in today's work place    
My father is not proud of me    
My father is out of touch with issues in my life    
I feel an emotional gap between my father and myself    
I long to be more intimate with my partner    
I was not adequately socialized to nurture children    
I feel emotionally detached from most people    
I do things at work which I regret, but must do to keep the job    
I've thought about suicide before    
I lost custody of my children in a divorce or separation    
I have overheard male bashing comments    
I have been the direct victim of male bashing    
I have suffered discrimination as a male    
I fear that I will be accused of sexual crimes    

Add up all the "Yes" answers. This assessment is designed to measure the intensity of hardship males experience in a post-industrial society. 0=no hardship, 20=extreme hardship.

Did these findings surprise you? Discuss them with someone close to you. You can learn more about Men's Issues on the Internet or in the library.

Softening Patriarchal or Matriarchal Heads of Families

Often a patriarchal father can lead with compassion, love, and concern for each of the family members (including spouse) without being dictatorial. The mother can also lead the family with firmness and love without a power struggle between the spouse and children.

List ways that the patriarchal father can be the head of the home and still show love and compassion without taking away each individual family member's autonomy:





List ways and circumstances that the mother can be the head of the family and lead in love without power struggles:





How does the balance of power change if newlyweds live with their parents after marriage?


When the wife and husband both work, what type of shift in power occurs between the spouses?


Television Messages about Gender Roles

Many studies have established the fact that television viewing shapes our attitudes and outlook on life. Most people in the U.S. are exposed to numerous TV messages while watching 3-4 hours of television per day (that's 9.1 years equivalent by age 65). This project is designed to facilitate an understanding of the gender role messages you get from various television shows. Watch two separate shows from 7-11:00PM and use this table to analyze their presentation of male and female roles.

Factors to Consider Title of First Show: Title of Second Show:
Are the central characters male, female, or both?    
Which characters are shown as being in control or having the most power?    
Are the male characters portrayed as being competent in their social roles?
How can you tell?
Are the female characters portrayed as being independent and capable in their roles?
How can you tell?
If the show is set in the context of a central family, are the male and female characters realistically portrayed? If not, why?    
List three words which basically describe the male characters in this show.    
List three words which basically describe the female characters.    
When comparing yourself to the main character/s of the same sex, what is the difference (if any)? Would you be friends in real life?    
Are any of the male or female characters exploited sexually, financially, or socially?
If so, how?
Is violence used to coerce male or female characters?    
Overall, are male or female characters more successful on the show?


Additional Reading

Search the keywords and names in your Internet browser

  • Gender stratification
  • gender
  • David Reimer
  • Janet Chafetz
  • patriarchy
  • female circumcision
  • feminism
  • affirmative action
  • gender tracking
  • the pay gap
  • glass ceiling
  • sexual harassment
  • primary characteristics
  • secondary characteristics
  • intersexual people
  • transsexuals
  • incest taboo
  • the sexual revolution
  • sexual orientation
  • heterosexuality
  • homosexuality
  • asexuality
  • the gay rights movement
  • queer theory
  • heterosexism
  • The Israeli Kibbutz
  • George Murdock
  • matriarchy
  • sexism
  • second shift
  • intersection theory
  • social construction of gender
  • feminist theories
  • liberal feminism
  • radical feminism
  • black feminism
  • postmodern feminism
  • patriarchy
  • gender typing
  • sex segregation
  • human capital theory
  • comparable-worth policies
  • homophobia
  • multiple masculinities
  • matrix of domination
  • institutional discrimination
  • standpoint theory
  • intersectionality
  • sexuality
  • bisexual
  • heteronormativity
  • Intersexed
  • Sexual scripts
  • Hegemonic masculinity
  • Transgender
  • Separate Spheres
  • Feminization of labor
  • Female proletarianization
  • Feminization of poverty
  • Human sexual Dimorphism
  • First wave
  • Second wave
  • Third wave
  • Suffrage movement
  • Male liberationism
  • Mens Rights Movement
  • Civil unions

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