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Gender Differences

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    3.04 Gender Differences: The battle over the sexes!



    Men and women are completely different. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

    Have you ever filled out an application and seen the question about sex (male or female)? What does that mean exactly? What is gender? What is the difference between sex and gender?

    Sex refers to the male and female individuals of a species and is determined by an individuals' reproductive organs. In psychology, we speak about gender as the psychological part of sex. Gender is the sex with which you feel most connected.


    In the 1960s, a doctor by the name of John Money was asked by the parents of twin boys to help them. The family had taken their twins, Bruce and Brian, to the hospital for a circumcision. The procedure done on Bruce was not done correctly and Bruce was left with no reproductive organ. Not knowing what else to do, the family turned to Dr. Money who theorized that it was nurture, not nature, that made a person’s gender. Meaning, it did not matter what sex organs the person had—if you raised a boy as a girl, he would identify with being a girl. The family was given hormones for Bruce and told to begin dressing Bruce as a girl. Nobody was to know that Bruce was the given name of their now “daughter,” Brenda. Throughout the 14 years the parents kept this secret from Brenda, they noticed “she” never fit in. Brenda always wanted to play cars and play in the dirt. She was shunned by the girls and the boys thought she was weird. When “ she” found out she was really a “he,” he was relieved and immediately stopped taking all of the hormone drugs. Brenda changed her name to David. The psychological effects on David drove him into depression and eventually to schizophrenia and suicide. This case is known as the John/Joan case. To read more about David’s story, you can read, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl at your local library. You can also listen to a radio broadcast about David at National Public Radio listed below.

    The Nature and Nurture of Gender



    So, here we are again back to the nature versus nurture debate. Is it nature or nurture? Is it really the environment? What makes a boy a boy and a girl a girl?

    • Nature of Gender
    • Nurture of Gender

    Nature of Gender

    We are all formed when an egg (an X chromosome) and a sperm, (can be an X or a Y chromosome) meet and marry. If you are the result of a Y sperm, you are a male and if you are the result of an X sperm, you are a female. The Y chromosome includes a single gene that throws a master switch triggering the testes to produce the hormone, testosterone, which is in about the seventh week of pregnancy. So, according to biology or nature, you are male from the minute your mom's and dad’s egg and sperm meet and marry.

    Nurture of Gender

    What chores do you have at home? What do your mom and dad do for a living? What about the rest of women and men in your family: What careers do they have? Do they have "traditional" jobs for women and men?

    Society has inflicted gender roles upon us—the way in which society believes men and women should behave. Traditionally, men have initiated dates, driven the car, and picked up the check. Women have decorated the home, cared for the children, and cleaned the home. Traditional jobs for men are doctors, lawyers, and firefighters. Traditional jobs for women are teachers, nurses, and secretaries. These gender roles have smoothed out social relations, saving the awkward decisions about who does what. However, many gender roles have left people feeling oppressed.and overwhelmed when the woman entered the workplace. The question arose as to who would complete “her” chores at home.The way you would answer this question can be attributed to one of two theories.

    • The social learning theory assumes that children learn their gender-linked behaviors by observing and imitating and by being rewarded and/or punished. “Boys don’t cry, Nicolas” “You are a great mom to your dolls, Ariel.”
    • The gender schema theory combines the social learning theory with cognition. This theory proposes that boys and girls learn what is acceptable in their culture and what it means to be male and female. They then adjust their behavior accordingly.

    Gender Roles Specific roles that are set for males and females by society.

    Oppressed Weighing heavily on the sense of spirit