Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Biological Determinism Vs. Social Construction

Biological Determinism is the idea that our gender if biologically assigned along with our sex. This line of thinking suggests that some genders are biologically advantaged in some areas and disadvantaged in others. A common example is to say that women are traditionally caregivers because they are naturally more emotional, caring, and or sensitive than men. Likewise, men are in fields related to math and sciences because men are more logical, analytical, and or intelligent than women. Biological Determinism supports traditional gender roles suggesting that these roles are natural for women and men.

Social Construction suggests that gender is not a biological assignment like sex, but is instead a creation of culture. The idea here is that individuals are socialized in to gender roles based on cultural pressures to conform. The argument is that women are not naturally better at caregiver roles, but that they fall in to them because in society they are told that that is their job. To support this assignment, girls are raised differently than boys. For instance, girls are given dolls, and encouraged to play “house” whereas boys are given toys more appropriate for their future gender roles.

Social Construction is a great deal less limiting on an individual. If someone is told they cannot do something because it acts against their culture, there is more room for rebellion than if someone is told that they cannot do something because they are biologically incapable. For example, if a woman wants to go to college and someone tells her she cannot because women are more fragile than men, less intelligent than men, or less logical than men, the woman hits a hard wall. If instead, the reason is that women cannot go to college because the culture does not see it as proper; she is more likely to be able to combat that line of thinking. However, it is easy to see how using Biological Determinism in a situation could lead to constructing social roles that limit someone based on their gender.

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