Agressiveness in Females: Biological or Social?

By GatorJen

Women are pushed into the background. Practically every culture in society has taught its members to believe that it is unacceptable for females to show any type of ambition for success and we, as females, have permitted this to occur. Certainly some of this passiveness derives itself from our biological makeup. Virginia Adams' article "Male and Female: Differences Between Them." leans towards the idea that women's submissiveness derives primarily from biological roots. The TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer also suggests that biology plays a factor in determining just how submissive women are, but additionally introduces the idea that culture plays a role in deciding female aggressiveness. A females' aggressiveness is not only derived from biological makeup but cultural situations as well.

"In every generation there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, demons, and forces of darkness. She is the Slayer." This quote comes from the opening of the TV program Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show that follows teenager Buffy Summers, Vampire Slayer, through her endeavors to rid the world of evil. Stereotypically, men are stronger, can run faster, and jump higher than women. Buffy doesn't fit stereotypes; she is stronger and faster than any other human in the world and dominates those around her. When she makes a command, others jump to attention and follow her lead. Buffy is a female that is not only physically strong but aggressive as well. In her article, Virginia Adams introduces scientific research done regarding the effects of the different hormones of estrogen and androgen in humans (Adams 17). She notes that the female hormone estrogen reduces aggression and enhances sensory perception while the male hormone androgen promotes aggression. What we are seeing with Buffy is not only an abnormal amount of estrogen that enhances her sensory perception, allowing her to detect the quietest of sounds, but also a high amount of androgen that permits her to fight aggressively and effectively. This combination of heightened senses and fighting ability make her a formidable opponent, seemingly unbeatable.

Women, by nature, are less physically dominating than men. They have smaller statures and have a much harder time developing well-defined muscles. This seeming "inferiority" causes adverse psychological effects. People take it to believe that since women cannot compete with men on a high physical level, they cannot compete with men in other areas as well. Women become afraid to be assertive because they fell that men with their "superior" strength may use it to show disapproval. They cannot defeat a man at hand-to-hand combat, so why should they even take the chance of having a confrontation? Buffy challenges this thought. She may appear to be small, weak, and unable to defend herself, but that is far from the truth. Her physical appearance is deceptive; she could take out a three hundred pound man without breaking a sweat. Confidence in one area leads to an increase of confidence in other aspects of life. The fact that Buffy can defeat anybody in a physical contest increases her self-esteem in all areas of life. For example, in her social interactions with the supposedly cool crowd, she is ridiculed. Her confidence allows her to be unaffected by their comments. In contrast, her friend Willow's reliance on the opinion of others can be related to her lower level of physical ability. As Willow's participation in Buffy's fights increases, she gains experience in combat. Her belief in her fighting abilities rises at the same time that she becomes comfortable with her high intelligence level. She no longer cares that people make fun of her for being smart. Here we can see the connection between belief in physical strength and ability and social interaction. As one's physical strength increases, so does confidence in social situations, which leads to aggressive behavior in every facet of life. This proves that biology plays a key factor in determining aggressive behavior along with the cultural aspect.

Cultural norms have always told women that exhibiting aggressive behavior is improper; only in the past twenty years have we come to challenge this notion. Everywhere we look, women are stepping out of their traditional roles of being solely mothers to their children and taking managerial positions in major corporations. Nowhere is this change more noticeable than on the television screen. Where we used to have shows like Ozzie and Harriett that depicted the perfect family life with a stay at home mom, we now have shows like Buffy that show women leading the way for their male counterparts. Buffy goes out every night and defeats the evil surrounding her with the full support of not only her friends, but her boyfriend as well. Television programs reflect the cultural notions that they are surrounded by. Therefore, Buffy's depiction of a strong lead female character that is aggressive in nature demonstrates that our culture is accepting of domineering females. The television medium reaches so many people that just one show with a strong female character can influence millions. Young people are impressionable; viewing a figure like Buffy every week tells them that her behavior is welcomed and thus the idea spreads throughout our cultures.

Another aspect of the cultural behaviors includes the elements of the situation people are thrust into. Traditionally, women were not put into situations that they had to make life-altering decisions. In today's culture, women face these decisions on a daily basis. Buffy's job is to save the world from Armageddon. That's a lot of pressure to put on one person's shoulders. If she fails to stop an apocalypse, no one else can do her job. With that kind of pressure, decisiveness and being aggressive is necessary. Adams comments that society permits "male aggression and encourages female adaptability" (17). While this is true in certain areas of our culture, it does not apply to all. While women may still be the passive partners in sexual relationships, they are increasingly encouraged to play sports. By passing laws like Title IX, women are being encouraged to become aggressive in the physical arena. Females are being taught to be leaders in our society instead of allowing themselves to be pushed back into their traditional roles. It is obvious that cultural ideas play a large part in determining aggressive behavior.

Biological research has shown that hormones have a large affect on how aggressive a person can and will be, but it is evident that culture also plays a large role in aggressive behavior. Biological factors and cultural beliefs are intertwined with each other, what we think about one affects our thinking about the other. Biological traits are something that cannot be changed with a thought, but perceptions about what being tall or short means with respect to personality attributes, like aggression, and cultural traditions can be. Today's popular culture differs greatly from those of the past. Women work outside of the home at the same time that we see men staying home to take care of the children. Aggressive behavior from females is not only accepted but also supported. Television shows, movies, and every other medium that exists portray females taking charge and standing on equal ground with their male counterparts. Women's sporting events, like soccer, attract capacity crowds. People enjoy watching female athletes slide tackle another female to the ground as much as they enjoy watching male athletes performing the same feat. Virginia Adams closes her article by stating, "Most women are capable of doing whatever they want" (18). That statement is incorrect. Not only does a female's biological makeup allow her to pursue any goal she desires, popular culture encourages her to do so.

Works Cited:Adams, Virginia. "Male and Female: Differences Between Them." Course Packet for Writing; About Gender and Popular Culture. Fall 2000. 17-18.

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