962000 Dr. Keller
Montclair University  
 
9/6/2000
Discussion regarding sociological concepts useful in studying sociology of gender: First we need to understand what we mean by sociology of gender.

Sociology is the study of people in groups.  Sociologists pursue questions about people and social structure - the pattern of social relationships and behaviors - in the smallest and most transitory collections, such as strangers in public to the largest and most stable social groups such as institutions.

Statuses - every society places its members into a series of categories .It is a simply a position within a social system.
We acquires ours statuses by achievement through our own efforts (Achieved status)or by ascription as we are born into them or assume them involuntarily at some other point in our life. (Ascribed Status)

Role - The expected behavior associated with any given status is referred to as a role.  It is behavior that is routinized and mutually oriented to another person

Norms - shared rules of behavior established by society

A social institution is a constellation of roles and ideas that addresses a major area of human need in a particular society.  For example the institution of family addresses primarily sexual activity, reproduction and the physical care of and early socialization of children.

Next - what do we mean by gender? Distinguishing sex and gender
Sex is a designation based on biology, while gender is socially and psychologically constructed.  A human is categorized as male or female based on such physical characteristics as external genitalia, chromosomes, and hormones.  Our society only recognizes two categories of sex - male and female.

Gender involved those social, cultural and psychological aspects linked to males and females through particular social contexts. Likewise, we recognize only two genders -

Gender Roles are defined as those expected attitudes and behaviors which a society associates with each sex.  Gender roles are relational (femininity and masculinity make sense in relation to each other), culturally and historically time bound.  

A biological given sex (i.e. male or female) is used as the basis for constructing a social category that we call gender.  This differentiation occurs not only on an interpersonal level between individuals, but also on a structural level within a given society.  These prescriptions of how women and men should think and act are embedded in the institutions of the society - in its family, education system, language, religion, economy, etc.

This institutionalized pattern of gender differentiation referred to as a society's sex/gender system.  Sex/gender systems vary historically and cross-culturally, but each system includes at lest 3 interrelated components
1.  The social construction of gender categories on the basis of biological sex.
2.  A sexual division of labor in which specific tasks are allocated on the basis of sex
3.  The social regulation of sexuality in which particular forms of sexual expression are positively or negatively sanctioned.


Why is the sociology of gender an important topic of inquiry?
All societies categorize members by status and then rank these statuses in some fashion, thereby creating a system of social stratification.  Social stratification is the differentiation among categories of people, accompanies by differential access to scarce resources.  Gender, race and ethnicity are significant ways in which members of society are identified and combined in various ways to result in unequal treatment.

Stereotypes - oversimplified conceptions that people who belong to the same group or category share certain traits in common.  The categories of male and female are stereotyped such that members of the category are assumed to possess certain characteristics by virtue of their biological categories.  This results in sexism, the belief that one category, female, is inferior to the other, male.

Sex/gender systems usually function as a system of social stratification, that is, the extent to which women and men, and the traits and behaviors respectively associated with them, are valued unequally in a society.

A patriarchy is a sex/gender system in which men dominate women, and that which is considered masculine is more highly valued than that which is considered feminine.
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