Sex or Gender - Part II

Written by Sam Vaknin

Continued from page 1

Society, through its agents - foremost amongst which are family, peers, and teachers - represses or encourages these genetic propensities. It does so by propagating "gender roles" - gender-specific lists of alleged traits, permissible behavior patterns, and prescriptive morals and norms. Our "gender identity" or "sex role" is shorthand forrepparttar way we make use of our natural genotypic-phenotypic endowments in conformity with social-cultural "gender roles".

Inevitably asrepparttar 126206 composition and bias of these lists change, so doesrepparttar 126207 meaning of being "male" or "female". Gender roles are constantly redefined by tectonic shifts inrepparttar 126208 definition and functioning of basic social units, such asrepparttar 126209 nuclear family andrepparttar 126210 workplace. The cross-fertilization of gender-related cultural memes renders "masculinity" and "femininity" fluid concepts.

One's sex equals one's bodily equipment, an objective, finite, and, usually, immutable inventory. But our endowments can be put to many uses, in different cognitive and affective contexts, and subject to varying exegetic frameworks. As opposed to "sex" - "gender" is, therefore, a socio-cultural narrative. Both heterosexual and homosexual men ejaculate. Both straight and lesbian women climax. What distinguishes them from each other are subjective introjects of socio-cultural conventions, not objective, immutable "facts".

In "The New Gender Wars", published inrepparttar 126211 November/December 2000 issue of "Psychology Today", Sarah Blustain sums uprepparttar 126212 "bio-social" model proposed by Mice Eagly, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University and a former student of his, Wendy Wood, now a professor atrepparttar 126213 Texas A&M University:

"Like (the evolutionary psychologists), Eagly and Wood reject social constructionist notions that all gender differences are created by culture. But torepparttar 126214 question of where they come from, they answer differently: not our genes but our roles in society. This narrative focuses on how societies respond torepparttar 126215 basic biological differences - men's strength and women's reproductive capabilities - and how they encourage men and women to follow certain patterns.

'If you're spending a lot of time nursing your kid', explains Wood, 'then you don't haverepparttar 126216 opportunity to devote large amounts of time to developing specialized skills and engaging tasks outside ofrepparttar 126217 home'. And, adds Eagly, 'if women are charged with caring for infants, what happens is that women are more nurturing. Societies have to makerepparttar 126218 adult system work [so] socialization of girls is arranged to give them experience in nurturing'.

According to this interpretation, asrepparttar 126219 environment changes, so willrepparttar 126220 range and texture of gender differences. At a time in Western countries when female reproduction is extremely low, nursing is totally optional, childcare alternatives are many, and mechanization lessensrepparttar 126221 importance of male size and strength, women are no longer restricted as much by their smaller size and by child-bearing. That means, argue Eagly and Wood, that role structures for men and women will change and, not surprisingly,repparttar 126222 way we socialize people in these new roles will change too. (Indeed, says Wood, 'sex differences seem to be reduced in societies where men and women have similar status,' she says. If you're looking to live in more gender-neutral environment, try Scandinavia.)"

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory Bellaonline, and Suite101 .

Visit Sam's Web site at

The Myth of Mental Illness - Part I

Written by Sam Vaknin

Continued from page 1

II. Personality Disorders

Indeed, personality disorders are an excellent example ofrepparttar kaleidoscopic landscape of "objective" psychiatry.

The classification of Axis II personality disorders – deeply ingrained, maladaptive, lifelong behavior patterns – inrepparttar 126205 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fourth edition, text revision [American Psychiatric Association. DSM-IV-TR, Washington, 2000] – orrepparttar 126206 DSM-IV-TR for short – has come under sustained and serious criticism from its inception in 1952, inrepparttar 126207 first edition ofrepparttar 126208 DSM. The DSM IV-TR adopts a categorical approach, postulating that personality disorders are "qualitatively distinct clinical syndromes" (p. 689). This is widely doubted. Evenrepparttar 126209 distinction made between "normal" and "disordered" personalities is increasingly being rejected. The "diagnostic thresholds" between normal and abnormal are either absent or weakly supported. The polythetic form ofrepparttar 126210 DSM's Diagnostic Criteria – only a subset ofrepparttar 126211 criteria is adequate grounds for a diagnosis – generates unacceptable diagnostic heterogeneity. In other words, people diagnosed withrepparttar 126212 same personality disorder may share only one criterion or none. The DSM fails to clarifyrepparttar 126213 exact relationship between Axis II and Axis I disorders andrepparttar 126214 way chronic childhood and developmental problems interact with personality disorders.

The differential diagnoses are vague andrepparttar 126215 personality disorders are insufficiently demarcated. The result is excessive co-morbidity (multiple Axis II diagnoses). The DSM contains little discussion of what distinguishes normal character (personality), personality traits, or personality style (Millon) – from personality disorders.

A dearth of documented clinical experience regarding bothrepparttar 126216 disorders themselves andrepparttar 126217 utility of various treatment modalities. Numerous personality disorders are "not otherwise specified" – a catchall, basket "category".

Cultural bias is evident in certain disorders (such asrepparttar 126218 Antisocial andrepparttar 126219 Schizotypal). The emergence of dimensional alternatives torepparttar 126220 categorical approach is acknowledged inrepparttar 126221 DSM-IV-TR itself:

“An alternative torepparttar 126222 categorical approach isrepparttar 126223 dimensional perspective that Personality Disorders represent maladaptive variants of personality traits that merge imperceptibly into normality and into one another” (p.689)

The following issues – long neglected inrepparttar 126224 DSM – are likely to be tackled in future editions as well as in current research. But their omission from official discourse hitherto is both startling and telling:

The longitudinal course ofrepparttar 126225 disorder(s) and their temporal stability from early childhood onwards;

The genetic and biological underpinnings of personality disorder(s);

The development of personality psychopathology during childhood and its emergence in adolescence;

The interactions between physical health and disease and personality disorders;

The effectiveness of various treatments – talk therapies as well as psychopharmacology.

III. The Biochemistry and Genetics of Mental Health

Certain mental health afflictions are either correlated with a statistically abnormal biochemical activity inrepparttar 126226 brain – or are ameliorated with medication. Yetrepparttar 126227 two facts are not ineludibly facets ofrepparttar 126228 same underlying phenomenon. In other words, that a given medicine reduces or abolishes certain symptoms does not necessarily mean they were caused byrepparttar 126229 processes or substances affected byrepparttar 126230 drug administered. Causation is only one of many possible connections and chains of events.

To designate a pattern of behaviour as a mental health disorder is a value judgment, or at best a statistical observation. Such designation is effected regardless ofrepparttar 126231 facts of brain science. Moreover, correlation is not causation. Deviant brain or body biochemistry (once called "polluted animal spirits") do exist – but are they trulyrepparttar 126232 roots of mental perversion? Nor is it clear which triggers what: dorepparttar 126233 aberrant neurochemistry or biochemistry cause mental illness – orrepparttar 126234 other way around?


Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory Bellaonline, and Suite101 .

Visit Sam's Web site at

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