Gender, Nature, and Nurture: Looking to the Future
Successful investigations of the process of gender embodiment must use three basic principles. First, nature/nurture is indivisible. Second, organisms—human and otherwise—are active processes, moving targets, from fertilization until death. Third, no single academic or clinical discipline provides us with the true or best way. ...
—Sexing the Body
Anne Fausto-Sterling (2000)
Gender is complex; it changes over time. Figure 7.1 fleshes out this assertion by tracing several tracks of gender development that proceed in tandem over an individual's life. These tracks include cascades of biological influences, family influences, peer influences, cultural and social influences, and influences originating from the individual's own ongoing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Among the biological factors listed in Fig. 7.1 are genes; prenatal sex hormones and brain organization; ongoing genetic and hormonal effects across the life span; hormonal and physical changes of puberty; and biological processes of childbirth and parenthood. Family influences include parental socialization, sibling influences, and gender roles and stereotypes transmitted by families. Peer influences include the effects of classmates, friends, and coworkers. Broader social and cultural factors include teacher attitudes and influences, mass media effects, the structure of educational and work settings, and the influences of government, political, and social organizations. All of these myriad influences
FIG. 7.1 Parallel tracks of gender development and their complex interactions
come together to mold the behavior of individual males and females, to produce the phenomenon we term gender.
The complexity of gender has implications both for theories of gender and for public policies that relate to gender. This final chapter explores the future of gender research, and it examines how the nature-nurture debate relates to real-life public policy questions.