Is Gender a Culturally or Biologically Perscribed Role?


The concept of gender as a product of culture or as a product of biology has been debated and analyzed by various researchers. The result of this debate has further polarized the topic rather than brought logic to it. The topic has generated into a heated debate with two schools of thoughts whose proponents work hard enough to outdoor each other through research. The debate therefore lacks a clear answer as to what influences our gender. This paper examines whether gender is a culturally prescribed role or a biologically prescribed role.

Background of the Study

There is a clear distinction between sex and gender. Sex is the difference between male and female, which is biological term and is usually determined by nature. On the other hand, gender arises from social constructs in the way society makes use of the biological difference between male and female to construct masculine and feminine characteristics and roles. Sex is provided by nature while gender is provided by nurture. The social construction defines the roles to be played by each gender mainly with a bias on one gender. For example, in a world where the largest part of the population being made up of women, more work is performed by women, who earn less than their male counterparts, who possess the largest portion of the world’s wealth. Members of different genders are expected to perform different roles defined by the society rather than their physical abilities. In other words, the society provides the basis for division of labor rather than biological make-up. The division of labor is based on perceived physical abilities, intelligence and gender biases. Down the history, most challenging roles are reserved for males who are considered to be more intelligent and physically strong than their female counterparts. Men are expected to be aggressive and successful in their careers. They are also expected to head their families and organizations. Women on the other hand are assigned the duties of family care and play supporting roles to the men. It is normal for them to be emotional, to depend on men and to seek assistance from men. This gender based justifications are all social constructs.

The society also reserves leadership roles to men, since they are considered to be more capable on the basis of their gender than their female counterparts. This is extended even to the inheritance in which the male members of the family are considered first, mainly with nothing left to the female members of the family. This is pronounced in many cultures of the world, especially cultures that are outside of the United States and majority of the European nations. As a result of the social importance of the males, the male child is more welcomed than the female child and in general in some societies, the success of a man is measured on the number of male children he has. This gender based stereotype has been taken as sacred, since time immemorial and the evidence of this can be found in some religious books which give accounts of the special tasks that females were not supposed to perform serving the society and the supreme being. Looking as the children grow, the upbringing is done in a way that prepares them to take their roles as defined by the society. A girl child is expected to play with dolls as it is supposed to learn how to take care of the family and to raise children for the men. On the other hand, boys are provided with toys such as vehicles and airplanes as they are expected to be good drivers and pilots in the future.

So, is gender a culturally prescribed role or a biological based role? Analysis of the modern society points to what can be considered the right position on the issue. Initially, female shied away from leadership roles which were considered demanding on intelligence and ability to wield the power. Women had low self esteem and this belief was planted in them by the society that put them away from such challenging roles long time ago. However, the list of successful politicians and businesswomen leaders is long and cannot be rivaled. Other roles that were previously considered masculine are now performed successfully by women. Although some major countries such as the United States of America has not enjoyed the privilege of being led by a woman president, the number of women presidents in the world has constantly been rising proving that culturally repressive beliefs that made women stay away from leadership roles are being replaced.

The observation indicates clearly that both genders have the ability to perform different roles, without these roles being exclusively allocated to a specific gender. Being male or female and having beliefs of condemnation if any, or any other culturally based repressive beliefs are all entrenched in our cognitive as opposed to our biology.

Statement of the Research Problem

Males and females are considered to possess different abilities by different societies. This belief is perpetuated by different entities in the society. The entities include the media, religious groups, taboo culture norms and even the family itself. As a reason to this, roles that each gender is expected to play are different with the most challenging roles reserved for the males and female expected to play the second fiddle. Klemens, (2007), explains this by asserting that biologically, females are weaker sexes.

These beliefs have led to discriminatory acts that are unjust to one gender. In some societies, the allocation of resources is done based on gender consideration (Klemens, 2007). One gender, mainly the male, is given more opportunities by the society than female gender to prepare for the roles that are considered to be matters beyond the ability of their female counterparts. However, the belief seems to be changing with the observation of female performing the tasks that were previously not assigned to them by the society. More females are getting similar opportunities as males with equal performance observed from both genders.

