Both David And Jennifer Define And Ultimately Redefine Their Gender (Essay Sample)
John Colapinto's book As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised a Girl introduces you to a story that examines the role of nature and nurture as influences on gender identity. David Reimer (Bruce Reimer) was unknowingly born a male but raised as a female. By comparison, Jennifer Boylan's autobiographical book She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders immerses you in the turmoil of her gender identity disorder and takes you through her transformation from male to female.
In this paper, I would like you to choose one of the books and using some of the scientific theories of gender identity examine the relative influence of nature and nurture for David Reimer or Jennifer Boylan. Please address the following questions:
1. What does being a boy/girl/man/woman mean to David Reimer/Jennifer Boylan? Is this a result of nature or nurture?
2. What signaled gender to David Reimer/Jennifer Boylan (e.g., body parts, clothing, toys, friends, lovers)?
3. Both David and Jennifer define and ultimately redefine their gender. How does this work both within and against complex social and cultural forces?
Just pick one as required.。
Nature vs Nurture
Nature vs Nurture
The debate titled nature vs nurture started a long time ago. The basis of this debate is whether certain aspects of mankind are either acquired or inherited. The term acquired means learned from experience or from upbringing. Inherited, on the other hand, means genetic or aspects that a person is born with. With regards to gender, the two groups, nature vs nurture, have been debating each claiming that gender identity is acquired while the other group claims it is inherited. There is a lot that can be said regarding gender and it is easy to get worked up in this discussion without an ounce of objectivity. In her article titled We Are All Works in Progress, Leslie Feinberg notes that “our lives are proof that sex and gender are much more complex than delivery room doctor’s glance at genitals can determine, more variegated than pink or blue birth caps.” Her statement was simply trying to ask people not to continue with the debate of nature vs nurture. To her, gender is a complex matter that cannot be wholly explained from either the perspective of the pro-nature or the pro-nurture enthusiasts. However, in the particular case of David Reimer, nature appears to have been stronger in influencing his final decision. Even though his parents raised him as a girl, David ended up switching back to being a boy and lived the rest of his life as a male member of society.
What does being a boy/girl/man/woman mean to David Reimer? Is this a result of nature or nurture?
From his story, one gathers that Brenda never accepted herself as a girl. Something was off for her and everything she did continued to denounce her parents’ decision to raise her as a girl. Being a girl did not mean much to her. Bratich et al. (2003) capture the sentiments of Brian (David’s brother) who said that he did think of Brenda as his sister. However, he continues to say that “She never, ever acted the part…When I say there was nothing feminine about Brenda, I mean there was nothing feminine. She walked like a guy. Sat with her legs apart. She talked about guy things, didn’t give a crap about cleaning the house, getting married, wearing makeup.” These words help to sum up David’s world at the time he was growing up. It never occurred to him that he was a girl. To David, being a boy made a lot more sense than being a girl and he was showing it in the way he acted and in the things he did even though his parents thought it best to raise him as a girl.
Theories of gender development cannot quite capture David’s situation. For example, the social learning theory purports that gender identity is acquired based on other people’s influence. Parents are often indicated as the main subjects of influence but with regards to David, nothing seemed to work. Brenda had not taken after the mother in any way. Like her brother Brian, Brenda had experienced the Oedipus complex and identified more with her father than her mother.
All of the above was a result of nature and not nurture. The environment does indeed shape how people grow up to become and the characteristics they develop. However, it would be imprudent to ignore the effects of genes that were clearly shaping the gender of Brenda. Plomin (2019) notes that he believes genes or DNA are the main cause of our differences. “My reason for focusing on DNA as the blueprint for making us who we are is that we now know that DNA differences are the major systematic source of psychological differences between us.” He then continues to say that “environmental effects are important but what we have learned in recent years is that they are mostly random – unsystematic and u...
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