You are on page 1of 9

Running Head: SIGNATURE ASSIGNMENT

Signature Assignment
Cassandra Geddes

Anthropology 1020 Debrah D. Graham

SIGNATURE ASSIGNMENT

Abstract
Human variation is a complex topic that is subject to many differing viewpoints. This paper will
explore the difference between the perspectives of science and culture on human variation within
the two provided readings, as well as cover the basic overview of the content in the each article.
This will include topics such as; gender, sex, race, and ethnicity as well as a distinction between
the authors viewpoints. There is a contradistinction between biological and cultural perspectives
of how human variation is viewed.
Keywords: gender, sex, race, ethnicity
Gender and Sex
The American Psychological Association's definition on sex is as follows; Sex refers to a
persons biological status and is typically categorized as male or female. There are a number of
indicators of biological sex, including sex chromosomes, gonads, internal reproductive organs,
and external genitalia. This is a perfect example of how our culture sees sex as a definitive
status. According to Daniela Crocetti, the author of the first reading, Sex has come to refer to
biological objects such as genes and hormones and gender to social aspects such as identity and
behavior. This rings true especially in present day society as gender and sex have become two
separate terms. Other terms such as transgender, bisexual, and gay/lesbian have appeared more
frequently in western culture in the last 5-10 years than ever before. We have come to accept that
the sex someone is born with doesnt necessarily reflect their gender identity. Considering this,
and however accepting our culture has seemed to become, it still argues that if youre born with
male organs, youre a male, and if youre born with female organs, youre a female. The end.
Crocetti goes on to explain the scientific evaluation of sex from a biological standpoint.

SIGNATURE ASSIGNMENT

Chromosomes
She starts with an explanation of Chromosomes, discrediting the common notion of XX
equals girl and XY equals boy. Indeed, this in many times not the case. As is pointed out, people
with the supposedly deciding chromosomes are not always consistent with the normal biology
for the given sex, and are therefore then labeled with a pathological disorder. Crocetti
prominently points out that these people who deviate from the statistical norm are not sick
individuals. Nor do they have a greater propensity to develop gender dysphoria or other potential
health problems [3]. Not only this, but there are many times an individual is born with an extra X
or an extra Y chromosome, again not fitting into the specific mold our culture has created.
So biologically, sex and gender are very convoluted subjects that dont fit into box
number one and box number two. Culturally however we see these as two black and white
topics. I must admit this is a new concept for me. In my previous anthropology class, one lecture
stands out in my mind. The professor began with a question to the class: What is gender? Many
answers such as Being male or female and Having boy or girl parts came up quickly. One by
one, the professor discussed our comments. He then went on to point out that the majority of the
time, we dont rely on a persons biological makeup to determine what sex they are, or gender
they associate with. Rather we look to the cultural identifiers that we are accustomed to seeing.
We dont go around asking people to pull down their pants to determine if theyre a male or
female. Things like hair length, clothing color, and build supposedly give us all the information
we need.
Phenotye
Crocetti continues with the question, What is biological sex then if not in the
chromosomes? This question also covers the second point the APAs definition brings up. This

SIGNATURE ASSIGNMENT

being the phenotype of the person in terms of their reproductive organs. She uses the example of
the Drosophila fly experiment, saying, One of the important factors of this research for our
interest in the gendered body is that the experiments produced flies that showed how varied the
results of genetic material can be, without producing nonfunctional or impaired bodies.
Variations in the biological manifestation of the gendered body as is the case of DSD are
believed to occur in 1 in 2,000 people. This statistic continues to increase based on increased
knowledge about the body that expands our knowledge of physical variance and increased
genetic testing. This proves that given the correct environment, there is a high variance of what
can be produced in terms of biological makeup. Again, people born with a variance of traits are
not disabled or dysfunctioning.
Hormones
Hormones are the last subject discussed in the first reading. Many people in our culture
point to these as another definitive indicator of sex, the two most common being estrogen and
testosterone. The first being associated with women and the second with men. However, contrary
to what many believe, the presence of these hormones are not exclusive to the associated gender.
Crocetti points to a study conducted in 1920, in which horses were tested for levels of estrogen
and testosterone. The results showed that large amount of estrogen were found in pregnant
female horses as well as stallions. Biologically there is no clear level to show sex despite what
our culture has taught us. However, the explosion of hormone research continued to blur the
clear link between male and female hormones and their corresponding sex hormones. Hormones
were shown to have multiple effects on the body, regardless of gender, on the fat ratio, cardiac
health, bone density, etc. [1]

SIGNATURE ASSIGNMENT

The common cultural conceptions concerning the facts surrounding sex and gender, such
as chromosomes, phenology, and hormones, can easily be dispelled with a biological
explanation. Mountains of evidence is piled against the rigid boundaries that we have created in
todays society.