This research therefore aims to look into the issue of gender as culturally prescribed role rather than a biological sex. To undertake this study, the research will use several methodologies with the dominant approach of literature review. The research will also take a comparative look between the role of biology and culture in gender identity. The two sides will be contrasted with the views of each side being explained in detail. The paper will then make a conclusion based on the evidence gathered and later will offer the recommendations for future research. This way, the concept of gender as a cultural role or a biological role will be thoroughly examined for purposes of clear understanding of this psychological debate.

Limitations of the Study

This study touches on the belief of the society. Societal beliefs are closely guarded issues that should not be questioned by any party (Rosser, 2008). Therefore, exploration into the role of gender in different societies through interviews may not provide the true picture of the gender bias as the interviewed persons may opt to give the interviewer what they feel should be said as opposed to the truth on the ground. Getting accurate results through interviews is further jeopardized by the belief that these roles should not be questioned. Those who fail to adhere to this belief are considered evil and as people who possess a motive to attract the wrath of the gods to the society. It may also be considered unreligious to question the roles that are believed to be divine in nature (Rosser, 2008). The only way to get a clear picture is by assimilation into the society to learn through practical experience. As this may not be possible in completing this research, the main source of information will be limited to information gathered from literature work

Different societies differ in the way they carry out their life activities. Some roles which are taken as men’s responsibilities in some societies are reserved for women in other societies (Lupri, 2006). This can be seen in the literature review section of this research. Therefore, generalization of the roles on different genders will be highly flawed and unrepresentative. This will call for extensive research into the roles of gender in different societies. However, this is highly constrained by time and financial resources available. Therefore, the research will only give the view based only on the main views that are common across the board and on areas that have also been researched and documented by previous researchers.

Theoretical Framework

Many theories have been put forward to explain the role of different genders in the society. For example, the theory on the division of labor tries to explain why family roles are left for female. This is based on the fact that women face difficulties in the process of childbirth and are better endowed to nourish the young in the family. The explanation given to this is as follows:

  • During pregnancy, the physical ability of a woman is limited; therefore it is important for the man to meet her needs during this period (Rosser, 2008).
  • Women are better endowed to nourish a young child than a man. Therefore, it is right for a woman to provide care to the family at home (Rosser, 2008).
  • As a family caregiver, the woman has to remain at home. Therefore, it is prudent for her to perform household duties.
  • If the above holds, the man provides financial help to the family and therefore it is not important for him to provide help at home.

The above is a logic that holds true on the condition that the woman must face hardship during pregnancy and there exists no other way through which the young baby in the family can be nourished. In this case, the role of the female will be defined by her biological make-up. Likewise the role of the man is defined by the biological make-up and is supposed to compliment the roles of the woman. However, this logic fails to hold due to the invention of modern medical science which helps reduce the strain in a woman during pregnancy. Modern science has also brought up other means of nourishing a baby which exempts the woman from the role of the primary caregiver to the family. Furthermore, with industrialization, there are various ways through which one can earn for the family. This means that the man is no longer expected to be sole breadwinner in the family.

Definition of Terms

Cultural Construct: This refers to a specific understanding of a phenomenon that is shared by members of a specific culture. It is a specific belief over a certain issue that members of a specific culture hold to be true.

Social Construct: Closely related to a cultural construct, a social construct refers to an idea or a phenomenon that has been entrenched in the minds of specific actors and is generally agreed to be true. A good example of a social construct can be age when people may feel old or young regardless of their physical age. When one feels young, acts young and behaves like a young person or vice versa, one can use the excuse of age being a social construct to illustrate that people behave in a specific way because of their informed choices. If the behavior exhibited by an individual actor fails to match that was set by the society, the individual can comfort himself that age is a social construct as opposed to being a real issue.

Stereotype: A stereotype is a popular belief or popular views that are expressed towards a particular group of people trying to generalize a specific issue normally without any scientific proof of the identified issue. Stereotypes normally group people together and seek to justify the people as a group as opposed to individuals.

Amoral: Amoral state refers to the state where issues cannot be distinguished as either moral or immoral. A good example of the word would be the state of a child’s mind at birth. At birth, a child is neither immoral nor moral but amoral as they are not taught on morality issues. They acquire the knowledge of morality through the process of socialization.

