9202000 Dr. Keller
Montclair University  

Tonight we look at biological theories used to explain gender
We recognize that there are physical differences between men and women.  But science can only catalog similarities and differences between women and men but cannot establish their causes.

The theories are more often used to justify your current perspectives and beliefs regarding the inequality between men and women.

Gender stereotypes that are held and explained biologically
Males are independent; females dependent
Males are aggressive, females are passive
Males are better at spatial tasks, females at those requiring verbal skills.

Biological Theories "Believing is Seeing" -Judith Lorber
The argument used to explain and justify the inequality between men and women is essentially a biological one.  If the difference between men and women is biological and our biology is immutable, rectification of inequality can not be achieved.    

Does Biology determine gender roles - Science can catalog similarities and differences between women and men but cannot establish their causes.

More variation among groups than between groups - men and women.

The social can affect the biological - diet, exercise, being allowed to participate.
Although we may inherit a tendency toward a particular body shape, most women's weight can change considerably in response to our diets, levels of physical activity, and other patterns of living.  These also affect physical fitness and strength.  When women begin to exercise of engage in weight training and body building, we often notice surprisingly great changes in strength in response to even quite moderate training.

Physical Strength - examples - women's times in running have decreased dramatically over the last 20 years.  

Social definitions who will count  - examples what is aggression, what is mathematical capability?

The argument used to explain and justify the inequality between men and women is essentially a biological one.  If the difference between men and women is biological and our biology is immutable, rectification of inequality can not be achieved.    

One focus of biological theories is the influence of sex chromosomes.  Most males have an XY chromosome while most women have an XX chromosome structure.  In 1996 geneticists reported evidence that several genes controlling intelligence are located only on X-chromosomes.  This implies that males' intelligence is inherited from their mothers, whereas females may inherit their intelligence from either or both parents.  Genetic researchers have also reported that the gene responsible for social skills is active only on the male X chromosome. This may explain why women are generally more adept and comfortable than men are when interacting in social situations.  

When sperm fails to divide properly we get nondisjunction
X0 - Turner Syndrome
Without a second x chromosome they have no gonadal tissue and produce no sex hormones.  But seemed to be super feminized.

XXX women show few visible signs of abnormality although they tend to be taller than xx women do and have a higher incidence of learning disorders
Klinefelter syndrome - xxy  - a number of physical anomalies - taller than the average, at puberty when secondary hormones are released - hips widen, some breast development, their testes do not enlarge, their voices do not deepen
These men tend to be timid and socially isolated - not interested in women or sex.  But could be explained socially.

XYY syndrome - - elevated testosterone - linked with violence The extra Y chromosome (a biological factor) produces unusual height and low intellectual functioning which may result in incarceration and institutionalization .

Sociobiological theories fit into this theory -
According to many sociobiologists, mating practices are the result of an evolutionary process favoring genes that most successfully replicate themselves.  This theory states that that those most successful in this regard give rise to behavior and attitudes maximizing reproductive success.
Women generally prefer older men as mates, while most males prefer young females.
In courtship and mating behavior, most men are more sexually aggressive and most women are coyer.
Males are more inclined to delay marriage.
Men are more likely to seek a variety of mates
Women tend to be more tolerant of adulterous mates
Females are more likely to be domestic and nurturing.

The females of any species, goes this theory are likely to develop very different kinds of reproductive strategies given the fact that they produce fewer offspring than do males.  The genes of males, in competition with those of other males, induce behavior that results in the greatest number of offspring.  Females, who are not able to produce nearly as many offspring as are males, compete for quality, rather than quantity, behaving so as to ensure that each child produced will be likely to survive and reproduce.

Reproductive strategies - men prefer young wives - young women are highly fertile and the most likely to bear full-term healthy offspring.  
Women see established and mature men as providers and protectors of their children.  Female coyness helps to assure a potential mate that pregnancy has not occurred already.
By delaying marriage, a man is free to impregnate more women who will bear his children (his genes) without obligating him to care for them.

Domesticity of women and the wanderings of men also are consistent with the differential reproductive strategies each sex has evolved.

Biologists began to look at the animals that sociobiologists based their perspectives on.  Rather than waiting around females are usually ardent and can even be called polyandrous (having many male partners) Their sexual behavior does not depend simply on the goal of being fertilized by the male, because in many cases females actively solicit males when they are not ovulating, and even when they are already pregnant etc. etc.

