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A variety of resources are utilized within each lesson.  The Collage Assignment requires that students pull together the various ideas and examples presented by these resources into a pictorial representation, with a one-page, written description.

This assignment provides you the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of health, medicine, & society-related perspectives and concepts; to develop and demonstrate creativity and originality in your approach to the social science of medicine; and to develop and demonstrate your ability to clearly communicate scholarly perspectives and concepts in writing.

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extra information ( lecture 5) 

Sociology of Gender
Collage Assignment Instructions

Think about the topics/concepts reviewed in the course so far. Here are some questions to get you started: Is there something that draws you to it? Is there a concept/issue/theory/topic/etc. that resonates with you? Would you like to clarify something about the concept/topic/theory? Do you want to know more about a theorist/topic/etc.? Is there something in the environment that relates to the topics/concepts/issues/perspectives/etc. in sociology of gender that “screams at you?” Do you want to put theoretical information into a context? Are you noticing something you hadn’t before because of something you learned in sociology of gender? Brainstorm these thoughts with your group members (you might want to take notes) and search the internet and your environment for photos/paintings/images with which to make a collage of your thoughts about the concept/topic/theory/research findings/etc. you chose. Please use no less than 12 pictures in your collage. Please also remember to provide a citation (http:// is fine) for each picture.

Write a one-page/double spaced explanation of your collage. Discuss what your group was interested in why (your notes would be helpful here). Define and discuss the main points of the concept/topic/issue/etc. you have depicted. Connect the dots. What did you learn? Why is it important? Please utilize these instructions and the Collage Assignment Rubric to help you complete the assignment.


Variable(s) Assessed
Points Possible


Very good
Needs Work
Poor Quality
1. Demonstrates Knowledge of sociology of gender
a. Pictures and written description clearly illuminate (by definition, example, etc.) the topic/concept/issue/perspective/etc. under focus.
b. A variety of resources/ examples are used to communicate relevant information.
2. Demonstrates creativity/ originality in approach to topic/perspective/ concept/etc.
a. A variety of resources/ examples are used to communicate all relevant information.
3. Demonstrates ability to clearly communicate perspectives/ concepts/issues/etc. in writing
a. Written description clearly illuminates (by definition, example, etc.) the topic/perspective/issue/concept under focus.
b. Spelling is exceptional. Writing is grammatically correct in every way (except when purposeful and germane to the subject).
c. Images used in the collage and their placement reflect a high degree of student creativity display.
Assignment meets all of the criteria.

4 of criteria met.
2-3 of criteria met.
1-2 of criteria met.
1 or no criteria met or no submission
Total Points:

Introduction to the Study of Gender

Defining Sex & Gender

Sex is not a dichotomy

During the first 6 weeks of uterine development, human fetuses of both genetic sexes possess sex tissues which have the potential to develop into either male or female sex structures.

Most people talk as if women and men are dichotomous hormonally, as evidenced by male behavior being referred to as “testosterone laden” or female behavior as “estrogen overload.” In fact, all three sex hormones (including progesterone) exist in the bloodstreams of all women and men.

Not all women and men have the secondary sex characteristics thought typical for their sex.

Biologically, sex is understood to be a continuum whereon the reproductive structures , hormones, and physical features range somewhere between two end points.

Sex is not fixed

We now have the surgical ability to change a person’s genital and secondary sex characteristics.

Some people have persuasively argued that sex is a social construct and not a biological given.

Defining Gender

Gender used to be seen as the psychological, social, and cultural aspects of maleness and femaleness.

This definition was too narrow because the natural and social cannot be separated cleanly. They are not discrete realms of human existence. It is also problematic because gender is seen as sets of traits or behavioral dispositions that people possess based on their assignment to a sex category.

Many consider gender and its components (gender roles, gender norms, etc.) vary along a continuum of masculinity and femininity and that gender should be thought of as being independent of ones’ biological sex.

Yet others define gender a variable among intersections of oppression (e.g. bell hooks refers to this dynamic as “White supremacist, capitalist, heteronormative patriarchy.”). Therefore, it cannot be thought of in a vacuum, or even a continuum.

