Sunday, 13 March 2016


Boys vs Girls

In the beginning...

Research and statistics show that there has been a shift in power in regards to the dominant sex in education. Pre-world war two the boys were a clear step ahead of the girls with consistently higher grades and progression into further and higher education was more prominant with boys than girls. Post world war two saw these statistics begin to alter, girls grades were rising, opinions were changing and by the 1980's girls began taking the upper hand in educational achievement and progression.

What ignited this catalyst of change?
According to Bilton, T. Bonnett, K. Jones, P. Lawson, T. Skinner, D. Stanworth, M. Webster, A. (2002) the expectations of girls ability in education were lower than with boys and it was generally expected that boys would perform better and achieve higher grades. It wasn't until after 1970 that feminists began to highlight the fact that there was gender bias in education (pp 276). The concern was that girls performed well during the primary years of school and even out performed boys but then during secondary education everything changed, there was evidence of girls grades diminishing and boys grades growing. This was also highlighted by the number of boys who continued in the education system compared to girls (Browne, K. 2015).  (Arnett, G. 2014) [Online] (Accessed 13/03/16). Click this link for an interesting article discussing educational differences in gender from 1989-2014.

Image result for gender differences in education

It would seem that perceptions from teachers and societal expectations holds a strong correlation towards the different achievment levels between the genders. As men were the more dominant sex in the workforce this contributed to the belief that boys needed a higher and more focused level of education (Macionis, J. J. 2011) (pp 302). This has been reflected in educational research which shows that boys are given more attention in educational establishments unfortunatley this has undermined the confidence of girls and has in the past contributed to girls underachieving (Browne, K. 2015). The stereotypical expectations which are placed on boys and girls is believed to shape their self-concept this means they will begin to behave in a way in which they believe they should to fit those expectations. This can mean that even when both sexes are achieving the same grades their self belief is distorted as it doesn't match the expectation which is portrayed through teaching. Because of the teachers perceptions and expectations this can cause greater gender difference (Schoon, I. Eccles, J. S. 2014).

Expectations can Change!
With the rise of feminism women no longer expect to leave school uneducated and end up staying at home to bring up a family. The rise in equal opportunities has empowered women to want to do well at school and to become high achievers (Macionis, J. J. 2011) (pp 302)

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As women are intergrating into traditionally male orientated enviroments there is a feeling that this could be adding to the crisis that men are identifing with. They feel imasculinated which can lead to lack of motivation this could be one of the reasons that boys are not performing as well as they used to (Browne, K. 2015)  (pp 70). As men and boys are trying to establish where they belong in society it is thought that the 'laddish culture' could be promoting the 'too cool for school' image which in turn is having a negative impact on their grades (Walsh, M., Stephens, P. and Moore, S. 2000). 

Subjects Matter
There are still divisions in subject choices and it is general noted through research that girls are still choosing and performing better in certain subjects. These tend to be humanities, arts and language and there is evidence that women make up less than 50% of Mathematical sciences, physical science and business/administrative studies (Leathwood, C. and Read, B. 2008)Although in English language at O level and GCSE level women have been maintaining consistently higher grades since the 1950's (Femee, J. 2007). There is an interesting book which shows and discusses these differences in subject choices in more detail and suggests reason for these differences, just follow the link:-

 What happens next?

Image result for gender equality

It is evident that the theories regarding gender division are varied and many point towards social construction as a major contibutor to gender differences within the education system. It would also seem that as women are gaining credibility and acknowledgement men are losing clear definition of their identity. The road to equality and inclusion of both sexes within education is clearly building but it is also equally clear that there is a long way to go before the word 'equal' can be used with true meaning.

Bad Boys bad Boys whatcha gonna do?

(Lewis, I. 1990).

What is a man?...

How is a man defined? His power to provide? His virility? His protectiveness? 
What is masculine? If a description is sort most people will use words to describe certain traits which are deemed socially acceptable in recognizing masculinity.


But what do these words really mean and what makes them masculine?


(Bolton, M. Goldmark, A.)

When describing masculine traits in western cultures provider is one of the main masculine traits referred to. Historically this was a firm characteristic as traditionally women stayed at home to bring up the children and look after the domestic chores (Spence, J.T. and Helmreich, R.L. 1979) (pp 4). Through this gender differentiation social construction has reinforced these stereotypes. However, as women have become more prominent within the workplace this analogy loses credence. Although men are still in the majority bracket for higher earnings and higher positions it is not unrealistic to see that women can satisfactorily provide for the family. But it should be noted that a majority of women will still take career breaks to care for the family (Nino, L. 2006).