A second focus of biological theories is the role of hormonal activity in shaping gender-related behaviors.  Sex hormones affect the development of the brain as well as the body.  The debate on the influence of hormones versus socialization is further complicated when studies of aggression in females and males are considered.

Hormones - aggression Males sex hormones also have some documented effects, as well as some controversial possible influences.

Tape of baby who is startled by a jack-in-the box.  Baby cries.  Observers who were told the baby was a boy described the reaction as anger - but those who though it was a girl described the baby as frightened.

Aggression -
Taken from animals studies
Wide variation in animal species
Testosterone level rises and falls in response to competitive challenges.
Research suggests that females may simply inhibit aggression because of social pressures how they express it.  
Moreover, both males and females, aggressive decreases as age and education increase.
Situational aggression

Then what about women's raging hormones -
Hysteria - from the Greek meaning uterus
Androgen means, "man" while estrogen "frenzy"

After surveying an extensive amount of research on sex hormones, Carol Tavris concluded that men, like women have a hormonal cycle, and again like women, men's hormones affect their behavior.  Males who behave delinquently use drugs, engage in violence and abusiveness, and have conduct disorders tend to be at their cycle's peak level of testosterone, the primary male hormone.  

A recent study of 1,706 men from 39 to 70 years old found that men with higher levels of testosterone had personalities researchers described as "dominant with some aggressive behavior" (1991) Higher levels of testosterone were linked to jockeying for power, attempts to influence or dominate others, and expressions of anger.  Another study reported that fluctuations of testosterone affect men's cognitive functioning so that men have better spatial abilities at low points in their hormonal cycle.  A second male hormone, androgen, has also been linked to aggressiveness and even an instinct for killing in animals.

However, we must address Hubard's observations that we give social definitions to what we consider biological functions.  How do we define aggression?  It appears to be situational; women may be more aggressive in the defense of their children.  Recent studies suggests that delinquent adolescent females more often act out their aggression that males.  Physical aggression is not observed in middle and upper class males as readily as in lower economic classes.

A third focus of biological theories of difference is brain structure and development, which appear to be linked to sex.    Research indicates that although both women and men use both lobes of the brain, each sex tends to specialize in one.  Men generally have greater development of the left lobe of the brain, which controls linear, conventionally logical thought; sequential information; and abstract, analytic thinking.    Specializing in the right lobe women tend to have greater aptitude for imaginative and artistic activity; holistic, intuitive thinking; and some visual and spatial tasks.   Research reported in 1995 indicates that women tend to use both sides of their brains to do language tasks, whereas men are more likely to use only the left sides of their brains.  Further, women's brains have to work less hard than men's brains to figure out others' emotions.

Linking the two lobes of the brain is a bundle of nerves and connecting tissues called the corpus callosum.  Women generally have greater ability to use this structure.  Thus, it may be that women are more able to cross from one lobe to another and to access the distinct capacities of both.

First study done in 1980s - 15 brains 9 male and five females.  The majority of the studies have not been able to duplicate.  Greater variability among members of the same sex than between the sexes.

Le Anne Schreiber  says that brain lateralization has been used to example supposed differences in mathematical ability in women in two ways: - One was that the two hemispheres of the female brain are less strongly linked than those of the male's making the female brain less integrated and less endowed with, for example, mathematical ability. The other was that the female brain's hemispheres re more strongly linked than he male's making it, therefore, less specialized and less endowed with, for example, mathematical ability.

Math : The Deciding Factor - Women don't pursue careers in mathematics and in computer science because they are not as gifted in math.  
But women were hired as computer programmers in the 1940s  ( study by Katherine Donnato 1990)
Our biology hasn't changed since the 1940s.

Interpreting the numbers -It is questionable that women are not as competent in math as men. The supposedly Gender gap in SAT scores is not statistically significant (the gap has been closing). Females outperform males in mathematical performance tests through elementary and middle school levels.

This argues for an environmental rather than a biological cause. Examples - boys get significantly more attention than girls do in math.  Girls get negative attention in math.  Does it have anything to do with playing with Barbie's that say, "Gee, math is hard?"
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Last updated  2008/09/28 05:09:45 PDTHits  488