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Evolving Influences of Psychological Gender Differences

Evolving Influences of Psychological Gender Differences

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Seán Meehan. Originally submitted for B.A. in Humanities at Dublin City University, with lecturer Megan Gaffney in the category of Psychology
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Seán Meehan. Originally submitted for B.A. in Humanities at Dublin City University, with lecturer Megan Gaffney in the category of Psychology

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/05/2014

 
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 Evolving Influences of Psychological Gender Differences
 Abstract 
Gender identity is something that is an intrinsic and innate part of every human being.Broad spectrums of historical and contemporary topics radiate from a core of gender differences ranging from historical bigotry, hatred and criminalisation to a source of expression of self and pride. The essay’s intent is to provide a narrative that looks at thefactors that influence psychological gender differences and the changeability of thefactors over time. Three sections are used as a framework to present theories anddevelop perspectives. Initially the difference between sex and gender is establishedcharting the treatment of gender identity from ancient times to contemporary topics andtechnologies such as sex selection and gender alignment. Then a selection of gender types is presented, sequentially defining each type and identifying a specific psychological factor. Examples of factors are used to illustrate change over time whileanalysis and observations are interspersed.The concluding segment provides a recap on the main points and a personalinterpretation that pragmatically argues for a number of key points. Firstly, historicallyit seems that in the past more time was spent demonising and fixing gender variations tofit a norm, than understanding natural variance in gender identities. Secondly, for eachof the genders considered the factors that influenced psychological gender showed progressive change through time. Thirdly, that of searching for one theory to explaingender differences that psychology might best be served by being open to a hybrid of causes and resolutions. Simplistically, the argument forwarded is that there is no singlesource of influence on psychological factors effecting gender differences.
 
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 Evolving Influences of Psychological Gender Differences
 Evolving Influences of Psychological Gender Differences
‘Holly came from Miami F.L.A.Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.Plucked her eyebrows on the wayShaved her legs and then he was a sheShe says, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side’ – Lou Reed (1972, track 5)Music fans of Lou Reed’s
Walk on the wild side
and Lady Gaga’s (2011)
 Born this way
listen to or sing the made or born aspects of gender origin. Both songs tackle some of the psychological factors that influence gender differences. Reed (1972) highlights therisky behaviour of a transgendered person while Gaga (2011, track 2) encourages people to express their psychological gender, “don’t be a drag, just be a queen” (APA,2008; Burgess, 2008). Gender differences have been the source of historical bigotry,hatred, criminalisation, identity repression and as something to be fixed, while also being the source of expression of self, resolution of internal conflict, pride and innategender identity (Connell, 2002; Devor, 2007; Giddens, 2009). This essay’s intent is to provide a narrative that looks at the factors that influence psychological gender differences and the changeability of the factors over time. There are three main sections.The first section characterises the difference between sex and gender and charts thegeneral historical treatment of gender identity from ancient Greece through to themedical and legal establishments of gender norms, and onwards to contemporarytechnologies which influence a range of factors from sex selection to gender alignment(Devor, 2007; Giddens, 2009; Mellissen, 2011; Walsh, 2010). The second section presents a selection of gender types, sequentially defining each type and identifying aspecific psychological factor. Examples of factors are used to illustrate change over time while analysis and observations are interspersed. The concluding segment providesa recap on the main points and a personal interpretation that pragmatically argues thatthere is no single source of influence on psychological factors effecting gender differences.
 
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 Evolving Influences of Psychological Gender Differences
At the outset it is important to define and distinguish a number of key points that arerelevant to understanding the differences between sex and gender and what types of genders exist. Sex is the anatomical and physiological differences between males andfemales whereas gender refers to the psychological, social and cultural differences between the sexes (Connell, 2002; Giddens, 2009; Reber, Allen & Reber, 2009).Analysis suggests that thinking of gender as a fixed state, in that the biological sexmatches gender type, is an out of date perspective. Devor (2007) cautions againstlooking at sex as being either male or female, highlighting that there is a third sex, thatof intersexed or hermaphroditic people who possess the characteristics of both malesand females. Parallels can be seen between the historical evolution of sex and that of gender. Sex, pre 18
th
century was viewed as one entity of which there were two prominent variations (males and females) whereas post 18
th
century the medical andlegal views changed to two specific types of sex with the hermaphroditic beingshoehorned into either category (Devor, 2007). Gender identities, which in ancient timeswere viewed as a norm or an accepted variation (Greek homosexuality) becamecriminalised and constructed as socially abhorrent (Connell, 2002; Devor, 2007;Giddens, 2009). Both sex and gender show a degree of historic plasticity that wassubject to social (church and state) and legal forces (Giddens, 2009). Technical andsocial developments of the 20
th
century have created a paradigm shift in theunderstanding and interpretation of gender identities and differences. Physicaltechniques such as PGD technology can be used with close to one hundred per centaccuracy to change the sex of a foetus (Mellissen, 2011; Walsh, 2010). Gender alignment operations are completed by some national health organisations (NHS, 2012).The social landscape has been transformed in many western societies moving from thedecriminalisation of homosexuality to civil partnership and equality of rights regardlessof gender orientation (Connell, 2002; Giddens, 2009).There are a number of different genders beyond the masculine or feminine gender suchas gay or lesbian homosexuals, transsexual and transgender (Connell, 2002; Devor,2007; Giddens, 2009). These different types of gender identities form the basis of understanding gender differences (Reber et al., 2009). Whether the origin of gender is

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