Anatomy and Destiny: Biological Arguments about Gender Difference
1. What three types of evidence do biologists use to explain the existence of sex differences?
Answer: Three types of evidence used by biologists to explain the existence of sex differences are differences in reproductive anatomy, differences in brain chemistry, and differences in hormone levels. (pp. 1–2)
2. Why might social scientists question explanations of gender which rely strongly on biology?
Answer: Biological explanations can’t account for cultural variation in gender expression, and reduces the wide range of gendered behaviors into two dichotomous categories. (p. 2)
3. According to sociobiologists such as David Buss, how have women’s “adaptive problems” differed from men’s throughout our history as a species?
Answer: Women’s “adaptive problems” include the challenge of finding and keeping a mate who will invest adequate resources for the survival of the woman and her offspring. Men’s “adaptive problems” include ensuring that their resources are directed to children who are their genetic offspring. (p. 5)
4. What does Buss mean by a male who is “able to invest”?
Answer: This refers to a male who possesses resources which can support a female and her child, and who is willing to direct these resources to them. (pp. 6–7)
5. According to Buss, does evolutionary psychology imply that there will never be any changes in relations between the genders?
Answer: No. Buss says that understanding the insights of evolutionary psychology enables us to predict where male-female differences are most likely to manifest themselves, so that we can intervene in effective and positive ways. (p. 8)
6. Why does Robert M. Sapolsky describe himself as a member of a genetic minority which is associated with a wide range of antisocial behaviours?
Answer: Sapolsky is male, and he points out that men have historically displayed higher rates of violent or aggressive behaviour, whether this is socially positive (such as defending a family or clearing trees in a forest) or negative (such as assault or attacking weaker individuals). (p. 10)
7. What is the “permissive effect” that Sapolsky associates with testosterone?
Answer: Testosterone doesn’t cause males to be aggressive; it exaggerates the effects of aggressive tendencies that are already there. Testosterone gives biological “permission” for existing aggressive urges to be amplified. (p. 12)
8. Sapolsky notes that female hyenas, which have very high levels of testosterone and typically dominate males in the wild, took a long time to establish dominance behaviour in captivity. What does this suggest about the role of testosterone in aggression and violence?
Answer: The captive hyenas didn’t have an established social system to learn from or to model their aggressive behaviour on like wild hyenas did. This suggests that violence is a product of social learning, not just hormones and biology. (pp. 13–14)
9. Does Judith Lorber that believe that there are two distinct sexes?
Answer: No. Lorber believes that there is great individual variation in physiology, and that the gender framework of two genders is used to organize this variation into the two categories we know as sexes. (p. 16)
10. Why are women’s sports often considered “inferior” versions of men’s sports, according to Lorber?
Answer: Men’s sports set the standard for what sports should be, through their emphasis on speed and strength. Women’s sports have reduced emphasis on these qualities and thus are considered inferior or secondary to men’s. (p. 17)
Multiple Choice Questions for Part I
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