Literature Review

Primarily speaking, the concept of gender is an ascribed status rather than an achieved status. We are either born male or female. The act of being male or female also is a universal aspect across the cultures of the globe. This means that as far as human race is concerned, all human beings across the diverse cultures of the globe ascribe to being either a male or a female, unless there is a biological problem where an insignificant fraction of people is born with both sex organs. However, despite the universality of this ascribed status, there are different roles that are assigned to the genders. These roles vary from culture to culture, this makes some scientists believe that gender is an issue of culture rather than an issue of biology.

Argument For

According to Chambers, (2008), gender is predominantly a culturally defined issue. This makes people to assume specific gender roles that they are taught by their cultures based on their biological sex. Due to this, each culture has a defined behavioral expectation over a specific gender. One of these expectations is defined by Phillips, (2010), as gender roles. According to Phillips, (2010), gender roles refer to the specific tasks that specific a gender is expected to perform. Due to these expectations, children of a specific gender learn to behave in a specified behavioral manner, this led to specific acceptable mode of behavior for a particular gender. Scholars such as Carol and Strathern, (2008), have questioned whether hormonal factors have a significant contribution to the behavior of a specific gender such as men or it is an issue of culture that determines how people behave. To answer this question, various studies have shown that people behave in a specific way not because they belong to a specific gender, but because they ascribe to a particular culture.

8 Chambers, (2008), asserts that a cross-cultural study of various cultures of the world indicates that the issue of gender roles is an achieved status rather than an ascribed status. To prove this point Carol and Strathern, (2008), takes an example of various cultures to prove how our gender differences are shaped by culture. Among the dominant cultures of the world, tasks such as house construction and other manual, labor intensive chores have been a preserve for men. Tasks such as preparation of fields for cultivation in non-industrialized societies among other manual and labor intensive tasks are all chores assigned to the women. One can seek to explain this from a biological perspective by arguing that men are biologically more masculine and thus they are meant to do such chores.

However, Carpenter, (2007), proves that this is wrong by successively showing that the issues associating these chores with the male gender are social constructs that serves the interest of a specific culture. Cultures that assign these chores and tasks to men have a specific cultural need that they seek to satisfy and thus they assign these tasks to men. To prove that these tasks are not biologically predisposed to be tasks for men, Carpenter, (2007), takes a comparative study of the same roles among the pastoralist communities across the globe. Among the Maasai community of Eastern Africa, the task of constructing houses is assigned to women as opposed to men. Women are expected to take care of the houses not only on the neatness, but also to construct new houses whenever need arises and also ensure that they repair their houses whenever they need to be repaired. Therefore, this indicates that the issue of gender is a culturally defined issue as opposed to being a biological issue.

9 To explain this trend that appears to be a reversed role if compared to the contemporary European and American cultures, Phillips, (2010), notes that among the pastoralist communities, the men and boys often move far distances in search of food and water for their animals. This leaves the homesteads dominated by women and children. Depending on the weather conditions in the semi arid area that the pastoralists live, the men who go from place to place in search of water and pastures for the animals may stay away up to six months before returning to their homes. While away, the women must ensure that the houses they live in are intact. Therefore, the women have no choice, but to repair these houses. This shows that the culture determines the gender roles based on the needs of each culture. The varied genders roles therefore are responses to specific cultural needs that people are taught by their cultures to fulfill specific cultural requirements.

The issue of culture and gender can also be explained from the social cultural determinism point of view. According to Carol, and Strathern, (2008), every aspect of social life is a social construct which means that today we perceive a product of cultural construction. In this approach, gender is considered to be a social construct whereby the rules that govern our understanding are culturally defined. This means that we are who we are because of the culture that has been constructed for us. For instance, a woman may consider herself a weaker gender because of the culture has taught her to consider herself so. This shows that the aspect of gender is entrenched to our varying cultures as opposed to our varying biology. The proponents of this view further asserts that we are all born amoral, which is a state of being neither moral nor immoral (Chambers, 2008). However, through the process of socialization, we are taught to behave in a particular manner, act in a particular manner, sit in a particular manner, dress in a particular manner among other issues that all work towards ensuring that people are culturally engineered to take some issues as neutral (Carol and Strathern, 2008).

