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Challanging Gender Expectations

April 30, 2009

12-year-old baseball pitcher Brandon Pilovsky has perfect game 1 (picture taken from: http://www.nydailynews.com/)

12-year-old baseball pitcher Brandon Pilovsky has perfect game 1 (picture taken from: http://www.nydailynews.com/)

Sociologists make a distinction between sex and gender. Sex is a biological characteristic—it is physical, not social. Gender is a social variable distinguishing between what is masculine and feminine based upon a society’s norms and values. So because society creates it, it is changeable! Gender sets up role expectations for people to follow—it tells us what society expects of men or women in certain social circumstances. But how do social expectations based upon gender (what society expects of women or men) evolve? Some researchers hold they evolve just like any other value or norm: they become outdated based upon the current knowledge and needs of society.

Would you like to voice your sociological imagination on this subject? If so, respond to one the topics below:

1. Recently, a 12-year-old girl threw a perfect game in little league baseball. This means that she struck out everyone—the opposing team didn’t get a single hit! Do you think this might contribute to changes in gender expectations for our society? If so, why? How broad of an effect do you think this might have in the long run? Do you think this might contribute toward allowing mixed sex sport teams? Might it add to arguments for equality in the work place?

2. Do you think treating men and women equally in society is a good or bad thing? If you choose to respond to this question, can you list two progressive things about social equality and two potentially socially disruptive things?

3. How can you use this example of the 12-year-old girl to illustrate how other norms in society change or evolve?

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