Creating gender: Nurture vs. nature

“It’s not just what we inherit from our mothers and fathers that haunt us. It’s all kinds of old defunct theories, all sorts of old defunct beliefs…. It’s not that they actually live on in us; they are simply lodged there, and we cannot get rid of them” (Lippa 81). What are the things that factor into the femininity of a women and the masculinity of a man? This quote found in “Gender, Nature, and Nurture” by Richard A. Lippa helps to understand what the different possibilities could be. Lippa says that we do not inherit our gender through what our parents have told us, but it is something that is within as and we cannot escape from.

Over the years it has been an argument between many to really define a concrete answer for this question. If a person were to look at a little girl whose mother loves the color pink, dresses her child up in dresses, and constantly reminds her of how a girl acts; it could be that it comes from the nurture part of our lives. Then, there is the factor of nature when giving a child the choice between a truck and a Barbie doll and they pick the truck instantly without anyone telling them. How is it that this can be given a solution when so many things can affect the possibilities?

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The two factors that can be analyzed to help find the answer are the biological factors and the Social- Environmental factors. The biological factors will say that it is already inside our mind that we are either a boy interested in trucks and boogers or we are a girl infatuated with the color pink and princesses. The Social- Environmental factors may seem to have some part of the development in our brains reflecting our gender, although it is more secure to believe that it is the biological factors that really make up what we are inside. To begin there are many parts to the social environmental dynamic.

In Lippa’s writings it is said that there have been theorists that have said the behaviors of women and men could have possibly been learned through the different conditionings (104). The way that Pavlov’s dogs learned to salivate at the ring of the bell, men and women learned to behave in certain ways or react to certain things by their gender. The way this applies is through words that are said to either sex. There are words that imply different definitions and feelings for each gender. If a girl is told she is sweet or polite then she gets feelings of happiness and joy.

This causes her to react to the word and is now conditioned to be sweet because of the feelings that have been connected with those words. Now, if a boy was to be called a sissy it would bring him to feel ashamed, disgusted, and withdrawn. When the boy feels this way about the word directed to him, then he chooses to not act like a sissy to avoid such feelings. It seems as if some words are more directed to women then they are to men. People do not tell girls to refrain from acting like a sissy because it can be set in the mind that women are more likely to act like sissies.

There is also the way that children are conditioned through reward or punishment (Lippa 105). If a parents daughter approaches them asking if they could join the cheerleading team at school then it is likely that they will be happy and may even praise their child. On the other hand, if a boy were to approach his parents asking to join the cheerleading team at school it is possible that his parents will be angry and discourage him from making such a choice. It is through the ways people are conditioned socially that they learn what is expected of them because of their gender.

In addition, there has also been the belief that children are social learners which can mean that they learn from what they are around (Lippa 105). When a child reaches a certain age of understanding the child will mimic what they see around them. A girl will see her mother put on makeup, do her nails, and hair. When the little girl sees her mother do this, she then goes to the mirror and will attempt to put on makeup, paint her nails, and brush her hair. Little girls will tend to see what the women around them do and attempt to follow in their footsteps.

For little boys they will watch their father wake up in the morning, put on his tie, and shave his face. As a child sees this he will take in these actions as part of who he should be. Boys are supposed to put ties on and shave their faces. As the child is growing they see these different things going on in the house hold and know what applies to them. The child will see that they are like mommy or daddy and take that in as what it is that they should mold into. There is a story about a woman who gave birth to twin boys, who at a birth were not able to urinate.

The only way to help the boys to function normally again was to perform a circumcision on both at 6 months. The procedure that the doctors chose to do was an alternative to what they would normally do. During the procedure the doctors had made a wrong move causing one of the boys to bear a damaged penis. His parents spoke to a psychologist who had told them to raise their child as a girl. One of the reasons he said this was because it would be much easier to construct a vagina than to reconstruct his penis. At 21 months they castrated their little boy so that he would have no sign of male genitalia.

