Social Question

airowDee's avatar

Why does a sex chromosome determine one’s gender?

Asked by airowDee (1791points) October 22nd, 2009

Does anyone think it is strange a person’s gender is determined by the existence of a Y or X chromosome?

Does anyone even question the legitimacy of gender as a concept?
Or is it just simply that some people can give birth and some can’t?

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20 Answers

MrItty's avatar

There are obvious and definite biological and physiological differences between the genders. It is far more than “one can give birth”. It is the Y chromosome that enables the male-generating genes on the X chromosome and disables the female-generating genes.

Gender isn’t a “concept”. It’s a real and physical thing.

airowDee's avatar

with all due respect, I dont think Mritty answers my question..

there are real differences between everyone, it doesn’t mean that everyone needs a distingushing label..

SpatzieLover's avatar

@airowDee The re-word the question. @MrItty answered the question written.

You seem to want an answer to the question “What determines gender?”

JLeslie's avatar

We have certain characteristics that define each gender, but certainly there is a blurry line in some cases due to genetic anomoly or an individuals own feelings of which group they identify with.

Jayne's avatar

Before we get a shitstorm of people arguing semantics, can we agree to define terms as follows:

sex = either the male or female division of a species, esp. as differentiated with reference to the reproductive functions and other biological characteristics.

gender = the sexual identity assumed by a person, which may or may not be a reflection of biological characteristics.

nikipedia's avatar

Arguably, sex chromosomes don’t really determine sex (thanks for the clarification, @Jayne). Hormones are the major players in determining which sex organs develop, how (or even if) they function, and even differences in the brain.

Some people are born with an XY karyotype but for all intents and purposes appear to be female. This can be caused by genetic defects in androgen receptors leading to androgen insensitivity syndrome. (Androgens are the set of all hormones that influence the development of male features)

Or if someone is born with an XY karyotype and is missing a functional SRY gene, which is necessary for production of testis determining factor, this person would also appear to be female (this is called Swyer syndrome).

On the other hand, someone born with an XX karyotype and a functional SRY gene stuck in there will appear to be completely male.

So I think a lot of people question the concept of both sex and gender since there are cases that challenge pretty much any definition we choose to construct. But I also think that we have chosen to continue using this dichotomy because it has traditionally been very helpful. If I say “women” (e.g., this product was designed for women, or women are better at this task, or women learn better this way), there is no confusion about what I mean. It is only very rarely that this terminology becomes confusing and inaccurate.

You also ask if the only difference between men and women is that women can give birth. I would argue that there are a great number of differences between men and women, both biologically and culturally (and there comes a point where those two categories start to coalesce). But discussing those is another conversation altogether, so I will hold off for now.

airowDee's avatar

Alot of feminists like to say women are biologically different than men, and they say this is because they are women and essentially, they share physiological traits that are very different men, while some feminists would argue that there are more variation within people than between “gender”, so no one can deny that there are many differences between men and women, but why do we focus on the differences between women and men when there are more differences within women and men,, is it simply because it is easier to cateogize people based on gender or because of the need to make it easier to be a heterosexual looking for a mate to reproduce with.

nikipedia's avatar

@airowDee: Whether or not more variance exists within groups or between groups depends on the trait in question.

You don’t need to do any statistical tests to know that there are more differences at chromosome 46 between groups than within. There is almost no variation within each group, and nearly 100% variation between groups.

Likewise, if you look at levels of sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, these are nearly identical within each group and completely different between groups.

It gets complicated when you want to start looking at behavior. Are men or women better at playing chess? There is a lot of variation within each group, so it becomes harder to assess whether the variance is greater within a group or between.

So we scientists who study these things use statistics. If you use the right statistical test, you can actually calculate whether differences are greater within groups or between groups. (If you’re curious, the most often-used tests for these kinds of studies are t-tests and ANOVAs).

So you can assess these things on a trait-by-trait basis if you construct the right experiments and do the right statistical tests. If you want to make a blanket statement about the sameness or differentness of men and women as a whole, I think that would not only be impossible to determine but also kind of pointless.

airowDee's avatar

I know about statistics, I am taking psychology of women, and the course is stating that there are more differences on almost every measurable behaviour or cognitive skills within gender than between gender.

