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Theory One: Gender Essentialism

The concept of Essentialism states that there are innate, essential differences between
men and women. That is, we are born with certain traits. This is often used as an explanation for
why there are so few women in science and technology. It is also used as a rationale for
classifying, offering limited education, hiring discrimination, etc. It is also sometimes raised
under the guise of Equal but different.
Biologically essential differences between men and women's skills and social behavior
or at least those of men as a group and women as a groupare the subject of active research.
The strength of the findings of this research is often exaggerated when repeated, both by the
media and by individuals. It is also common to find people in informal situations implying that a
difference in the mean or median performance of men and women implies that any individual
man will have that same difference from any individual woman.
In recent times, advocates of Sociobiology and Evolutionary psychology often claim
evolved genetic differences between the brains of men and women as the source of behavioral
differences in society. (GeekFem.).

Theory Two: Theories of Gender
1. Biological Theory: emphasizes influence of genes and hormones
2. Psychodynamic Theories:
Psychoanalytic: emphasizes inner psychic conflicts of children instead of external pressures
e.g. Freudian concepts of oedipal conflict and penis envy)
Cognitive-Developmental: emphasizes stages of mental developmente.g. Lawrence
Kohlbergs theory that children are almost inevitably led by their own cognitive processing to
choose gender as the organizing principle for social rules that govern their own and their peers
behavior (Bem, Lenses of Gender 112)
3. External Theories: emphasize what culture does to the individual
Socialization or Social-Learning Theory: emphasizes influence of differing learning
environments, especially of children but sometimes of adults as well imitation of models and
examples they see in society response to rewards for gender-appropriate behavior and criticism
or punishment for gender-inappropriate behavior (from peers as well as adults)
Gender-Schema Theory: merges cognitive-developmental with social-learning theory. Schemas
are internal cognitive networks (shaped by socialization) that organize and guide individual
perceptions; gender schemas are cognitive networks associated with concepts of masculine and
feminine. Highly gender-schematic individuals tend to organize many of their thoughts,
perceptions and evaluations according to gender stereotypes and symbols. Research shows that
by 3 years old children have already begun to learn the figurative or metaphorical meanings of
gender. . . . [C]children learn an underlying framework for understanding the nature of masculine
and feminine that does not depend on the specific models having appeared in their environment
(Virginia Sapiro. Women in American Society: An Introduction to Women's Studies. 3rd ed.
Mountain View: Mayfield, 1994. 83).
Social-Structural or Situational Theories: emphasize structural constraints on children and
adults (i.e., the fact that men and women are in different and unequal positions in the social
structure) conscious discrimination unconscious discrimination: people may not be aware that
they are discriminating or being discriminated againstit is quite difficult to prove that
discrimination has occurred
4. Identity-Construction Theory: emphasizes the individuals personal and conscious
commitment to a specific image of self
5. Enculturated-Lens Theory: Sandra Bems theory, which includes all the above and
also emphasizes the social and historical context containing the lenses of gender). There are two
key enculturation processes that are constantly linked and working together: the institutional
preprogramming of the individuals daily experience into the default options, or the historically
precut grooves, for that particular time and place which differ markedly for men and women
the transmission of implicit lessonsor metamessagesabout what lenses the culture uses to
organize social reality, including the idea that the distinction between male and female,
masculine and feminine, is extremely important (Bem, Lenses of Gender 139) (McManus).

Theory Three: Post Modern Theories of Gender
By the late seventies, in fact, both feminism and Postmodernism can be seen to have radically
altered the way in which modern culture is understood and experienced. What I find astonishing
is the fact that these discourses have had so little to say to each other. Even now, as postmodern
theory increasingly draws on a highly idealized and generalized notion of femininity as 'other' in
its search for a space outside the disintegrating logic of modernity, it rarely talks about (or to,
one suspects) actual women or even about feminism as a political practice. I have been amazed
at the number of general accounts of Postmodernism which do not even mention gender, when
clearly one of the most obvious and radical shifts in late modernity has been in the relations
between women and men. This shift has had all sorts of ramifications for modern concepts like
nation, the aesthetic, epistemology, ethical systems, and autonomy. And, indeed, there are
obvious points of historical contact between Postmodernism and feminism. Both have
undermined the Romantic-Modernist cultivation of the aesthetic as an autonomous realm and
helped to expose it as a critical construction. Each assaults Enlightenment discourses which
universalize white, Western, middle-class male experience. Both recognize the need for a new
ethics responsive to technological changes and shifts in knowledge and power. Each has offered
critiques of foundationalism thinking: gender is not a consequence of anatomy nor do social
institutions as much reflect universal truths as construct historical and provisional ones.
Postmodernism too, is 'grounded' in the epistemological problem of grounding itself, of the idea
of identity as essential or truth as absolute. (Waugh).