‘…the problem that male-identified people experience is not due to the mere fact of “being a man” but rather the struggle and negotiation of what masculinity means for them and others in today’s world’(Kahn, J.S. 2009)
(Anka, P. 1974).

Although this is mainly thought of as an especially male dominant trait women are taking control of their sexuality and the rise of contraception has enabled women to consciously decide whether or not they follow the assumed roles to which society expects. This has empowered women to be in control of their own bodies.
(Zippei, D. Wilder, M.)

As the traditional ‘head of the family’ the man is seen as the protector. He aims to look after the family unit and ensure the safety of each member. As women become more self-assured and in control again this description doesn’t appear to hold the same level of authority when describing what it means to be a man (Spence, J.T. and Helmreich, R.L. 1979)

The crisis of masculinity…

(Rutherford, M. Banks, T. Collins, P. 1986)

The changes in traditional roles, the rise of feminism and the acceptance of homosexuals all play a part in the crisis of masculinity.Men have followed traditional role models for centuries but as the rise of women in the workplace and the increase in single parent families these traditional roles are no longer exclusively male orientated. This has caused unease amongst men as they have no clear definition of what it is to be a man (Davis, K., Evans, M. and Lorber, J. 2006). (pp 109-110).If a man displays traits which are deemed feminine for example by being sensitive and caring, he is ridiculed and called names like ‘sissy’ ‘soft’ ‘gaylord’ (Kahn, J.S. 2009). (pp 200).

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The modern day man is torn between behaving traditionally and being shunned by women for undermining their capabilities or being accepted by women by displaying sensitive traits and being the subject of ridicule by their peers. 


Is a woman a woman because of her reproductive system and physical appearance?
Is a woman a woman because she adopts characteristics appropriate to society’s ideology?
Is a woman a woman because language dictates her position…?

Motherhood.... Natural??

‘The bodies of women give birth to children, anchoring motherhood firmly in what we think of as nature; but both women and motherhood are subject to the complex formulations of culture’
(Oakley, A. 2005)
Ann Oakley (Oakley. A. 2005) suggests that motherhood is overwhelmingly portrayed in society as the ultimate product of femininity. The images of fulfilment on becoming a mother are displayed in abundance (pp119-120).
The maternal instinct, the contentment, the happiness. The mother. In reality motherhood is often very different. When ‘postnatal depression’ ‘baby blues’ the lack of ‘naturally’ knowing what to do strikes, is when male patriarchy arises (Terry, M. 2014) (pp 22-23).

Mentally unstable?

(Burton, B. Callaway, T. Reverberi, G F. Reverberi, G. P. 2006).     (Cover version by: - Andrade, D. 2014. Crazy.YouTube. ) 
If men can have both families and careers without going crazy or being accused of greed, why can’t women?’
(Lakoff, R. T. Bulcholtz, M. 2004) (pp 22)
 Quickly the Freudian concepts of women being fragile of mind creep into medical practices and exclusively ‘female only’ medical conditions are implied (Collins 2002) (pp94).

The ‘Perfect mother’?

 (West, L. 2011).

Ann Oakley (Oakley, A. 2005) discusses the process of a woman entering motherhood is assumed to embrace the embodiment of her new role of ultimate femininity.
The pressure to be everything society has stylised around being the ‘perfect’ mother can be all-encompassing which can lead to unhappiness and a feeling of inadequacy. The trivialising of these feelings of postnatal depression as being linked to hormonal mechanisms is just another way that men can appear to be of sound mind unlike their female counterparts. This maintains the ideals that man is stronger therefore superior. (pp 119-120).

Expectations vs reality.

(Merrelltwins. 2013)

Germaine Greer (Haralambos, M. Holborn, M. Chapman, S. Moore, S. 2013) implies that the intrinsic way in which motherhood is displayed is obviously to make it appear a life-affirming role. Women being coaxed into a role which rather than enhances their position in society serves only to reduce their significance to a greater degree. The man’s position within society grows in status as he has fathered a child. While the woman is expected to perform her role with little or no recognition. (pp 518).