10 In his contribution to this topic, Carpenter, (2007), asserts that people are socially or culturally programmed towards specific gender roles that define what gender is. The process of social cultural programming starts after birth and begins with the dresses that are given to the new born, the nature of gifts that children get, the colors of those gifts, the colors of clothes, the toys given to children and latter the do’s and the don’ts of a specific gender that a child is taught as he or she grows up. For instance, Phillips, (2010), points out that a young baby boy may be discouraged to play with dolls because they are for girls. The boy therefore is socially engineered towards believing that the role of bringing up children is primarily the role of women as opposed to men. Therefore, the socially engineered people perceive gender from a cultural point of view as opposed to viewing gender as an issue that is determined by our varying biological factors.

Another reason why gender is an issue of culture as opposed to an issue of biology is the fact advanced by Phillips, (2010), who asserts that gender identity is a product of gender roles. By this, Phillips, (2010), confirms that we are who we are due to the social engineering that our cultures induce on us. The induced social engineering shows us how to behave in a particular manner as opposed to behaving or acting based on our animalistic instincts. The roles that are assigned to each gender are not primarily, as a result of our varying sexes, but are products of the societies that we grow in. These ensure that our gender based behavior is entrenched in our cultures as opposed to our biological instincts. This confirms that gender is an issue of culture as opposed to gender being an issue of biology.

11 In further reference of how gender is an issue of culture as opposed to an issue of biology, Carol and Strathern, (2008), point out the issue of sex preferences among the families. In his study of the Polynesians, Carol and Strathern, (2008), note that sex preferences are not based on the sexual organs possessed by a person, but are primarily products of the cultural tasks that different genders are expected to perform. Therefore, this means that a person of an opposite gender who has the ability to perform specified tasks that are highly valued in the society and that are associated with members of an opposite gender can be valued in such a community regardless of the gender. In patriarchal societies, male children are given preeminence as they are seen as the main impetus to the survival of the community or clan or a specific family line. Therefore, they are the only people that are allowed to inherit specific issues such as inheritance of specific powers especially in “uncivilized” societies that still believe in powers such as magic and magical healing. This indicates that the concept of gender is primarily a result of the culture as opposed to our biologically acquired status.

Among the Polynesians, people are allowed to select their desired gender roles and gender identity as opposed to ascribing to a specific gender. In Polynesian, men in particular have a choice to select their gender identity and thus gender roles as opposed to being commanded by their biology are directed by a matter of choice that is influenced by their accommodative culture. This therefore allows the Polynesians especially men to have a choice to be what they want to be rather than being compelled by their culture to ascribe to specific gender roles. Since this freedom is entrenched din in the Polynesian culture, it is evident that the concept of gender is more of a cultural role as opposed to being a biological role. If the reverse was to be true, the Polynesian culture could have no ability to determine the gender roles and identity of its subjects as they could be ascribed to those statuses based on their birth. Therefore, this is a pure proof that gender is a socially constructed concept as opposed to being a biological aspect.

12 Another contribution to this debate has been advanced by Barash and Lipton, (2006), who assert that gender is an issue of mental identity as opposed to being a biological identity. Calling the concept of gender a mental identity allows Barash and Lipton, (2006), to try and show that the concept of gender is entrenched in the minds of actors as opposed to being an issue of our biology. Since the mind is controlled by our cultures, Carol and Strathern, (2008), show that the concept of gender is fully entrenched in our cultures rather than biology. Gender identity as a mental identity determines how we act, how we view ourselves and how we perceive the environment that surrounds us. When this issue is compared among different cultures, one can be able to prove that the concept of gender is entrenched in our minds rather than our biology. Carpenter, (2007), whose study of a certain ethnic group in eastern Africa led him to discover that certain parts of a chicken such as the gizzards are a preserve for men. In the identified culture, it is believed that when a woman or a girl eats the prohibited part of the chicken, she may develop some complications such as barrenness or sudden deaths. This indicates that gender is a mental identity that is entrenched in our cultures and enforced by our cultural regulations.

In his study of homosexuality among the Thai culture, Phillips, (2010), uses the transition of views of homosexuality as a proof that gender is an issue of culture than it is an issue of biology. He notes that males who are homosexuals were previously seen as hermaphrodites, but a new cultural construct has led them to be viewed as normal males with a different sexual orientation. He goes ahead and notes that males who are conscious of their looks and are more attracted to feminine looks are still recognized as males as biologically they are males. The fact that these males retain a male sexual orientation and exhibit a feminine character is an indication that gender is a concept of culture not biology.