The biggest physical differences is that women are shorter than men in general, the effect size is 2.0, which is the biggest one can find between an genders. The next biggest difference is mental rotational skills and the MATH section under SAT test, there are not mucch statistical differences in anything else.

JLeslie's avatar

@airowDee I once read, years ago, that women in different cultures do just as well in spatial abilities as men. That some of it as to do with environment. I think they stated Eskimo women, are very good with direction and spatial ability because it is a necessity of their every day life, compared to most American women who have more trouble with these skills.

nikipedia's avatar

@airowDee: I guess that’s a matter of perspective. I agree that on many measures there are no observable differences between men and women, but some very robust sex differences have been measured and repeatedly replicated.

Yet it remains extremely politically unpopular to study sex differences, so you will find a serious dearth of legitimate research studies looking for them. Which makes it easy to say that they don’t exist.

airowDee's avatar

I do agree there is a feminist resistance to imply women are differences than men, but my general opionon is that different people have different biological deposition, almost anyone can learn or be trained to do anything else, it is simply that some people learn certain tasks easier than others or develop traits easier than others.

It would not suprise anyone to learn that men are better at spatial tasks, many men play video games as a life goal. lol

Sex differences do exist, but we are afraid to put too much weight on it because history has demonstrated this great efforts to use the differences to dominate, and segregate people. But my opinon and guess is no good, since its just out of my mouth. lol

Its not just intersex who are going against the gender binary, there are also people who are too afraid to not conform and do not show it, transgender, and non gender conforming people.

nikipedia's avatar

@JLeslie: I searched for cross-cultural studies of spatial rotation tasks, but what I found suggests the opposite is true:

Sex differences in spatial ability among adults in Western cultures are widely acknowledged, but few studies have assessed visual-spatial ability in non-Western subjects with tests that show the largest sex differences, and little is known whether effect sizes for different spatial ability categories are the same across cultures. This issue was addressed by using four visual spatial ability tests (water level, surface development, PMA space, and Vandenberg-Kuse) to collect data from university students in Ghana (n = 197) and Norway (n = 220). Except for the Surface Development test, on which no sex difference appeared in either sample, males perforned significantly better than females in both samples, and the effect sizes [r] were about medium, with no significant between-nationality difference on individual tests. These results showed that patterns and magnitudes of sex differences in spatial abilities were simiilar across cultures. The test intercorrelation patterns in the two samples differed markedly, suggesting that the ability structure underlying spatial performance may be different in the two cultures.

From the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology

SpatzieLover's avatar

@airowDee Hormones also factor into brain development.

airowDee's avatar

Unfortuantely, the differences in spatial abilities still do not prove why there are so few women engineer.

JLeslie's avatar

@nikipedia If I understand that study correctly they are just looking at two groups of people from Ghana and Norwegians. How can that summarize spatial abilities for many different cultures? Or, did I misunderstand your information? Meanwhile, what I read was so long ago, as I said, I think it was in a psych class, I don’t know how valid the information I read was. Personally, I think math skills have a lot to do with IQ and attitude, I don’t think it has anything to do with gender. That is not based on any research.

nikipedia's avatar

@JLeslie: You are completely right, this particular study is only looking at two groups. But it is in agreement with a number of other research studies. One meta-analysis reviewing 189 other studies found that ”...the sex differences correspond to the literature findings”—i.e., if you look at 189 studies that span Caucasians, minorities living in Western countries, Africans, and Asians, the same sex differences are found.

This particular meta-analysis goes on to point out that while the differences hold up, they are quite small. But they seem to be more or less consistent across groups, even when very heterogeneous measures are used. Also from the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology.

simone54's avatar

Do research on the John/Joan case.

Here is a start.

dpworkin's avatar

Misunderstanding removed by me.

My answer: Gender is a cultural, not a biological phenomenon. Sex is determined by chromosomes.

JLeslie's avatar

@nikipedia Interesting. Thank you.

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