(Idol, B. 1982) 
(No date) Available at:   (Accessed: 24 January 2016)

Abbot, P. Tyler, M. Wallace, C. (2006) argues that the way language is used is also a form of maintaining the male as the ‘norm’ and female as the ‘deviant’. By using the simple analogy of the wedding ceremony between heterosexual couples, when the Priest pronounces them ‘man and wife’ the implications of this small phrase raises issues of magnitude into the contract they have entered. The man is addressed as a representation of his greatness as ‘man’ in contrast the woman is called wife which is a representation of her new role and the expectations this entails. Her identity has already been lost (pp 354).

‘If one takes the maleness of language to go beyond a few specific terms, one will take language’s power to make women invisible to be even stronger’

(Saul, J. 2004. Accessed [online] 23/01/16.
Biology, language and socialisation each play a part in the separation and inequality towards gender, as represented by the feminist point of view. There is clearly a link that weaves through them tying them together.
The way in which language is used is seemingly a product of the socialisation process. The socialisation process can be interpreted as a template created to envelope the biological form.
The biological form depicts the formation of language.
Therefore unless the stylisation of language changes and is integrated through the socialisation process inequality between the sexes will remain a biological divide.

I am what I am!

(Herman, J. 1983).
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Written by Sarah Newton. 24/01/16.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Nature vs Nurture
Sarah Newton 17/12/15
Nature vs Nurture: Comparisons of the Biological Explanation and the Social Constructionist Explanation.
There are two main explanations for the development of gender in the nature verses nurture debate, the biological approach and the social constructionist approach.
The biological explanation of gender considers chromosomes, androgens and the effects that these have in creating the sex of a person and often this is then used to determine the gender of the person (Udry 2000).
 The social constructionist theory disputes this and suggests that gender is enforced through societal roles. The characteristics which are learnt through socialisation are then reinforced by performing the appropriate behaviour (Punch, S., Harden, J., Marsh, I., Harding, J. and Keating, M. 2013). This incorporates the theory that gender reinforcement maintains the patriarchal discourse which retains the inequality between males and females.  
One study of the biological theory looks at stages in which the androgens, which are male hormones, are released during development both pre-natal and post-natal. In a study on rhesus monkeys, when the mother was exposed to high levels of androgens during the second trimester of the pregnancy the baby developed stronger masculine characteristics (Udry, 2000). The study of humans in relation to exposure to androgens has also been documented, as cited in Servin, A., Nordenström, A., Larsson, A. and Bohlin, G. (2003), by observing girls who have congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a genetic disorder, who are exposed to unusually high levels of androgens. The studies show interest is greater towards male orientated toys and activities in girls who suffer this disorder. Studies in this area suggest gender development is situated in the brain and determined by the levels of androgens the foetus is exposed to (Hines, M. 2004)
This aspect of research into the biological explanation of gender looks at transgender studies. In these studies there is ‘evidence of subcortical gray matter masculinisation in the right putamen’ (Saraswat, A. MD. Weinand, D. J. MD, BA, BS. Safer, D. J. MD. 2015), in female to male transgender individuals. In contrast, male to female transgender individuals, reports show feminised cortical thickness. These studies were recorded on transgender individuals who had received no hormone treatment (pp 3). Haralambos and Holborn, (2008), discuss how hormone levels are closely related to the nervous system this can affect behaviour, personality and emotions (pp 96). These theories support the ideas from Saraswat, A. MD. Weinand, D. J. MD, BA, BS. Safer, D. J. MD. (2015), who suggest through the transgender studies gender is determined biologically.
In researching the biological theory it is interesting to examine the case of John/Joan, an eight month old baby who suffered a medical accident during a routine circumcision. The penis was burnt so severely it did not recover, this resulted in the penis being removed and the boy being raised and socialised as a girl. Dr John Money was the doctor who suggested this course of action. (Stryker, S. Whittle S. 2006) (pp 184-187). However this theory did not have the desired effects. At the age of 14 according to Colapinto, J. (no date) although the boy had received female socialisation from being a baby he constantly displayed masculine traits and at the age of fourteen was re-christened as a boy, David as he was now known is quoted to have said:-
 ‘…triumphing over the array of forces that had conspired, for the first time in fourteen years of his life, to convince him that he was someone other than the person he felt himself inwardly to be’ (Colapinto, J. no date. Preface).
This is in total opposition to the theory raised by Dr John Money who is quoted to have said:-
‘If a child underwent surgery and started socialisation as a gender different from the one originally assigned at birth, he or she could develop normally, adapt perfectly well to the new gender.’ (Stryker, S. Whittle, S. 2006. Pp184).
Another explanation of the John/Joan case is offered by Hauseman, B. L. (2000). The socialisation process could have had the opposite effect to that which was desired causing the child to repudiate the femininity that had been seemingly forced upon him.  There would also be apparent benefits of dominance and status in being male displayed through his father:-
‘…You treat your wife well. You put a roof over your family’s head. You are a good father…’ (pp 126).
These theories indicate that it is the patriarchal society that sets the standard for the approved characteristics and as Teslenko, T. (2004) describes, gender is an ideology set to maintain the patriarchal paradigm and quotes:-
‘Gender bias is central for the balance of power relations within the patriarchal social order’. (pp 35).
Punch, S., Harden, J., Marsh, I., Harding, J. and Keating, M. (2013) describes how maintaining these hegemonic views of masculine and feminine reinforces the inequality between the sexes (pp 223).
In defence of the biological explanation regarding hormonal influences as cited in Aspects of gender identity development: Searching for an explanation in the brain - applied psychology OPUS - NYU Steinhardt, (no date) the stages in which the hormones organise and develop the brain into a specific gender occur during pre-natal development at thirty-four weeks, then again at forty-one weeks and the last influential exposure is at three months old. This would suggest that the brain had already established a set gender by the time ‘David’ had the operation (no pp number).
Social constructionists theorise that regardless of the physical and biological form of a man or woman, it is societal and cultural influence that determines the attributes assigned to differentiate between the gender of an individual (Haralambos. Holborn 2013) (pp 101). This explanation is mirrored by Simone De Beauvoir, cited in Fallaize. E. (1998), she suggests that the biological explanation is only a determination of male and female sex. Gender is culturally constructed to interpret the expectations of what a woman is and what a man is (pp 30-31). A quote from Simone De Beauvoir from her book ‘The Second Sex’ presents gender as acting the role rather than being the role:-
‘One is not born, but rather becomes a woman’ (Evans, R. 1998) (pp 81).
Judith Butler as cited in Butler, J. (1999) believes that:-
‘The view of gender is manufactured through a sustained set of acts, posited through the gendered stylisation of the body’ (pp 8).