Wharton’s (2005) definition: “a system of social practices which creates and maintains gender distinctions and organizes relations of inequality on the basis of these distinctions.” 3 features of this def. are important:

gender is as much a process as a fixed state. Gender is being continually reproduced. Gender is being enacted or “done” and not merely expressed.

gender is not simply a characteristic of people, but occurs at all levels of social structure. It is the idea of gender as a “system” of practices that are far-reaching, interlocked, and that exist independently of individuals. Gender is thus a multidimensional phenomenon.

this def. refers to its importance in organizing relationships of inequality. The important thing to remember is that, as a principle of social organization, gender is one critical dimension upon which social resources are distributed.

Why does a study of sex & gender matter?

Because it shapes the identities and behavioral dispositions of individuals. Gender enters into how people see themselves, the ways they behave, and how they view others. Gender identity may be among the most influential in shaping the standards people hold for themselves.

It shapes social interaction. Social interaction is an important setting in which gender emerges and is enacted.

Gender organizes social institutions, including the “rules” that constitute some areas of social life (e.g. education, sports, religion, as well as marriage, parenthood, and family) Many institutions can’t be understood without attention to the ways they embody and reinforce gender meanings.

Reciprocally, we cannot fully understand the social world without attending to gender; and we can’t understand gender without understanding the social world.

How to deal with a study of sex & gender

The social and physical sciences have produced a staggering amount of research on sex & gender.

As this research has become known, so, too, have the number of theoretical and conceptual approaches to the study of it.

This multiplicity of views and perspectives doesn’t have to result in chaos. The field’s conceptual and theoretical diversity can be a source of enrichment, rather than fragmentation (remember, sociology raises more questions than it answers).

In order to receive the benefits of this diversity, however, students of gender must be skilled at communicating across perspectives, identifying points of overlap, convergence, and opposition.

But, because they focus attention on different aspects of the social world and ask different kinds of questions, the interplay of these diverse perspectives and methods helps facilitate the production of knowledge. And the most useful sociological knowledge is produced collectively, through dialogue and debate, rather than self-contained isolation.

Sex/Gender bias in the social and physical sciences

There are several ways in which science has historically ignored women

Until very recently (and even still, to a large extent), science has been an all male club-women weren’t welcome. So it wasn’t until very recently that women began contributing their own varying knowledge to the study of ANYTHING scientific.

In early 1900’s science, women-as a species- were thought less variable among themselves than men were. All women were considered pretty much alike, but men were thought to range enormously in their talents and defects. This argument was used to explain why men were superiorly distinguished from women and had a higher intelligence than women.

When scientists investigate a stereotyped “masculine” behavior (e.g. aggression), they are less likely to include girls and women as participants.

Historically, the results of research using boys or men would likely be generalized and discussed as “individuals are…,” while research based on girls and women was likely to be generalized only to their sex. Researchers have typically issued conclusions about individuals in general, when in fact only one group, typically white, middle-class men, have been observed.

Until very recently, women were rarely the subjects of any type of research, and activities heavily dominated by women (e.g. housework) received little attention. Sociology reflected a male bias, generating knowledge most applicable to men’s lives rather than to the lives of women and to society defined more broadly. Even in the physical sciences, virtually all of the animal-learning research on rats has been performed on male rats.

As an early “fix” to these problems, sociology reformed its biased ways and added women to the mix – the “add women and stir approach.”

Courses on the sociology of women were seen to help counterbalance the rest of sociology, which was still viewed as essentially about men.

Also, a problem with this is that “gender” researchers and teachers focused on women and femininity, to the sole exclusion of men and masculinity.

Also, much more was written about the differences between men and women than to variations among men and women. The overemphasis on differences supported the stereotype that women and men are “opposites” and that the male is normative and the female is a deviation from the norm.

Overall, the underlying assumption was that sociology as a discipline could add new knowledge about gender without having to rethink some of its own key assumptions about the world.

Ultimately, it is insufficient to simply add knowledge about gender to existing sociological literatures. Social scientists today a focusing on rethinking taken-for-granted sociological concepts and ideas, with the aim of transforming them.

Recent developments in the study of sex & gender

There is a growing literature on men and masculinity

There is a growing recognition of variations among men and among women, resulting in increased attention to MASCULINITIES and FEMININITIES.

