Monday, December 30, 2013

Where does GENDER fit in anthropology?

Anthropologically gender is an important variable because of its biological origin, that is as a technical term, gender denotes one's sexual function as a member of the species. From the evolutionary perspective it is significant in terms of the biological mechanism that produces adaptations over time, and today in terms of the medical consequences for the individual person as a biological organism.

Socially, these distinctions are and have been critical to the formation of human reproductive unit (the family) and the process of raising of an immature offspring to a sexually mature member of the group. It also is important in the way society, the group, responds to individuals born physically "different" from the local gender norm, or the behaviors that differ from those norm. How a society adapts to these situations are certainly anthropological questions.

Culturally, as many point out, gender is simply assumed by the members of a culture. They simple conform to the norms symbolism of dress, styles, occupations, etc. The anthropological questions that relate to these gender differences arise from the comparison between cultures and sub-cultures. Also the anthropologist is interested in the definitions and responses to deviance from these expected differences.

While cultures and societies may address the gender issues differently, the biological significance of gender to the species has, until the end of the last century, been a critical element in the definition of the human animal. Today, with fertility and transgender medical technology, the biological imperative for gender is coming under question and the human, social, and cultural responses are definitely a subject for anthropological study.

Finally, the role of technology and gender raises another set of questions where technology cancels out the physical advantages that once were associated with the biological advantages one gender held over the other. Again, these are anthropological questions about the biological nature of gender worthy of study.

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