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“Nature vs. Nurture”
The question of whether nature or nurture has more influence on gender characteristics has been explored for many years. Anatomically and physiologically speaking, there are more similarities than differences, between the sexes. There are also more psychological similarities than differences.
When tested at cognitive skills, there is no gender gap in the average verbal ability as shown by tests in vocabulary, reading comprehension, and solving analogies. There also is no noticeable difference in learning, memory, or creativity between boys and girls.
Although males and females are biologically very similar, there are obvious differences between the sexes. Gender expectations are the stereotypes made about the social roles of men and women. “Experiments show that many people do act to fulfill gender expectations. For example, Mark Zanna and Susan Pack (1975) had college women write descriptions of themselves for a tall, unattached, male senior whom they anticipated meeting. Those expecting to meet a man who liked nontraditional women described themselves as relatively nontraditional. Those led to think he favored traditional gender roles described themselves as more traditionally feminine” (Handout - Diversity and Community).
I believe that one’s immediate family, rather than society, has a greater influence on gender roles. For example, girls who group up without a mother or older sisters tend to be less feminine because all they have are male role models. Another example of how the family influences gender roles is whether or not the mother works. A housewife who believes that the home is where she belongs tends to influence her daughter in thinking the same way. One of my close friend’s mother is a housewife and my friend wishes to be one herself. Parents are one of the biggest factors in determining gender roles for children. They teach their children what they consider the proper behavior for boys and girls. Society also has some influence in gender roles but not as much as it did years ago. After the feminist movement, men and women are considered more like equals, but there are still stereotypes of how males and females should act.
Some of the stereotypes associated with gender roles depict women as being less aggressive, more empathic, and more sensitive. Men are said to be more aggressive, more dominating, and usually are the ones to hold positions of power. While although these stereotypes may be true for many men and women, it is not to say that there are not any sensitive men or aggressive women. These stereotypes generalize men and women which influence their way of thinking. If a man feels that it he is supposed to act aggressively and shouldn’t be sensitive he is more inclined to do so. Similarly, if a women feels that it is her place to be sensitive and feminine she will act accordingly. Society is so set in these stereotypes that if a man or women doesn’t act accordingly to the stereotype of the typical male or female, they may be considered unappealing to the opposite sex.
From the moment of birth, boys and girls are influenced by gender expectations. Young girls are given dolls and tea sets to play with, while boys are given play guns, swords and sports equipment. Gender roles are influenced by the environment in which we live as opposed to being biological. Society is teaching girls that their place is in the home caring for children or preparing meals. Boys are taught to be more aggressive with their footballs and guns. It is nurturing not nature which has the biggest influence on the behavior of men and women.
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Gender, Gender role, Femininity, Sociology of gender, Social construction of gender, Gender bender
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