The psychologist John Hopkins believed that gender is not innate, but it is developed through the nurture theory of development. The boy’s family went on to raise their boy as if he was a girl, this is called gender re-assignment. The psychologist made sure to remind them that they must not tell anyone of the change to insure successful re-assignment. As time went on and the boy began to grow, but not as the family had intended. He rejected girlish toys, attempted to use the restroom standing up, refused to wear girls clothing, and refused to part take in any girlish activities.

At school he would only use the boys’ bathroom and his classmates would prevent him from using the girls’ bathroom. Through his school years he would be ridiculed by his peers, but would not take it. He began to fight and told his parents that he never felt like a girl. His parents spoke to the psychologist who had originally told them to try to use gender re- assignment. The psychologist then suggested that they go through with a reconstructive surgery for her vagina. When his parents had told him at age nine, he refused to go through with the surgery and threatened to kill himself if he had to.

The doctors attempted many times to get the boy to submit to accepting his identity as a girl. At this point the boy did not know the history of how is gender came to be. When he was 14 years old he began to lash out and his behavior was become worse and worse. Throughout the years he attempted to kill himself so many times that psychiatrist had told his parents that they should tell him the truth about what had happened. Finally they decided to tell him about the procedure that had happened and ruined his genitalia. As soon as he had been informed he cut his hair, left the name Brenda behind, and lived his life as David.

The story shows that it is possible that gender can be innate because even when the boy was brought up with gender re-assignment, he continued to live his life seeking to be his original sex. His parents made an effort to take effect on the child as a social variable, but were not successful. It seems as if the boy always knew what he was intended to be through nature or intuition. How can it be said that the social environment is the only thing that affects gender, when with this evidence it is clear that his nature took over causing him to want to be a boy?

This boy had been told his whole life that he was a girl, he was treated like a girl; given toys, dressed as a girl, and was manipulated into believing that is what he was meant to be. Everything this child knew was part of a life of a girl, but something with in him, something that was already set in his mind lured him to believe that he was nothing less than a man. If a child is told at an early age that the sky is blue, they believe that the sky is blue, or if they are told that a cat meows they believe that is what a cat does.

This boy was reminded his whole life that he was a girl just as if he were to be told the sky was blue. For some reason this idea did not stick, because of the fact that his gender is inherent. In an article about Chastity bono who is also known as Chaz, Chaz says, “There is something in testosterone that makes talking and gossiping really grating. I’ve stopped talking as much. I’ve noticed that Jen can talk endlessly” (Wilson ST1). Chaz was transgender and ended up taking shots of testosterone to get back to being a man. Testosterone is what is in side men, whereas women have estrogen.

He said that when he didn’t have the hormone that men already had in them that he was able to talk on end just like his wife. When he began to take in the testosterone he embarked on new interests that usually men have within them that women don’t. Chaz had said “I got way more gadget-oriented, I have to say. I don’t know why. Definitely since transitioning I’ve wanted to be up on the latest, coolest toy” (Wilson ST1). As the testosterone took effect to his body he was overcome with an interest in more mechanical things. This would explain how it is that men are already internally trained to be interested in certain things.

It is the testosterone that gives them the “boyish” characteristics, thus showing how it is that gender is biological. “I don’t think the way I grew up had any effect on this issue,” Chaz said. “There’s a gender in your brain and a gender in your body. For 99 percent of people, those things are in alignment” (Wilson ST1). Someone who has gone through the different genders through what he had grown up as and finally turning into what he had always felt must know what the differences really are. Chaz even believes that it is completely within a person to feel a gender rather than be brought up into one.

In this instance it is the biological effects that embossed the theory gender is something that people cannot change, but is imprinted with in their body.

Lippa, Richard A. Gender, Nature, And Nurture. n. p. : Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 11 Dec. 2012. Tyre, Peg, and Julie Scelfo. “Why Girls Will Be Girls. ” Newsweek 148. 5 (2006): 46-47. Science Full Text Select (H. W. Wilson). Web. 11 Dec. 2012. Wilson, Cintra. “The Reluctant Transgender Role Model. ” New York Times 06 May 2011, ST1. Print.