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One is not born, but rather becomes a woman' (de Beauvoir). Discuss with references to determinist, constructionist and deconstructionist theories of gender.

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  1. The biological origins of the differences between men and women
  2. The social constructionist theory of gender
  3. The determinist theories of gender and a new darwinism
  4. Sexual identity and sexual organs

?One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.' This famous assertion, excerpted from Simone de Beauvoir's Deuxième Sexe, concentrates the idea that sexual identity is an identity that one acquires, and whose acquiring is influenced by socialization, education, ideology and cultural expectations. This idea has to be understood as a part of the existentialist movement, whose guiding concept is that one's identity is not innate, insofar as one gets an identity by living, not by being born. At the same time, Simone de Beauvoir's assertion also takes part in the constructionist theory of gender, whose guiding idea is that sex and gender have to be distinguished, and that sexual difference does not unavoidably give rise to inequality between men and women, as this inequality is a social fact, not a natural one.

This theory of gender appears in contrast with the determinist theory, which considers that the biological characteristics of men and women determine their behavior, and with the deconstructionist theory, which jettisons the supremacy of the sex-categorization based on biological evidences.

Thus, the question that arises from these debates is to find out whether sexual identity is natural and innate, or social and constructed. In the first section, I will aim to explain why biological evidences do not seem to suffice to explain the behavior of men and women, and even to make a bi-sex-categorization. In the second section, however, I will try to show how biological issues recently re-arose in the debate on sexual identity, and to explain in what ways this could reconcile determinist, deconstructionist and even constructionist theories of gender.

The determinist theory of gender is the only one that ruled, until the first objections ?mostly by feminists- arose against it. The search for the biological origins of the differences between men and women is not new, and has not ever been the province of scientists. Indeed, prior to the nineteenth century, most explanations of gender difference came from theologians, who considered that ?God had created man and woman for different purposes, and that those reproductive differences were decisive.' Such differences have had -and still have- considerable consequences on the interpretation of the gender roles. ?The education of women should always be relative to that of men.

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