13 In a study of the ancient Euro- American cultures, Carpenter, (2007), uses the example of the sworn virgins to show how culture determines our gender. The sworn virgins were biologically females, but they were recognized as men. They were expected to dress like men and carried weapons similar to those carried by men. This meant that they were to engage in similar combat training with men hence ensuring that there was no difference between them and men. They also swore never to engage in sexual relationships with both men and women and also never to raise families. Astonishingly, the sworn virgins were known to be overly defensive as far as their femaleness was questioned by any party. They did not entertain anyone who viewed them as females as they viewed themselves as males rather than females. They overcame their biological female parts and assumed roles and identities similar to those of the males. The sworn virgins, therefore, can be good examples to show that the concept of gender as we know it today is more of a cultural role than it is a biological role. Carpenter, (2007), uses this example to conclude that our cultural perceptions are the main determinants of who we are and thus the concept of gender is a cultural role and not a biological role.

From the analysis of the definition of the word “gender” by the United Nations that defines gender based on the widely held beliefs, customs and social mores, one can argue that gender is a culturally based concept. The United Nations’ definitions recognize the fact that the views of one culture towards gender are different from the views of the same in another culture. Therefore, the United Nations takes cognizance that gender is an issue of culture not biology. They assert that gender can only be identified by assigned roles as opposed to the actual biological orientation. Since it is culture that determine the roles that will be assigned to a specific gender, the concept of gender is, therefore, a cultural concept rather than a biological concept.

14 Gender identity is pegged on socially constructed characteristics that distinguish the act of being male or female. People identify a person as either a male or a female due to his or her gender as opposed to the sexuality of the person. Gender as a social construct relies on constructed stereotypes to reinforce the socially identified roles that are described based on different genders. Therefore, gender is a mental concept that is reinforced by our cultural differences that determine gender roles, sets the cultural mores, values and ethical conducts of a specific culture. Therefore, this indicates that each culture has a way of viewing and perceiving gender which further makes it a cultural issue rather than a biological concept (Carol, and Strathern, 2008).

In an attempt to prove that the concept of gender is more of a cultural issue as opposed to being a biological one, Carpenter, (2007), seeks to separate the meaning of gender from the meaning of the word sex. In this view, sex is described as the act of being male or female based on ones’ sexual organs. According to this view, one cannot choose to belong to a specific sex as this is an achieved status based on the genetic composition during conception. Due to this, people are expected to remain of a particular sex all their lifetime. However, there are conventional ways that can reverse ones’ sex through surgery. Gender on the other hand does not refer to the act of being male or female by referring to one’s sexual organs, but is based on cultural identities that have been set out by the society. Therefore, this shows that the concept of gender is based on a society’s constructed views of how a specific sex should behave, act and interact. Therefore, this shows that the concept of gender is a cultural aspect as opposed to being a biological concept.

Arguments Against

Some counter arguments have been advanced in this debate. According to Carol, and Strathern, (2008) gender is more identified to biological factors than the cultural role. The sex of a person is not determined by the culture he/she is born in, but by the genes which are provided by the chromosomes ‘xx’ or ‘xy’ contributed by both parents. Men and women are believed to behave differently, certain behaviors are biologically acquired. For example, men are considered to be more aggressive than their female counterparts. This is caused by hormonal differences between the two sexes (Buss, 2007). Biologically apart from reproductions roles that are determined by nature, it is believed that what a man can do also a woman can do. There is no gender that is predisposed to perform a specific chore.

Males are associated with manual work which requires that they must have enough strength to perform the duties expected of them by the society. The strength and masculine nature cannot be taught by culture, it is a genetically acquired attribute. It is evident that children start to show up their ability and what they will be in the future at a tender stage (Carol, and Strathern, 2008). This argument holds that at birth, children are already predisposed to act in a specific way due to their gender. What this means is that the process of socialization has very little to do with what we do as human beings as we are controlled by the hormonal and genetic composition of our bodies.

