The main feminist motivation for making this distinction was to counter biological determinism or the view that biology is destiny. A typical example of a biological determinist view is that of Geddes and Thompson who, in , argued that social, psychological and behavioural traits were caused by metabolic state. It would be inappropriate to grant women political rights, as they are simply not suited to have those rights; it would also be futile since women due to their biology would simply not be interested in exercising their political rights.
To counter this kind of biological determinism, feminists have argued that behavioural and psychological differences have social, rather than biological, causes. Commonly observed behavioural traits associated with women and men, then, are not caused by anatomy or chromosomes. Rather, they are culturally learned or acquired. Although biological determinism of the kind endorsed by Geddes and Thompson is nowadays uncommon, the idea that behavioural and psychological differences between women and men have biological causes has not disappeared.
In the s, sex differences were used to argue that women should not become airline pilots since they will be hormonally unstable once a month and, therefore, unable to perform their duties as well as men Rogers , More recently, differences in male and female brains have been said to explain behavioural differences; in particular, the anatomy of corpus callosum, a bundle of nerves that connects the right and left cerebral hemispheres, is thought to be responsible for various psychological and behavioural differences.
Anne Fausto-Sterling has questioned the idea that differences in corpus callosums cause behavioural and psychological differences. First, the corpus callosum is a highly variable piece of anatomy; as a result, generalisations about its size, shape and thickness that hold for women and men in general should be viewed with caution.
Second, differences in adult human corpus callosums are not found in infants; this may suggest that physical brain differences actually develop as responses to differential treatment. Third, given that visual-spatial skills like map reading can be improved by practice, even if women and men's corpus callosums differ, this does not make the resulting behavioural differences immutable.
Fausto-Sterling b, chapter 5. Psychologists writing on transsexuality were the first to employ gender terminology in this sense. Although by and large a person's sex and gender complemented each other, separating out these terms seemed to make theoretical sense allowing Stoller to explain the phenomenon of transsexuality: Along with psychologists like Stoller, feminists found it useful to distinguish sex and gender.
This enabled them to argue that many differences between women and men were socially produced and, therefore, changeable. Rubin's thought was that although biological differences are fixed, gender differences are the oppressive results of social interventions that dictate how women and men should behave. However, since gender is social, it is thought to be mutable and alterable by political and social reform that would ultimately bring an end to women's subordination.
In some earlier interpretations, like Rubin's, sex and gender were thought to complement one another. That is, according to this interpretation, all humans are either male or female; their sex is fixed. But cultures interpret sexed bodies differently and project different norms on those bodies thereby creating feminine and masculine persons.
Distinguishing sex and gender, however, also enables the two to come apart: So, this group of feminist arguments against biological determinism suggested that gender differences result from cultural practices and social expectations. Nowadays it is more common to denote this by saying that gender is socially constructed.
But which social practices construct gender, what social construction is and what being of a certain gender amounts to are major feminist controversies. There is no consensus on these issues. See the entry on intersections between analytic and continental feminism for more on different ways to understand gender. Masculinity and femininity are thought to be products of nurture or how individuals are brought up.
They are causally constructed Haslanger , And the mechanism of construction is social learning. Feminine and masculine gender-norms, however, are problematic in that gendered behaviour conveniently fits with and reinforces women's subordination so that women are socialised into subordinate social roles: That is, feminists should aim to diminish the influence of socialisation.
Social learning theorists hold that a huge array of different influences socialise us as women and men. This being the case, it is extremely difficult to counter gender socialisation. For instance, parents often unconsciously treat their female and male children differently.
When parents have been asked to describe their hour old infants, they have done so using gender-stereotypic language: Some socialisation is more overt: This, again, makes countering gender socialisation difficult.
For one, children's books have portrayed males and females in blatantly stereotypical ways: Some publishers have attempted an alternative approach by making their characters, for instance, gender-neutral animals or genderless imaginary creatures like TV's Teletubbies. However, parents reading books with gender-neutral or genderless characters often undermine the publishers' efforts by reading them to their children in ways that depict the characters as either feminine or masculine.
According to Renzetti and Curran, parents labelled the overwhelming majority of gender-neutral characters masculine whereas those characters that fit feminine gender stereotypes for instance, by being helpful and caring were labelled feminine , Socialising influences like these are still thought to send implicit messages regarding how females and males should act and are expected to act shaping us into feminine and masculine persons.
Instead, she holds that gender is a matter of having feminine and masculine personalities that develop in early infancy as responses to prevalent parenting practices. In particular, gendered personalities develop because women tend to be the primary caretakers of small children. Chodorow holds that because mothers or other prominent females tend to care for infants, infant male and female psychic development differs.