The acknowledgement of the multiplicity of these concepts is accompanied by a recognition that some forms of masculinity or femininity are more social valued than others. These are framed in relations of domination and subordination.

The field has also been increasingly concerned with the intersection of sex/gender and other bases of stratification, like race, ethnicity, religion, class, and sexual orientation.

This research challenges the notion that sex/gender is something you can study in a vacuum, outside relationship of it to other social forces.

Some postmodernists suggest that this diversity within and among genders makes our ability to conceive of –and draw any conclusions about- “gender” extremely problematic

They assert that men and women see the world as particular individuals, shaped by unique forces that shape unique selves.

This perspective raises the question of whether the concept of gender is a fiction, a product of language rather than social relations and organization.

Three overarching frameworks in the study of sex/gender:

Individualist – focusing on individuals’ personalities, traits, and emotions

Interactionist – gender cannot be understood as an identity or set of personality traits, but must be seen in the context of the interactions between people

Institutional – gender is embedded in the structures and practices of organizations and social institutions, even though they appear to be gender neutral.

These frameworks each ask different kinds of questions and draw different kinds of conclusions

Social Constructionist Perspectives on Gender

Sex and/or Gender?

There is no firm consensus on the appropriate use of the terms “Sex” and “Gender” among gender scholars.

Some reject the term “sex” altogether and refer only to “gender.”

Others use the terms almost interchangeably

Others employ both concepts and recognize a clear distinction between them.

Most social and biological scientists now agree that the biological or genetic aspects of maleness and femaleness cannot be understood as fully separate and distinct from the social processes and practices that give meaning to these characteristics.

But researchers disagree over exactly how this interaction should be understood, especially on the degree to which they see sex as socially constructed.

Some believe that gender is not grounded in any biological or genetic reality.

The body is “more or less neutral surface or landscape on which a social symbolism is painted.”

Many believe that, first we have social understandings of what men and women are, or should be, and then we perceive sex differences.

The Social Construction of Sex & Sex Category

Males and females share many characteristics

Both normally have 23 pairs of chromosomes and they are warm-blooded; they develop from the same undifferentiated stem cells; each has the same hormones as the other

In other respects male and female bodies differ

Chromosomal differences

External and internal sexual structures

Hormonal production

Other physiological differences

Secondary sex characteristics

The claim that sex marks a distinction between two physically and genetically discrete categories of people is called sexual dimorphism.

Sociologists also use the terms sex assignment or sex category to describe the processes by which social meanings are attached to biological sex.

Sex assignment refers to the process – occurring at birth or even prenatally – by which people are identified as male or female (their sex category)

The “Natural” Attitude Toward Gender

Hawkesworth (1997) identified several taken for granted assumptions about sex category, which form the foundation of what he calls the “natural attitude toward gender.”

The beliefs that there are 2 and only 2 sexes/genders

The belief that sex/gender is invariant

The belief that genitals are the essential signs of sex/gender

That the male/female dichotomy is natural

That being masculine or feminine is not a matter of choice

That all individuals can and must be classified as masculine or feminine

Intersexed Persons: The Ultimate Sex/Gender Conundrum

Researchers estimate that about 2% of live births are to infants that cannot easily be categorized as male or female. These individuals are called intersexuals.

Intersexuality has come to be defined as a conditional needing medical intervention – as a “correctable birth defect.”

In these cases, doctors perform complicated surgery to provide an infant with “normal” genitals (ones that match a particular sex category)

Some intersexed persons have spoken out against this practice.

Members of the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA)believe that surgery should be a choice made when the intersexed person is old enough to give informed consent.

ISNA also advocates for people’s right to remain intersexed and to gain social acceptance for this status

They reject the belief that everyone must fall into 2 sex categories, and they envision a society where genital variation is accepted.

Sex Assignment, Sex Category, & Gender: How do they work?

Kessler and McKenna (1978)

Suggest that, while assignment to a sex category occurs first at birth (even prenatally), people continue to categorize one another as males or females throughout life.

However, adults typically lack the kind of information about others’ bodies that is used to assign sex category at birth. In particular, since clothing usually hides people’s genitals from the view of others, people rely on other “markers,” such as hair, body type, voice, dress, mannerisms, and behavior.

