Essay about Women and Men Are Made, Not Born

987 Words Dec 3rd, 2008 4 Pages
‘Women and men are made, not born’

The statement by Simone de Beauvoir, ‘Women and men are made, not born’ proposes that a person acquires the identity of a man or a woman over time, by means of complex social processes. Beauvoir’s statement suggests that gender roles and behaviour are not inherent and that social positioning should not be determined by sex. This essay will begin by drawing a distinction between sex and gender, and will then discuss two arguments that explore the origins of gender difference; social construction theory as implied by Beauvoir’s statement, and the biological determinist position. Gender refers to the socially constructed categories of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ and the attributes and behaviours that
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The assertion, ‘Women and men are made, not born’ conveys that we become gendered people. Children are born as blank slates, through their interactions with people; infants learn what sex has been attributed to them and what this entails. They acquire their sex and gender by a process of modelling, imitating parent, teachers, siblings of the same sex and so forth. The reinforcement of this behaviour eventually causes the child to internalise the gender identity attributed to them. To support their argument, social constructionists argue that gender cannot be inherent because variations in femininities and masculinities occur across cultures, across a particular culture over time, within a culture at the one point in time, and because there is heterogeneity within one sex. However, there are limitations to the theory; research shows that many boys and girls of a young age make gender stereotyped choices themselves, irrespective of whether parents actively create a sex-neutral environment. Thus, children’s early spontaneous gender commitments cannot be readily explained by the social construction theory. Furthermore, attachment of adult men and women to elements of masculinity and femininity that they desire to transcend, particularly men and women involved in men’s movement and women’s movements respectively, suggests that gender is something that is embedded and not malleable. On the other end of the continuum is the biological determinist position.

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