Ethnicity and Race


With the continued talk ablaze all over every media outlet we view today, its hard to
know what the difference between ethnicity and race are. Though we may think we have an idea,
many misconceptions cloud our view. An article in Life Science Magazine states that Ethnicity is
generally associated with culture, while race is generally associated with biology.[5] It goes on to
say that, In biology, races are genetically distinct populations within the same species; they
typically have relatively minor morphological and genetic differences. Though all humans
belong to the same species (Homo sapiens), and even to the same sub-species (Homo sapiens
sapiens), there are small genetic variations across the globe that engender diverse physical
appearances, such as variations in skin color.recent genetic studies show skin color may
drastically change in as few as 100 generations, spanning 2,500 years, as a result of
environmental influences. (Gray, 2012) These influences (environmental as well as others) are
exactly what Gary James focused on in the second article.
Bergmann and Allen
James starts off with an explanation of the Bergmann's and Allen's rules. Bergman rule
being a ecogeographic concept that shows within a taxonomic clade, the species in colder
environments tend to be larger in size, and species in warmer environments to be smaller in size.
[4] Allens rule is similar, in that proportions of individuals vary by environmental temperature,
whereby shorter limbs are associated with colder climates while longer limbs are associated with

SIGNATURE ASSIGNMENT

warmer climates. This is due to the fact that, Shorter appendages offer less surface area and are
more effective in maintaining body heat, while longer appendages offer less surface area, and
thus greater opportunity to dissipate the heat.[2] These two rules go against what we are taught
as as a culture. Generally we dont associate people looking different than us as a response to
adaptation of the surrounding environment. Rather we see them as simple being Different than
us.
Adaptations to Altitude
Human variation in terms of Phenological adaptation has many contributing factors
including the previously discussed Bergmann and Allen rules. Another factor is altitude level. In
order to survive in high- altitude environments, the body, starting from a reduced inspired
oxygen supply, must develop mechanisms to mobilize sufficient oxygen for cellular
metabolism.(2010, 158) High-Altitude Hypoxia is a a great stress caused by a decrease in
Oxygen and therefore, a decrease in in Barometric pressure. As a response to the pressure of less
oxygen, the body increases the heart rate as well as the BMR.The red blood cell count is also
elevated which in turn elevates the hemoglobin levels. This combined with other factors
contribute to the variation of a race.

Looks can be Deceiving


Evolutionary adaptations to the variation in ultraviolet radiation has played a prominent
role in the categorization of race. Indeed many people will assume they can pinpoint your
place of origin by the color of your skin. An example that illustrates this is one from my personal
life. I come from a family where the kids have a wide range of hair, eye, and skin color. While I
was born with fair skin and red hair, my brother was born with darker skin and black hair. That
has subjected us to all sorts of assumptions. This has included that: I was adopted, that my mom

SIGNATURE ASSIGNMENT

was having an affair with someone from another country, and my personal favorite, that my
brother was a secret immigrant. As ridiculous as these assumptions sound, we have been
culturally conditioned to think that darker skin means a different race. Many times my brother
has been asked, What ethnicity are you? When in fact, he could be from across the world and
still identify with the same enitcity as myself. The majority of our culture sees ethnicity and race
as a different word for the same topic, when they mean very different things.
Culture
To understand the viewpoint our culture stands from now, you have to understand the
history of race vs ethnicity. One factor that race evolved out of is a protestant belief system who
were comprised of primarily the early colonists. These colonists identified strongly with the
myth of Anglo-Saxon racial superiority, which prided itself on racial purity, physical prowess and
beauty, love for of independence, and their gift of creating democratic institutions. Historically,
race has used to develop social class and hierarchies of power, privilege, and access.[6] This can
be attributed to the number of reasons people have the notions they do about race.
Ultraviolet Radiation
James states, Adaptation to ultraviolet radiation is focused on the effect of UVR in skin
color. This is primarily determined by the amount, type, and distribution of melanin, which is a
pigment in the epidermis [2] There are three types of Melanin; eumelanin, pheomelanin, and
neuromelanin. The first type (eumelanin) is the most common, this is responsible for hair and
skin color. Biologically, your skin color has many other varying factors besides your race as the
author points out with, UVR varies with Latitude, season of the year, cloud cover, and other
environmental factors such as atmospheric ozone So it is true to say that people who live in
certain areas of the world share common characteristics like hair and skin color, however, that

SIGNATURE ASSIGNMENT

isnt to say they are of the same ethnicity. Ethnicity is the term for the culture of people in a
given geographic region, including their language, heritage, religion and customs. To be a
member of an ethnic group is to conform to some or all of those practices. Race and ethnicity can
obviously overlap, but they are distinct. For example, a Japanese-American would probably
consider herself a member of the Japanese or East Asian race, but, if she doesn't engage in any of
the practices or customs of her ancestors, she might not identify with the ethnicity, but might
instead consider herself to be American.[5]
Conclusion
Just like gender and sex, race and ethnicity have become jumbled terms in todays
society. Biologically, someone could be defined as a certain race or sex, but identify with a
completely different gender identity or ethnicity. Before attending college, I had similar notions
about the topics based on my cultural upbringing, which now seem very ignorant. We have set
rigid boundaries as to what these terms mean culturally and we need to work on changing them
as of knowledge of biology, and the human race progresses. After we do this, we can avoid an
eco centric mindset and become more accepting to people we see as pushing our imagined
boundaries.

SIGNATURE ASSIGNMENT

References
Crocetti, D. (2013). Genes and Hormones: What Make Up an Individuals Sex. In M.
Ah-King (Ed.), Challenging Popular Myths of Sex, Gender and Biology (pp. 23-32).
Switzerland: Springer International.
James, G. D. (2010). Climate-Related Morphological Variation and Physiological Adaptations in
Homo sapiens. In C.S. Larsen (Ed.), A Companion to Biological Anthropology (pp. 153166). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
Holme, I. (2007) Genetic sex A Symbolic struggle against reality?. University of Exeter
Doctoral thesis.
Brown, James H.; Lee, Anthony K. (January 1969). "Bergmann's Rule and Climatic Adaptation
(Neotoma)". Evolution 23 (2): 329338. doi:10.2307/2406795.JSTER 2406795.
Gray, H. (2012, May 09). What is the Difference between Race and Ethnicity? Retrieved June
26, 2016, from http://www.livescience.com/33903-difference-race-ethnicity.html