Essay on cultural influences on gender

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Sadhia Malik Psychology Essay
Discuss cultural influences on gender role (8+16 Marks)
Cultural influence is a topic which helps us understand the biological and socialising aspects of
gender role. There are two major key aspects which are looked at in different cultures the first is
cultural similarities (Division of labour) and the second is cultural differences (Magnitude of sex
differences).
The first aspect `Division of Labour' looks at cross cultural studies on gender, they show that every
society has some division of labour and behaviour by gender. This is shown by Munroe and Munroe
(1975). For example preparation of food and child care is predominantly carried out by females in
all societies. The work is shared but it is not a major responsibility in any society. There is criticising
evidence for the cultural similarities by Eagly and Wood, who argued that all cultures shape their
socialisation processes along the lines of inborn biological tendencies. However labour division are
the same in most cultures but not all, an example of this is shown by Sugihara et al (2004),they
showed supporting evidence for division of labour and found that Japanese men do not seek to be
`macho' like Americans, but are instead wound up in art and in traits that are more feminine like.
This shows that in every society there is a form of division of role and behaviour by gender.
Cultural variation is the second key aspect, this looks at the variations in cultures. Berry et al (2002),
looked at male superiority on spatial perceptual tasks in 17 societies, they found that the superiority
is only found in tight societies not in looser societies. This shows sex differences on s.p. tasks are
linked with ecological and cultural factors. However spatial perception evidence suggests that the
magnitude of sex differences is linked to culture and ecology. This supports the above statement,
which states sex differences in the s.p. tasks. There is supporting evidence for the division of labour
by Van Leeuwan (1978), he found that in a number of societies women stay at home while men
hunt, whereas in nomadic societies both men and women travel and hunt and there is less division of
labour.
On the other hand Kimura (1999), provides criticising evidence by stating that it is the biological
aspect that is to be considered, he suggested that in hunting societies those with poor spatial
perception are likely to die, therefore and outcome of this is an elimination of the genes from the
gene pool. It would appear that this is an explanation for less gender differences in nomadic
societies.
Cultural variations include two other key terms conformity and historical changes. Across cultures
women are more conformists than men. However this differs in cultures. Berry et al reported that
conformity is the highest in tight, inactive societies. It would appear that there is a lot of social
influencing factors that are not included at the moment. The researchers are deterministic, who are
only trying to prove their one theory and not including any other factors such as the SLT which
suggests that behaviour is learnt. There is supporting evidence for conformity by Barry et al who
found that in societies where women contribute a lot of food (this would appear to only include the
nomadic societies), women are highly valued, allowed more freedom and less regarded as a sex and
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Sadhia Malik Psychology Essay
reproductive need. This shows that when women have a higher position than men, they have more
power and therefor a less need to conform to the demands of the powerful members of society.
Finally the magnitude of sex differences also includes historical changes, this involves domestic duties
that men and women have to carry out. However over the last couple of years the gender gap is
decreasing, this supports the role of changing social influences.…read more

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