Gender, Power, and Organisation: A Psychological Perspective

By Paula Nicolson | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Gender, subjectivity and feminism

SEX, GENDER AND THE PSYCHOLOGY OF WOMEN

Make no mistake about it, the role is meant to be performed. Sex roles are no theoretical fiction concocted by psychologists or sociologists or even by militant feminists. They have just baptised a creature that women have always been able to delineate. When asked, women can describe the dimensions of their own sex role. What is more, they can describe the punishments incurred for any infringements: the emotional blackmail and social shame.

(Breakwell, 1985:2)

This chapter explores definitions of sex, gender and gender relations, and their implications for women's professional lives. To accomplish this, I examine the complex relationship between science, popular knowledge and women's experience and behaviour; particularly the way women are positioned, and position themselves, as 'feminine', 'powerful' and 'autonomous'-traditionally contradictory positions within a patriarchal context.

Sex, sex roles and gender are related concepts, but each requires definition and explanation for the part they play in the construction of gender relations and subjectivity/identity.


Sex

Social, biological and psychological influences on our lives come together in a complex way in relation to sex. Differences between the way women and men experience these competing and complementary forces are emphasised in both scientific literature and in everyday life, where they are taken for granted and frequently characterised as the 'battle between the sexes'. But why does designated sex appear to make so much difference to the life-course of individuals? Why are women punished for stepping outside the boundaries of recognised sex roles? How does sex and sexuality influence professional relationships?

-8-

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