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ainialyaman's avatar

Are gender roles inherited or learnt?

Asked by ainialyaman (19points) September 3rd, 2007

Simone de Beauvoir once said “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” (The Second Sex, 1949).

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11 Answers

gooch's avatar

I believe that gender roles are biologically determined but are further reinforced by learning. There have been countless arguements on this subject (nature or nurture). All of the arguements are backed by studies. Again the studies being contradictory I feel support my belief of it being both.

juicyful's avatar

Oooooh good question – i was debating this with a friend a couple of months ago. Personally i feel it’s a bit of both actually. I believe a lot of our ‘gender role’ is learned behaviour. If i talk to my trans friends they tell me regardless of bodily gender, they know their true gender from a young age.

gailcalled's avatar

If anyone can answer this question w. documentation (about 400 pages worth,) there is a Nobel prize in your future. I watched my baby boy exhibit guy characteristics and my little daughter girlie ones from the time that they were sentient and not just drooling albeit adorable little pudge balls.

gailcalled's avatar

And I wouldn’t use De Beauvoir as a good role model for women today; she made herself subservient in a really smarmy way to her lover, Jean-Paul Sartre and generally ignored her own advice. Germaine Greer’s a better read.

Hawaiiguy's avatar

I need to read more

gailcalled's avatar

Get up from keyboard, walk to bookcase, reach hand out and pick. Make iced tea, find hammock, and hop to it. :-)

ketoneus's avatar

I would agree with Gooch. I think many behaviors are genetic but reinforced by their environment. Some behaviors, like how they interact with the opposite sex, is based almost entirely on observations of their parents or caregivers. Other behaviors, like the “motor” or “explosion” noises little boys make when playing, are genetic.

finkelitis's avatar

As everyone has already mentioned, there’s a lot of debate on this topic. Among academics, it’s not unusual for people to talk about gender (and the binary male/female categories of gender) as being completely a social construct (though not, obviously, a weak one). In general I think that it’s understood that a lot of the role of being one gender or another is learned. After all, think how different gender roles are from culture to culture (though I suppose it’s hard to see this right off without first hand experience).

On the other hand, there are a couple of things that seem to be inherent differences between the sexes in general. Men produce more testosterone, for example—an order of magnitude more—which is accepted as causing more aggressive behavior. I seem to remember there being one other trait that everyone accepted as being an inherent difference between genders. But basically everything else is up for grabs right now, in that it hasn’t been credibly shown to be genetic. (There’s a great piece on This American Life about testosterone, by the way.

Also, there have been some studies that seem to indicate that men and women’s brains function differently (men’s brains are bigger, but women’s function more efficiently, with more connections). However, the outcome of what they can do is essentially the same.

Personally, I think that it’s worth remembering that there is a huge range and variation inside each gender. I think there may be some not yet understood biological factors, but the way they manifest is highly unpredictable. Also, there is clearly a performative quality to certain visions of womanhood and of manhood that is culturally dependent and learned. But this too varies radically. So we all have a chance to be people, if we’re lucky, and not just men or women.

nikipedia's avatar

At this point a basic consensus has been arrived upon in science: the question of nature OR nurture is completely irrelevant; in reality we experience a complicated interplay between nature AND nurture reinforcing one another.

Colonel_Moustachio's avatar

I got mine at the .99 cent store

Dabria's avatar

Gender Roles can only be learnt as people are not born to be one way or another usually their behaviour comes from a conditioning.

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