What counts as markers depends heavily upon cultural circumstances and thus varies across time, place, and social group. As views on what are acceptable ways to express oneself as male or female change, so do markers of sex category.

The use of markers, and their cultural relativity, underscores the idea that assignment to sex categories relies heavily on social criteria.

Yet, regardless of what criteria are used to assign sex category, there is none that works in every circumstance to distinguish males from females. If you consider a list of markers, there are none that always and without exception differentiate males from females. 

This implies that sex distinctions are not based on any fully “objective” characteristics of human beings; rather, they are themselves social constructions. This means that it is impossible to conceive of sex apart from gender because, rather than sex being the basis for gender distinctions; this view claims that gender is the basis for distinctions based on sex.



The term “intersectionality” was coined in 1989 by American critical legal race scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (1989). However, the central ideas of intersectionality have long historic roots within and beyond the United States. Black activists and feminists, as well as Latina, post-colonial, queer and Indigenous scholars have all produced work that reveals the complex factors and processes that shape human lives (Bunjun, 2010; Collins, 1990; Valdes, 1997; Van Herk, Smith, & Andrew, 2011).

Defining Intersectionality

Intersectionality promotes an understanding of human beings as shaped by the interaction of different social locations (e.g., ‘race’/ethnicity, Indige-neity, gender, class, sexuality, geography, age, disability/ability, migration status, religion). These interactions occur within a context of connected systems and structures of power (e.g., laws, policies, state governments and other political and economic unions, religious institutions, media). Through such processes, interdependent forms of privilege and oppression shaped by colonialism, imperialism, racism, homophobia, ableism and patriarchy are created.

Key Assumptions

Human lives cannot be explained by taking into account single categories, such as gender, race, and socio-economic status. People’s lives are multi-dimensional and complex. Lived realities are shaped by different factors and social dynamics operating together.

When analyzing social problems, the importance of any category or structure cannot be predetermined; the categories and their importance must be discovered in the process of investigation.

Relationships and power dynamics between social locations and processes (e.g., racism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, sexism) are linked. They can also change over time and be different depending on geographic settings.

People can experience privilege and oppression simultaneously. This depends on what situation or specific context they are in.

5. Multi-level analyses that link individual experiences to broader structures and systems are crucial for revealing how power relations are shaped and experienced.

6. Scholars, researchers, policy makers, and activists must consider their own social position, role and power when taking an intersectional approach. This “reflexivity,” should be in place before setting priorities and directions in research, policy work and activism.

7. Intersectionality is explicitly oriented towards transformation, building coalitions among different groups, and working towards social justice.

Principles of Intersectionality

Intersecting Categories

From an intersectionality perspective, human lives cannot be reduced to single categories, and policy analysis cannot assume that any one social category is most important for understanding people’s needs and experiences.

intersectionality conceptualizes social categories as interacting with and co-constituting one another to create unique social locations that vary according to time and place. These intersections and their effects are what matters in an intersectional analysis

Multi-level Analysis

Intersectionality is concerned with understanding the effects between and across various levels in society, including macro (global and national-level institutions and policies), meso or intermediate (provincial and regional-level institutions and policies), and micro levels (community-level, grassroots institutions and policies as well as the individual or ‘self’).

Attending to this multi-level dimension of intersectionality also requires addressing processes of inequity and differentiation across levels of structure, identity and representation

The significance of and relationships between these various levels of structure and social location are not predetermined. Rather, they reveal themselves through the process of intersectional research and discovery.


Attention to power highlights that: i) power operates at discursive and structural levels to exclude some types of knowledge and experience (Foucault, 1977); ii) power shapes subject positions and categories (e.g., ‘race’) (e.g. racialization and racism); and iii) these processes operate together to shape experiences of privilege and penalty between groups and within them (Collins, 2000).