Gender identity is controlled by intrinsic factors that influence the way people view the phenomenon. With this in mind, people behave in a particular manner due to their biological controlled bodies. In support of this view, Carol, and Strathern, (2008), argue that we realize ourselves due to the forces that are within our bodies. For instance, the males may be more aggressive due to the male hormone testosterone that influences the chemical composition of the body. This therefore makes a male person to be an aggressive person due to the impetus provided by the hormone. This argument proves that the concept of biology do influence gender identity and gender roles as the roles that people perform are a replica of what they are from inside. However, this view is inadequate as it fails to show why some cultures have roles that appear to be a reverse of the conventional cultures of the world. Although the role of biology in determining culture cannot be totally ignored, it is evident that the role of culture also influences the concept of gender.

16 Predominant gender identities are sources of biology. It is also important to note that biological factors such as voice, breast and beards cannot be controlled by the culture yet they act as the main indicators of specific genders. The identified biological attributes shape the roles of each gender and culture therefore has no ability to influence gender. Feminine characters that are portrayed by women such as being attractive are usually generated by the gene donated by the xx chromosome (Carpenter, 2007). The female feel that they have to look attractive in order to attract the male counterparts. Although this attraction is a culturally controlled thing, sexual instincts are innate and different in each gender. Cultural gender identity is controlled by cultures. However, these cultures only come to supplement what has already been done by other biological identities (Carol, and Strathern, 2008). This indicates that the concept of gender is a biologically determined concept as it is a culturally defined concept.

Proponents of gender as a biological role have argued that the differences that are experienced in various cultures are not evident enough to show that gender is an issue of culture as opposed to being an issue of biology. In his support of the belief that gender is a biologically influenced role as opposed to being a culturally-oriented issue. Carpenter, (2007), points out that in all cultures, there is some universality of roles performed by either of the genders. According to this view, the differences that are seen among different cultures are only products of the cultures. Carpenter, (2007), explains that each culture modifies the universal culture to ensure that the cultures serve the community as opposed to the community serving the culture. Therefore, gender is a biological attribute that influences the cultures to act in specific ways and to assign specific roles to certain particular cultures. In support of this view, Barash and Lipton, (2006), argue that what we have among the cultures are modifications of the initial biological based roles that make gender to assume a cultural angle as opposed to a biological angle. To drive this point home, Chambers, (2008), uses the example of childbearing and upbringing in various cultures. This role when examined in many cultures is more of a female dominated role as opposed to being a male dominated role. He goes on to argue that in most cases, research has shown that children are more emotionally attached to their mothers which indicate that gender roles are biologically driven. The aspect of cultural attribute only shows that various societies have used the higher cognitive order possessed by men to improve their livelihood by assigning specific roles to specific genders based on convenience.

Discussion, Conclusions, and Recommendations


From the analysis of literature conducted above, it is evident that the concept of gender is a cultural role as opposed to being a biological role that has been debated in detail. However, it is evident that there are heated debates to prove that gender is a cultural role versus biological role. Each side of the debate has advanced various reasons that are strong enough to support their preferred side of the divide. The division has occasioned the need to examine what actually determines gender. However, from the cross-cultural evidence carried from various cultures, it is evident that cultural intonations have major contributions to the concept of gender. However, this leaves us with one major question. The relevance of this question in this debate is that if one supports the argument that gender is a culturally defined element, then he is of the idea that our gender is determined by what we do rather than who we are biologically. Therefore, this would mean that our gender identity would be based on the roles that a person takes in the society. This definition may have some limitation especially as the society becomes more liberal to allow same sex marriages. For instance, one may pose a question that requires one to delineate who is the man or the woman in a same-sex relationship. The limitation of this explanation leads us to the debate that gender is a biological issue as opposed to being a cultural issue.

18 Those who support the argument that gender is a biological role argue that we are either born male or female and this determines our gender. As far as gender roles are concerned, the argument is that although there are specific roles that are assigned to each gender in different societies, it is the initial act of being male or female that makes these roles to be assigned to the specific group. For instance, when a boy child is born he is socialized to live, act and behave like a man starting from the toys that he is given. The boy therefore is socialized to belong to the male gender not primarily due to his culture, but because he was born a male person. This shows that the boy is socialized into the identified gender simply because of his sex not because of his culture. This view, therefore, holds that the issue of gender is solely based on biology as culture only comes in due to the initial biological act.

