9132000 Dr. Keller
Lecture 9/13/2000

Several paradigms are available to study a sex/gender system: sociological, psychological, and biological.

A paradigm is a school of thought that guides the scientist in choosing the problem to be studied, in selecting the method for studying them, and in explaining what is found.

Sociological research like all scientific research is subjective as well as objective.

Sociological Theories – functionalism, conflict theory, symbolic interactionism, and feminism

Functionalism – also know as structural-functional though.  Begins with the premise that society is made up of interdependent parts, each of which contributes to the functioning of the whole.

Main assumptions:
1. Society is a system of integrated parts.
2. Social systems tend to be stable because they have built-in mechanisms of control.
3. Dysfunctions do exist, but they tend to resolve themselves or become institutionalized in the long run.
4. Change is gradual.
5. Social integration is produced by the agreement of most members of society on a certain set of values.

How is functionalism used to explain gender?
Women and men are biologically different and these biological differences, especially reproductive differences, have led to the emergence of different gender roles.

These gender roles emerged early in human history and were institutionalized because they were adaptive and assisted in the survival of the species.

Women because of their unique ability to bear and nurse children, stayed close to their infants and the campsite.  Men, due to their inability, became the hunters and protectors of the tribe.  ("Man the Hunter, Theory)

Functionalism says a similar set of principles can be applied to gender roles in the modern family as well.  Talcott Parsons argued that there is less disruption and competition, more harmony and stability when spouses assume complementary and specialized roles.  Husband-father takes on the instrumental role, by providing shelter food and linking the family to the world outside the home.  The wife-mother takes on the expressive role.  She provides the emotional support and nurturing qualities, which sustain the family unit.

Women’s and men’s roles are opposite, but complementary.  Because they are products of nature, social efforts to change them will be futile at best, but cold also be harmful for society as a whole.

Criticisms of structural functionalism –
1. Functionalists see gender differences as natural phenomena deriving from biology.  Portraying masculinity and femininity as natural, however, confused gender with sex and suggests immutability.

2. History shows that gender is quite amenable to change; what constitutes masculinity and femininity varies tremendously throughout history and across cultures.

3. The functionalist rendition of the evolution of gender may also be inaccurate.

4. It lacks the concept of power.  In overlooking the issue of power relations, the structural functionalist perspective neglects significant dimensions of gender: the structural causes of gender-based inequality and the consequences this inequality has for women and men in society.

5. It defends the status quo.

Conflict Theory
 (Karl Marx) is based on the assumption that society is a stage where struggles for power and dominance are acted out.  For Marx, the struggle occurred among social classes, which compete for control over the means of production and the distribution of resources.

Friedrich Engels applied these assumptions to the family – the family as it exists is the source of oppression for women.

1. The main features of society are change, conflict, and coercion.
2. Social structure is based on the dominance of some groups by others.
3. Each group in society has a set of common interests, whether its members are aware of it or not.
4. When people become aware of their common interests, they may become a social class.
5. The intensity of class conflict depends on the presence of certain political and social conditions, on the distribution of authority and rewards and on the openness of the class system

Symbolic Interactionism –
Also called the interactionist perspective.
The interactionist model is based on the assumption that society is created and maintained through the interaction of its members ad how its members define reality.  In this sense, reality is what members agree to be reality.

W.I. Thomas – A situation defined as real is real in its consequences.

An ongoing process of social interaction in specific settings based on symbolic communication.  Individual perceptions of reality are variable and changing.  Communication is the main feature of symbolic interactionism.  All communication occurs in particular situations or systems that influence what and how we communicate and especially what meanings we attach to messages.

Communication is dynamic and systemic.  Meanings are created through human interaction with symbols that are agreed upon.  Communication has 2 levels of meaning: content and relationship level of meaning.  The content is its literal meaning and implies what response is appropriate.  Relationship – it defines the relationship between communicators by defining each person’s identity and indicating whom they are in relation to one and other.  It tells us how to interpret the literal message.

Erving Goffman – Dramaturgical analysis is especially useful when considering gender roles.  Maintains that when people attempt to create a certain impression, they actually assume various roles in a performance which others will evaluate. For gender, Goffman would say that men and women come to the interaction with a socially scripted and conventionalized expression of gender.  He would agree that the interaction still has to be created and sustained – but he says we don’t need to invent the meaning on the spot.  We come to the interaction with some preconceived roles and develop the interaction from that point on.

Feminist Sociology

1. Gender is socially created, rather than innately determined.

2. It is generated within the context of a particular social and economic structure and is reproduced and transmitted through a process of social learning.

3. Gender is a central organizing factor in the social world and so must be included as a fundamental category of analysis in sociological research.

4. Feminist recognizes that sociological research is dualistic: It has both subjective and objective dimensions.  While they reject the notion of value-free science, however, feminists do not reject "scientific standards" in their research.

5. The consequences of gender inequality are not identical for all groups of women and men.  Therefore, research must analyze the interrelationships among multiple oppressions, including sexism, racism, classism, ageism, hetrosexism. And ableism.

6. A major goal of sociological work should be the development of effective means to eradicate gender inequality and to change those aspects of our social constructions of gender that are harmful or destructive.

Judith Lorber –
3 major categories of feminist theory:

Gender-reform feminisms – emphasize the similarities rather than the differences between women and men.  Their goal is for women to have same opportunities as men to fully participate in all aspects of social life.

Liberal – focuses on securing the same legal rights for women that men enjoy
Marxist – see women’s oppression as caused by economic dependence and us emphasize increasing women’s employment opportunities and bettering their wages and working conditions.
Socialist – as above
Development – reflects the concerns of women in economically developing countries and strives to improve work and educational opportunities for women there, wile often operating within the constraints of their traditional cultures.

Gender-resistance feminisms – argue that formal legal rights lone cannot end gender inequality because male dominance is too ingrained into everyday social relations, including heterosexual sexual relations. – Separatist strategy
  Lorber includes
Radical feminism – focus on the sexual exploitation of women by men and especially on men’s violence against women.
Lesbian feminism – as above
Psychoanalytic feminism – uses Freud to explain gender inequality in terms of sex differences in personality
Standpoint feminism – attempts to examine all aspects of life from a woman’s unique standpoint

Gender-rebellion feminism – 3rd wave feminisms Gender rebellion feminisms focus on the interrelationships among inequalities of gender, race, and ethnicity, social class, and sexual orientation, and analyze gender inequality as one piece of a complex system of social stratification.  Gender rebellions feminisms include multiracial feminism, men's feminism, social construction feminism, postmodern feminism and queer theory.

Multiracial feminism and men’s feminism highlight how one’s various social locations within the social stratification hierarchy privilege or disadvantage groups of women and men in different ways.

Social construction feminism examines the ways that people construct varying identities and social labels through their everyday interactions with one another.

Post modern feminism and queer theory conceptualize sex and gender as social scripts and then rewrite the parts and alter the props as they see fit for specific situations.  Gender, from these perspectives, is fluid.

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