You are on page 1of 4

FridaHernandez

ProfessorLoriWatson
GenderStudies101
23September2015

Sex&GenderonaBiologicalandSocialScale
Thedifferencebetweensexandgenderhaschangedagreatdealformesincereading
Sex
/Gender:BiologyinaSocialWorld
byAnneFaustoSterlingandengaginginclassdiscussion
aboutthecontroversiesandmisconceptionsaboutthetwoterms.Ihavelearnedthatthe
differencesarebothbiologicalandidentitybased.
Inmyshortpaper,Imainlyfocusedontheidentitysideofsexandgender,andnotreally
onthebiologicalside.Inowknowmoreabouthowbiologyplaysasubstantialroleinidentifying
oneselfasmaleorfemale.Ilearnedthatgendercanbeinfluencedbyone'ssurroundings,social
status,and,ofcourse,biologicalmakeupofthehumanbody.AnneFaustoSterlingmakes
compellingargumentsaboutthesetopicsandmore.
Inmymind,thedefinitionofsexismorebiologicallybasedandIhavecometodiscover
thatthisismuchmorecomplexthanitseems.Ifoundoutthathumanshavefivelayersofsexby
birth.Thelayersarechromosomalsex,indifferentfetalsex,differentiatedfetalgonadalsex,fetal
hormonalsex,andgenitalsex.ThesefivelayershavemademerethinkhowIthinkabout
biologicalsexualcharacteristicsbecauseIhavealwaysthoughtofbiologicalsexaspertainingto
onlyouterphysicaltraits.Iwassurprisedtofindoutthatsexinmanywaysismorecomplicated.
Scientistshaveconductedmanystudiestotrytofigureoutifhumanbrainsare
differentiatedbysex.Theideaofbrainsexiswidelyresearchedwithindifferentanimals.This

allowsscientiststocomparetheseresultstohumangenessincetheycantdirectlyconduct
experimentsonthehumanbrain.OnestudyconductedbybehavioralbiologistsFernando
NottebohmandArthurArnold(1976)studiedthedifferentregionsofthebrainofcanaries.Their
researchconcludedthattheregionofthebrainwhichisresponsibleforsongs,issignificantly
differentbetweenmaleandfemalecanaries.Inmales,thissectionofthebrainisbigger,
thereforeallowingthemtosingasongthatfemalecanariescannotsing.Thisdiscoveryledthe
scientiststoinjecttestosteroneintothefemalestoseeifanythingwouldchange.Thisresultedin
thatpartofthebraintogrow,whichledthefemalestobeginsingingaverysimilarsongtothe
onethatonlythemalescouldpreviouslysing.Thisisconsideredevidencethatsomespeciesdo
havebrainsex,butitisstillunclearastoifhumanswouldhavethissameeffectand,ifso,to
whatextent.
Studiesshowthatsomespeciesofanimalscaneitherchangetheirsex,ortheirsexis
determinedbytheirenvironmentalsurroundings.Somefemalefishareknowntochangetheir
sextomalewhentheysensethattherearenotenoughmalesaround.Thisusuallyhappenswhen
themalesarecapturedandtakenoutoftheoceanandmorefemalesareleftthanmales.Inother
cases,thetemperatureinwhichturtleeggsareincubateddeterminesthesexofthebabyturtle.If
itistoohotduringincubation,thebabieswillresultinmostlyfemales.Ifitistoocold,itislikely
thattheywillresulttobemostlymales.
Ithinkthatresearchingaspecificgenethatisresponsibleforsexorgenderisinteresting,
butitwillnot,andshouldnotchangehowwethinkaboutindividualhumans.Evenifscientists
weretofindaspecificgene,thatgenemightvaryfrompersontoperson,meaningthatitwould
stillbetoodifficulttosingleoutthatgene.Idonotunderstandwhyagenethatdifferentiatessex