The debate has also been argued based on factors such as stereotypes that have been proved to be based on the initial fact of being male or female. As Buss, (2007), argues, social stereotypes are based on our biology. As an example to prove this, Buss, (2007), points out the issue of masculinity in men and the intentions as to why men are seen to be more powerful than women. He argues that the concept of masculinity is a biologically inherited concept that has influenced various cultures to believe that men should be superior to men. Therefore, this shows that culture has been used to define gender based on biology as opposed to culture being the main contributor of the definition of the term gender. However, the role of culture in defining gender cannot be ignored. Culture gives gender its meaning. This is because gender is defined based on gender roles that are entrenched in a cultural context. Culture and biology work hand in hand in defining gender and determining our identity based on gender as culture complement the biological intonations of being male or female.


After the rigorous review of literature identified, it is evident that the concept of gender is highly contested as to whether it is influenced by inherited traits or by our cultural contexts. Each side has volumes of evidence that is used to prove each side of the debate. The topic lacks a definite uncontested answer as any new evidence to prove either side of the debate is quickly countered by new evidence that is advanced by the contesting side. This therefore makes the two sides of the debate to be in a constant battle to prove which side of the debate has more evidence to prove whether gender is a culturally-oriented role as opposed to being a biological role.

From the evidence gathered, it is evident that we conceptualize gender based on our cultures as opposed to our biology. As explained by the proponents of gender as a cultural role as opposed to being a biological role, our culture provides the meaning to abstract forms of being male or female. The proponents of this view have gone to the extent to prove that people belong to a specific gender due to their cognitive justifications of their gender as opposed to their sexuality. This therefore shows that the concept of gender is greatly influenced by our culture as opposed to our biology. The role of biology in defining gender is only based on the predisposed training that people are given based on their sexes. The role of biology therefore is more of a default role that directs the most probable gender that one will acquire. However, some people fail to associate with the identified sex and thus identify with an opposite gender which further supports the argument that the concept of gender is more of a cultural role as opposed to being a biological role.


Going by the research that has been conducted on this topic, the trends show that this debate has no signs of getting a definite answer. This has been caused by the competing evidence that is brought forth by either of the divides of the debate to prove what each side believes in. This means that the concept is headed to be among the great debates of psychology as opposed to gaining conclusive evidence based on empirical research. To ensure that there is a viable conclusion to the debate, it is recommendable that future research is based on evidence collected from the two sides of the debate. As opposed to carrying research in a parallel manner, researchers from the two sides of the debate should combine their energy so that they can come up with a conclusion that clearly explains the role of biology and culture in determination of what people perceive gender to be. Such interplay of researchers will guarantee that the two sides of the divide work in a fruitful cooperation that may result in better results as opposed to remaining focused in proving the other side wrong. This form of cooperation would ensure that resources that are used to disapprove new evidence gathered by an opposing side are used in a more beneficial manner. This will result in better results for better understanding of social influences and biological influences to the concept of gender.

As far as future research is concerned, researchers should focus on examining the interplay of gender and culture in determining our culture. They should focus in establishing how the two forces determine our conceptualization of gender as opposed to focusing on proving each other wrong. Future research should be able to eliminate this debate that seeks to show that gender is a product of culture or a product of biology. If future research would be based on determining the extent of the two sides of the debate in influencing gender identity, this would be greatly beneficial to all stakeholders in the field of psychology and in the greater field of social sciences.


Barash, D. P. & Lipton J. E. (2006). Gender gap: the biology of male-female differences. London: Transaction Publishers.

Buss, D. (2007). Evolutionary Psychology; the New Science of the Mind. New York: Prentice Hall.

Carol, P. & Strathern, M. (2008). Nature, culture, and gender. New York: CUP.

Carpenter, S. (2007). Biology and social environments jointly influence gender development. Monitor Staff. 31(9). Pp 79-92.

Chambers, C. (2008). Sex, culture, and justice: the limits of choice. New York: Penn State Press.

Klemens, N. (2007). Cultivating Stereotyped Gender Roles: Sexism in Language New York: GRIN Verlag.

Lupri, E. (2006). The Changing position of women in family and society: a cross-national comparison. New York: Brill Archive.

Phillips, A. ( 2010). Gender and Culture. Cengage: Upper Saddle River.

Rosser, S. V. (2008). Women, science, and myth: gender beliefs from antiquity to the present. New York: ABC-CLIO.

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