From an intersectional perspective, power is relational. A person can simultaneously experience both power and oppression in varying contexts, at varying times (Collins, 1990). These relations of power include experiences of power over others, but also that of power with others (power that involves people working together)

Within an intersectionality-based policy analysis (or IBPA), the focus is not just on domination or marginalization, but on the intersecting processes by which power and inequity are produced, reproduced and actively resisted


Reflexivity is the fact of someone being able to examine their own feelings, reactions, and motives

One way that intersectionality pays attention to power is through reflexivity. Reflexivity acknowledges the importance of power at the micro level of the self and our relationships with others, as well as at the macro levels of society. Reflexive practice recognizes multiple truths and a diversity of perspectives, while giving extra space to voices typically excluded from policy ‘expert’ roles

Time and Space

time and space are not static, fixed or objective dimensions and/or processes, but are fluid, changeable and experienced through our interpretations, senses and feelings, which are, in turn, heavily conditioned by our social position/location, among other factors

How we experience and understand time and space depends on when and where we live and interact

It is within these dimensions of time and space that different kinds of knowledge are situated, our understandings of the world are constructed, and the social orders of meaning are made

Moreover, privileges and disadvantages, including intersecting identities and the processes that determine their value, change over time and place

The Diversity of Knowledges

Given the focus in intersectionality-based policy analysis (IBPA) on addressing inequities and power, knowledge generated through an IBPA can and should include the perspectives and knowledges of peoples who are typically excluded in policy analysis.

IBPA expands understandings of what is typically constituted as “evidence” by recognizing a diversity of knowledge, paradigms and theoretical perspectives, such as knowledge generated from qualitative or quantitative research; empirical or interpretive data; and Indigenous knowledges

Social Justice

Theories of social justice frequently challenge inequities at their source and require people to question social and power relations.

Intersectionality strongly emphasizes social justice (Grace, 2011). Approaches to social justice differ based in whether they focus on the redistribution of goods (Rawls, 1971) or on social processes (Young, 1990); however, all approaches share a concern with achieving equity (Sen, 2006)


The term equity is not to be confused with equality. For example, where inequality may refer to any measurable difference in outcomes of interest, inequities exist where those differences are unfair or unjust.

Closely tied to the social justice principle of intersectionality, equity is concerned with fairness. As expressed by Braveman and Gruskin (2003), equity in public policy exists when social systems are designed to equalize outcomes between more and less advantaged groups.


Olena Hankivsky, PhD (April 2014) Intersectionality 101. The Institute for Intersectionality Research & Policy, SFU.

How Culture Constructs Gender Difference

Biological models assume that biological sex determines gender,

That biological differences lead to behavior differences, which lead to social arrangements.

By this account, social inequalities are encoded into our physiological composition.

That biological anomalies alone account for variation.

Biological researchers always assumed that gender difference implied gender inequality because western notions of difference do usually lead to and justify inequality.

However, some anthropologists argue that biological models projected their western values onto other cultures.

That these models ignore the role of colonialism and the roles of women in establishing gender differences in traditional cultures.

Anthropological evidence offers a world of amazing diversity of the cultural constructions of gender.

Yet some themes remain constant:

Virtually all societies manifest some amount of difference between men and women.

Virtually all cultures exhibit some form of male domination, despite variations in gender definitions.

Variations in Gender Definitions

Anthropologists have found far more variability in the definitions of masculinity and femininity than any biologist would have predicted.

Men possessed of similar levels of testosterone, with similar brain structure and lateralization, seem to exhibit dramatically different levels of aggression, violence, and, especially, violence toward women.

Women with similar brains, hormones, and evolutionary imperatives have widely different experiences of passivity, PMS, and spatial coordination.

Margaret Meade’s Work

Meade examined three very different cultures in New Guinea.

In the Arapesh culture, all members were passive, gentle, and emotionally warm.

Males and females were equally happy, trustful, and confident.

Men and women shared child rearing, both were “maternal” and both discouraged aggression in boys and girls.

Both men and women were thought to be relatively equally sexual.

In the Mundugamor culture (a tribe of head hunters and cannibals), citizens viewed men and women as similar but expected persons of both sexes to be violent and aggressive.

Women showed little “maternal instinct,” detested pregnancy and nursing and could hardly wait to return to the serious business of work.

There was violent rivalry between fathers and sons.

All people feared that they were being wronged by others.

In the Tchambuli culture (as in the US) men and women were seen as very different.

It was a patrilineal culture and polygyny was accepted.

One sex was comprised primarily of nurturing and gossipy consumers who spent their days dressing up and going shopping.

These were the men

The women were dominant, energetic, economic providers.

They fished (activity on which the entire culture depended).

They had real positions of power in the society.