istheonethatdirectlycategorizespeopleinsociety.Whataboutracialspecificgenes?
Personalityspecificgenes?Dothoseexist?Ifso,whyisgendertheonebiologicalconceptthat
differentiatespeople?Thesameconceptisappliedtosocialsituationswheresexmightnotbethe
dominanttrait,butgenderis.
Genderisadifferentwordinthesensethatitreferstothesameconceptofmaleor
femalebutinasocialandbehavioralscale.Inmypreviouspaper,Irefertogenderinthebroad
senseofhavinggendernormsinplaceinsociety,butitissomuchmorethanthat.Everythingin
societyisgendered.Wehavegenderedjobs,genderedfashion,genderedsexualpreferenceand
genderedstatuses.Everyonedoesgender,whethertheylikeitornot.
Fromthetimeawomanispregnanttoevenafterwhenherchildisstillanewborn,the
onequestionthateveryoneasksis,"Isitaboyoragirl?"Ifinditinterestingthatevencomplete
strangersseemedtobeconcernedwiththegenderofababy.Whydoesthismattertoastranger?
IntheU.S.A.,anewbornbabyismostlikelyintroducedtotheworldbyoneofthetwo
scenarios.Ababygirliswelcomedintoabright,flowerypinkworld,fitforaprincessanda
boyismostlikelyraisedaroundsports,outdooractivities,andallthingsblue.Thisistheresultof
parentswantingtohavetheirchildsgenderobvious.Althoughthisisnotnecessarilyabad
thing,itdoesperpetuatethatsocietyisobsessedwithgenderandtheneedtomakesurebabies
knowtheirgenderaccordingtotheirsurroundingsandtheirassignedbiologicalsex.
ArtistJeongMeeYoonhasproducedworkrelatingtothesubjectofbabygender.Her
seriesofphotographscalled"ThePink&BlueProject"showchildrensurroundedbytheirtoys
andotherbelongings.Allthegirlsareshownsurroundedbypinkblanketsanddolls,whilethe
boysarephotographedwiththeirtoycarsandbluetoolboxes.Theideaofthisprojectistoshow

thegenderspecificmarketingcampaignsofcompaniesthatproducebabytoys,clothing,and
otherproducts.Evenwebsitesforbabyclothesandotherproductsaredividedintothe"boys
section"and"girlssection."Theonlygenderneutralcolorsavailableareusuallyjustyellowand
green.
Thedefinitionofgenderdoesn'tsolelyrelyonthecolorsoneisaresurroundedbyin
oneschildhood.Asachildgrowsup,theyaretoldhowtoactandthinkbasedontheirgender.
Thesesocietalgendernormsshapethemindsofyoungpeoplewhogrowuptoteachtheirown
childrenthosesamegenderedstandards.
Ibelievethatoursocietyissoobsessedwithgenderbecauseitisallweknow.Gender
meansidentity,butwhataboutthosewhoareunhappywiththeirassignedgender?Incases
wheregenderreassignmentsurgeryisneededalmostimmediatelyafterthebirthofachild,that
childisusuallyraisedastheirnewlyassignedgender,whichmayleadtoidentityissuesintheir
future.Thisisonlyoneofmanyexamplesofparentstakingcontroloverthegenderenforcement
oftheirbaby.
Inconclusion,myideaofsexandgenderhasbeenredefinedagreatdeal.NowthatIam
moreeducatedonthistopic,IamabletosaythatIknowthedifferencebetweenthetwowords.
Sexisbiological,butalsosomuchmorecomplicatedthanthat.Itinvolveslayersofsexthatare
determinedevenbeforebirth.Genderisrelatingtoasocialidentityandthenormsthatsociety
hasestablishedforthatgender.Althoughthetwowordshavedistinctdefinitions,theimpactthat
theyhaveonsocietyandpeople'slivesisequalitysignificant.

WorksCited
Sterling,Anne.
Sex/gender:BiologyinaSocialWorld
.NewYork:Routledge,2012.Print.