This unconsciously prompts the mother to encourage her son to psychologically individuate himself from her thereby prompting him to develop well defined and rigid ego boundaries.
However, the mother unconsciously discourages the daughter from individuating herself thereby prompting the daughter to develop flexible and blurry ego boundaries.
Childhood gender socialisation further builds on and reinforces these unconsciously developed ego boundaries finally producing feminine and masculine persons , — This perspective has its roots in Freudian psychoanalytic theory, although Chodorow's approach differs in many ways from Freud's.
Gendered personalities are supposedly manifested in common gender stereotypical behaviour. Women are stereotypically more emotional and emotionally dependent upon others around them, supposedly finding it difficult to distinguish their own interests and wellbeing from the interests and wellbeing of their children and partners.
This is said to be because of their blurry and somewhat confused ego boundaries: By contrast, men are stereotypically emotionally detached, preferring a career where dispassionate and distanced thinking are virtues. These traits are said to result from men's well-defined ego boundaries that enable them to prioritise their own needs and interests sometimes at the expense of others' needs and interests. Chodorow thinks that these gender differences should and can be changed.
Feminine and masculine personalities play a crucial role in women's oppression since they make females overly attentive to the needs of others and males emotionally deficient. In order to correct the situation, both male and female parents should be equally involved in parenting Chodorow , This would help in ensuring that children develop sufficiently individuated senses of selves without becoming overly detached, which in turn helps to eradicate common gender stereotypical behaviours.
Masculinity is defined as sexual dominance, femininity as sexual submissiveness: For MacKinnon, gender is constitutively constructed: As a result, genders are by definition hierarchical and this hierarchy is fundamentally tied to sexualised power relations. If sexuality ceased to be a manifestation of dominance, hierarchical genders that are defined in terms of sexuality would cease to exist. So, gender difference for MacKinnon is not a matter of having a particular psychological orientation or behavioural pattern; rather, it is a function of sexuality that is hierarchal in patriarchal societies.
This is not to say that men are naturally disposed to sexually objectify women or that women are naturally submissive. Instead, male and female sexualities are socially conditioned: For MacKinnon, both female and male sexual desires are defined from a male point of view that is conditioned by pornography MacKinnon , chapter 7.
This conditions men's sexuality so that they view women's submission as sexy. And male dominance enforces this male version of sexuality onto women, sometimes by force. MacKinnon's thought is not that male dominance is a result of social learning see 2. That is, socialized differences in masculine and feminine traits, behaviour, and roles are not responsible for power inequalities.
Females and males roughly put are socialised differently because there are underlying power inequalities. MacKinnon, then, sees legal restrictions on pornography as paramount to ending women's subordinate status that stems from their gender. The positions outlined above share an underlying metaphysical perspective on gender: All women are thought to differ from all men in this respect or respects. For example, MacKinnon thought that being treated in sexually objectifying ways is the common condition that defines women's gender and what women as women share.
All women differ from all men in this respect. Further, pointing out females who are not sexually objectified does not provide a counterexample to MacKinnon's view. Being sexually objectified is constitutive of being a woman; a female who escapes sexual objectification, then, would not count as a woman. One may want to critique the three accounts outlined by rejecting the particular details of each account. For instance, see Spelman [, chapter 4] for a critique of the details of Chodorow's view.
A more thoroughgoing critique has been levelled at the general metaphysical perspective of gender realism that underlies these positions. It has come under sustained attack on two grounds: If gender were separable from, for example, race and class in this manner, all women would experience womanhood in the same way. And this is clearly false. For instance, Harris and Stone criticise MacKinnon's view, that sexual objectification is the common condition that defines women's gender, for failing to take into account differences in women's backgrounds that shape their sexuality.
In fact, the rape of a black woman was thought to be impossible Harris So, the argument goes sexual objectification cannot serve as the common condition for womanhood since it varies considerably depending on one's race and class.
Betty Friedan's well-known work is a case in point of white solipsism. But she failed to realize that women from less privileged backgrounds, often poor and non-white, already worked outside the home to support their families. Friedan's suggestion, then, was applicable only to a particular sub-group of women white middle-class Western housewives. But it was mistakenly taken to apply to all women's lives — a mistake that was generated by Friedan's failure to take women's racial and class differences into account hooks , 1—3.
Spelman further holds that since social conditioning creates femininity and societies and sub-groups that condition it differ from one another, femininity must be differently conditioned in different societies.
This line of thought has been extremely influential in feminist philosophy. For instance, Young holds that Spelman has definitively shown that gender realism is untenable , Mikkola argues that this isn't so. The arguments Spelman makes do not undermine the idea that there is some characteristic feature, experience, common condition or criterion that defines women's gender; they simply point out that some particular ways of cashing out what defines womanhood are misguided.