Completely unadorned, they were business- like, controlled all commerce and diplomacy of the culture, and were the initiators of sexual relations.

Each culture believed that women and men were the way they were because their biological sex determined their personality.

None of them believed women and men were the outcomes of economic scarcity, military success, or cultural arrangements.

The Gendered Division of Labor

In almost every society, labor is divided by gender.

Functionalism maintains that sex-based division of labor arose for the preservation of society: as society became increasingly complex, there arose the need for 2 kinds of labor: hunting and gathering.

This model assumes that because the sex-based division of labor arose to meet social needs at one time, its preservation is an evolutionary imperative and therefore necessary.

Today, the biological bases for sex-based division of labor have been eroded.

In place of these foundations, though, lie centuries of social customs and traditions that contribute to our gender ideologies about what is appropriate for one sex and not the other.

Today’s gender-based division of labor is part of our culture, not our biological constitutions.

Today, sex-based division of labor has outlived it social usefulness and its physical imperatives, so it must be held in place by something else: the power of one sex over another.

Theories of Gender Differentiation and Male Domination

Private Property and the Materialism of Male Domination

Engels assigned private property as the central factor in determining division of labor by sex.

He suggested that 3 major institutions of modern society emerged at roughly the same time-and all as a result of the development of private property.

The birth of the capitalist economy created wealth that was mobile and transferable. Capitalism meant private property, which required the establishment of clear lines of inheritance.

This led to the new problem of sexual fidelity. If men were to pass on their property to sons, they had to be sure their sons were actually theirs.

The need to transmit inheritance across generations of men led to the emergence of the traditional nuclear family, with monogamous marriage and the sexual control of women.

To assure inheritance, patriarchs needed clear, binding laws that were vigorously enforced. This required a centralized political apparatus (the nation-state) to exercise sovereignty over local and regional powers that might challenge these laws.

Warfare, Bonding, and Inequality

How does a culture create warriors who are fierce and strong?

Harris suggested the most effective answer is to reward virtually all men with the services of women, excluding only the most inadequate or cowardly men.

Warrior societies tend to practice female infanticide.

Harris suggests that keeping the female population significantly lower than the male population increases competition among males.

Warrior societies also tend to exclude women from the fighting force (because their presence would reduce motivation and upset the sexual hierarchy).

In this way, warfare leads to female subordination as well as patrilinearity because the culture will need a resident core of fathers and sons to carry out its military tasks.

Males controls the society’s resources and, as justification for this, develop patriarchal religion as an ideology that legitimates domination of men over women.

Descent theorists contribute that men, lacking the tie mothers have with their children, seek to achieve connection (to the next generation, to society, to their history) through hunting (or fighting) with other men in groups.

Alliance theorists Levi-Strauss suggests that men turn women into sex objects whose exchange (as wives) cements alliances among men.

Determinants of Women’s Status

Under what conditions is women’s status improved and under what conditions is it minimized?

The division of labor around child care.

The more that men participate in child care and the freer women are from child rearing responsibility, the higher women’s status tends to be.

Relationships between children and parents.

In cultures where fathers are relatively uninvolved, boys define themselves in opposition to their mothers and other women and are therefore prone to exhibitions of hyper masculinity, and to fear and denigrate women as a way to display masculinity.

The more mothers and fathers share child rearing, the less men belittle women.

Women’s control over property.

Women’s status is higher when they retain control over property, both outside and after marriage.

All forms of spatial segregation between men and women are associated with gender inequality.

Daphne Spain found that the cultures in which men developed the most elaborate sex-segregated rituals were the cultures in which women’s status was the lowest.

Sanday found that women have the highest levels of equality, and the least frequency of rape when both genders contribute about the same amounts to the food supply.

When men and women contribute about equally, men are more involved in child care.

Ironically, when women contribute a lot or very little, their status is also low.

Male dominance is lower when women and men work together.

Sex segregation of work is the strongest predictor of women’s status.

Male dominance is more pronounced when men control the political and ideological resources necessary to achieve the goals of the culture.

Male dominance is “exacerbated by colonization”

The higher the percentage of marriageable men to marriageable women, the lower women’s status.

All of these variables are also determinants of violence against women.

The lower women’s status in a society, the higher the likelihood of rape and other violence against women.

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