Women and Sex Roles: A Social Psychological Perspective

By Irene H. Frieze; Jacquelynne E. Parsons et al. | Go to book overview

5

Is Anatomy Destiny?
Biology and Sex Differences

*That men and women differ from one another is indisputable. They dress differently, have different hair styles, do different things with their time and, for the most part, play different social roles. Some explanations for these differences center around the issue of the relative contributions of biological and socialization factors. At one extreme, it has been argued that men and women are destined by biology to play different social roles and to have their own distinct personalities. Freud, as evidenced by his statement, "anatomy is destiny," was one of the early proponents of this view. He felt that the general anatomical differences between girls and boys produced inevitable sex differences in adult temperament and personality. Other more recent biological theories stress hormones, genes, and developmental rates as key factors, but still see biological factors as primary determinants of sex differences. At the other extreme, men and women are seen as very similar in all but their reproductive functions; in this view, differences in sex roles are assumed to be the results of socialization and not biology. Today, many feminists argue this latter point of view.

However, most scientific investigators today do not take a simple either/or position concerning the determinants of sex differences. Instead, they see human development as the result of the interaction between an individual's biological make-up and experience with the environment. While there is agreement that human behavior is influenced by both innate and environ‐

____________________
*
Jacquelynne Parsons and Diane Ruble were the primary authors of this chapter.

-71-

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