The biological and social construction theories offer relevant and interesting explanations as to gender development. Research and studies indicate that influences from both explanations need to be taken into consideration when entering into the nature verses nurture debate.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Glossary of Sociological Terms


The definition of sex as described by: Collins English dictionary and thesaurus (2013) ‘State of being male or female; male or female category; sexual intercourse; sexual feelings or behaviour…’ (pp 247).

The biological differences are determined by the different reproductive organs between a man and a woman. (Haralambos, M. Holborn, M. Chapman, S. Moore, S. 2013) (pp 96). . This distinction is defined as sexual diomorphism: ‘The existence of two different forms of a species in the same population’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary [online] no date).

It is questionable as to whether there are only two sexes. If the determining factor is a result of different reproductive organs then hermaphrodites produce a separate sex as they have both male and female reproductive organs. (Haralambos, M. Holborn, M. Chapman, S. Moore, S. 2013) (pp 102).


Is a description of the characteristics and behaviour that society has assigned to distinguish between male and female identities. This distinction is seen to reinforce the biological differences. (Punch. S. Marsh, I. Keating, M. Harden, J. 2013). Pp 215.

Image result for genderAbercrombie, N. Warde, A. Deem, R. Penna, S. Soothill, K. Urry, J. Sayer, A. Walby, S. (2000). Suggests this adheres to assumptions that there needs to be a dichotomy between lifestyles to determine specific gender characteristics a person displays (pp 209).

Gender descriptions according to Macionis, J. J. (2011) relates gender stereotyping as following the historical attributes that define the female as tender, caring and sensitive and the male as strong, dominant and selfish. (pp 295).

The difficulty with these theories is the continual reference to characteristics in men and women being separate, when: according to Abercrombie, N. Warde, A. Deem, R. et al. (2000) it is clear they are multifaceted and contradictory. (pp 208-210).

Gender Roles

This term defines behavior through cultural and social norms which are deemed appropriate to interpret a person’s individual gender. (Oxford English dictionary. [Online]  (No date).

