Advocates of the nurture theory feel that it is one’s environment that is of the up most importance. Environment affects human behaviour right from the very beginning of our existence. For example, pregnant women are advised not to smoke or use drugs, exercise with caution and receive proper nutrition, these precautions are set in place in order to control the environmental impact on the foetus. Although many parents would like to believe this theory of created environments, advocates for the nature theory would argue that our temperamental and behavioural tendencies are determined by genetics.
These traits include, agreeableness, neuroticism, extroversion and conscientiousness. IQ studies show the most genetic influence of 80 per cent, for example in the study of twins who have been separated at birth and raised in different environments, it appears that the twins still end up more alike than many would predict, supporting the argument that genetics and biology play a large part in personality development (Cluff, 2005).
Another factor some Sociologists feel influences a child’s behaviour is called the ‘unique environment’ that children create for themselves. This ‘unique environment’ is the peer groups, which children may seek out. For example, intelligent children may seek out other intelligent groups and aggressive children will seek out the punks. Though some sociologists argue that the conclusions a child makes in selecting their ‘unique environment’ are determined also by their genetic make up. Which again strengthens the argument of nature being the prevailing influence on personality make up (Cluff, 2005).
Research shows that femininity and masculinity varies dramatically across cultures. Womanhood among bourgeois women in Victorian Britain was defined as physical delicacy, exclusion from paid work and lack of sexual feeling. Though womanhood in parts of rural Africa today is synonymous with physical robustness, breadwinning and sexual confidence (Bilton et al, 1996). In examining other cultures it casts doubt on the theory that male and female are universal categories based on natural anatomical differences. It was found that many native people of North America for example, the Cheyenne and the Ojibwa, the Navajo and the Iroquois anatomy wasn’t the only means of deciding whether a person was man or woman.
A practise called Berdache was used, were anatomical males who preferred to do woman’s work, such as basket-weaving or burden carrying, to hunting or going into battle, could move into female circles, dress as women and take husbands. Although they retained their male genitals, they ceased to be males. Activities were significant as anatomy in determining gender. In the Western world it is our gender ideas and not our bodies that determines our gender.
It is suggested that men and women are moulded into being male or female by a range of practises from bodybuilding to cosmetic surgery, from hormonal treatment to nutrition, from sport to styles of dress to forms of work. It is claimed a high proportion of teenage girls spend their time dieting as girls should be more dainty than men and slimness defines femininity. This could be viewed as a powerful example of the ways in which gender produces sexual differences (Bilton et al, 1996).
Cross-dressing is viewed differently in society; views on this are determined by culture and time periods. In some eras and some cultures, cross dressing has been associated with homosexuality or lesbianism, though in others is it viewed as both a homosexual and heterosexual phenomenon (Bullough & Bullough, 1993). While there is a clear definition of masculine and feminine dressing within our society, a symbol of sexual differences, it is implied that cross-dressing represents a symbolic incursion into territory that crosses gender boundaries. Dress has always been a symbol of differences between sexes. Gender differences start right at the beginning of our lives. For example, baby boys dressed in blue and baby girls dressed in pink. These gender-based colour schemes have been adopted since the beginning of the twentieth century.
These colour schemes, which separate males from females, seem to be important to most societies. In having introduced these colour schemes Western parents usually handle their baby boys differently from their baby girls; baby girls are usually handled more delicately. As children, the female is able to cross the boundaries of cross-dressing more freely as females are able to wear trousers as well as dresses. Though in later years the female loses her opportunities and role expectations, as women become more restricted, in the way of job opportunities and expected roles they carry out (Bullough & Bullough, 1993).
The case of the boy without a penis clearly demonstrates and supports the argument ‘gender is determined by biology. This trial was carried out in America by sexologist, Dr Money. On August 22nd 1965 Janet Reimer gave birth to two healthy twin boys, Brian and Bruce, they lived in Winnipeg, Canada. At 7 months old they both went along to the local hospital for a routine circumcision. As a result of a malfunction of electrical equipment, which the doctor was using, Bruce’s entire penis was burnt off. Brian was not operated on. The family was devastated.
Several months later the twin’s mother Janet Reimer watched a debate on television about sex change operations. This featured a highly renowned sexologist, Dr John Money, who was taking part in the debate on sex change operations on transsexuals. Janet Reimer thought this was the answer to her son’s problem She wrote to Dr Money and he immediately responded and invited the family to Baltimore, Maryland.
Dr Money being a highly intelligent and very respected individual advised that the Reimers bring up their son as a girl. So when Bruce was 18 months old he was castrated. He was then called Brenda and treated as a girl. Dr Money was the answer to the Reimer’s prayers but they were the answer to his too. Dr Money’s argument is that if parents choose the sex of their children, then the way they brought them up would determine their gender. This process has to occur before the ‘gender gate’, which is before a child is two years of age. Up until this point Dr Money had never put his controversial theory into practise. He now had the perfect opportunity, identical twins, and biological boys one, which could be raised as a girl.
This case was a landmark study, it was hailed as proof `that it was nurture and not nature which would determine the gender of a child and determine the feeling of masculinity or femininity, inspite of the increasing evidence that hormones in the womb and throughout a child’s life play a significant and huge part in how masculine or feminine a person is.
Each year the family met with Dr Money. Dr Money constantly talked to Brenda about her genitalia and tried to persuade her to have a vagina constructed. Brenda did not want this operation. At the age of 13 Brenda and her twin Brian, were told the truth. As a consequence, Brenda immediately turned herself back into a boy and called herself David.
Dr Money argues that he cannot be held responsible for Brenda not accepting her gender as her parents had left it too late, too close to the ‘gender gate’ in deciding how to bring up their child. Others believe Dr Money could have admitted he had made a mistake and it was clearly not working, but even after he had stopped seeing Brenda, he was still leading people to believe this trial was a success. Perhaps this is a warning of what can happen when a scientist has a beautiful theory and ignores the ugly facts.
If this were to happen now, baby Bruce Reimer would be considered a full biological male. He would probably be allowed to grow up as a boy and receive counselling for the loss of his penis. Dr Money did carry out this procedure once again on a baby in Canada who suffered the loss of his penis. On Dr Money’s suggestion the child was brought up as a girl. This girl was called Paula and today is still living as a woman. She is a lesbian truck driver (Barlow, 2005).
In examining the claim ‘gender is determined by biology’ this essay shows that in the nature versus nurture argument it is nature, which plays the larger role in determining our gender roles. Although environment and culture do play a part in determining masculinity and femininity the very foundation of how masculine or feminine a person becomes is determined by biology, by the hormonal process, which naturally occurs through the different stages of our lives.
The trial of the ‘boy with no penis’, which was put into practise by Dr Money clearly shows that you cannot force a person’s gender. If this were the case, then Brenda on finding out her biological gender would not have immediately changed herself back into a male. If it were simply environment and culture that determined the gender of a person, then Dr Money’s experiment would have worked. Therefore it clearly demonstrates that biologically Brenda did not feel she was female, this feeling must have been because biologically due to hormonal processes in the womb, the gender process had already begun. Also, just because a male loses his penis doesn’t mean he can be made to feel feminine and take on the feminine role. It is our gender, which is determined by biology.