Gender roles appear to vary across different cultures. 

As discussed by Oakley according to: Haralambos, M. Holborn, M. Chapman, S. Moore, S. (2013) it is suggested that rather than being biologically created, gender roles are determined culturally and socially. (pp 101). This is demonstrated in Macionis, J. J. (2011), where there is a study that took place across three societies in New Guinea. The results showed that in one of the societies the attributes western cultures would define as feminine, were prevalent in both sexes. The second society highlighted both sexes displaying high levels of aggression and dominance, generally depicted as masculine behavior. The third society’s gender roles were very similar to western culture. (pp 295).


‘Socially defined and prescribed characteristics and behaviors that are deemed appropriate to males’ (Stephens, P. Leach, A. Taggart, L. Jones, H. 1998)

 It is suggested by Gilmore, cited in Haralambos, M. Holborn, M. Chapman, S. Moore, S.( 2013)  that masculinity can be defined by a measure of 3 stereotypical sets of characteristics. These are provider, protector, and impregnator, these descriptions imply power and dominance (pp 148) Punch, S. Harden, J. Marsh, I. Keating, M. (2013) look at masculinity and it is discussed that to assign these behaviors to men alone would involve a singular way of thinking which would suggest all men were homogeneous (pp 224).

Studies shown according to Macionis, J.J. (2011) show what is deemed as masculine in one culture can be seen as natural traits in women in other cultures. This suggests that masculine characteristics are not a direct definition of a man but rather a suggestion as to an individual’s personality whether that be a man or woman. (Pp295)


‘Having qualities traditionally regarded as suitable for women…’ Cited in Collins English Dictionary & Thesaurus, (2005).

The language used to describe femininity reflects the historical roles women have encompassed. Here are some typical words used to illustrate the meaning of femininity, gentle, tidy, neat and obedient. (Abercrombie, N. Warde, A. Deem, R. Penna, S. Soothill, K. Urry, J. Sayer, A. Walby, S. (2000).(Pp 208).

It is questionable as to whether the terminology to describe the different characteristics of men and women are indeed necessary as stated in Haralambos, M. Holborn, M. Chapman, S. Moore, S. (2013) ‘…it does not necessarily follow that being a woman means being “feminine”, nor that being a man means behaving in a “masculine” way. (Pp 96).

Gender Identity

This is the internalisation of a perspective regarding the gender an individual embraces as their own. It defines within society which role a person has chosen to live by. (Bonnett, K. Bilton, T. Jones, P. Lawson, T. Skinner, D. Stanworth, M. Webster, A. 2002).

Haralambos, M. Holborn, M. Chapman, S. Moore, S. (2013) Introduces the theory that society in general defines two genders and these reflect the characteristics of the male and female stereotypes. There are arguments against this theory suggesting there is a third gender adopting aspects of both. (pp 102).

There are conflicting theories surrounding the development of gender identity as discussed in: Punch, S. Marsh, I. Keating, M. Harden, J. (2013) these theories question whether gender is predetermined internally, regardless of biological sex, or whether gender is determined through a series of social influence and modelling through social discourse (pp 220).


The term sexuality is defined as an individuals preferred sexual orientation. It also indicates reference to sexual desires, feelings and behaviour. For example it could be used in the context of ‘she radiated a sense of unbridled sexuality’ or ‘he confidently expressed his sexuality’.  (Oxford English Dictionary (2014) [online])

There are many variations here is a small sample of different sexualities:-

·         Heterosexual which defines people who are attracted to the opposite sex
·         Homosexual which is sexual attraction between two men.
·          Lesbian, the sexual feeling between two women.
·         Pansexual is someone who is sexually attracted to someone regardless of sex or gender orientation.
·         Transsexual is a person who believes they are not related sexually to the biological organs with which they were born.
 Killerman, K. (2015). [Online]. Accessed 20/11/15.
Sexuality according to, Abercrombie, N. Warde, A. Deem, R. Penna, S. Soothill, K. Urry, J. Sayer, A. Waltby, S.(2006). Was initially derived from a Freudian concept which involved a biological drive (pp 115). This is argued by Foucault, M. in: Punch, S. Marsh, I. Keating, M. Harden, J. (2013) as he believes that it is a reductionist idea to assume sexuality is derived from only the necessities to procreate (pp 225).
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