Experiences of Gender within Society





Experiences of Gender within Society

Distinction between Gender and Sex

The terms sex and gender have been used interchangeably in the past, although their use is becoming increasingly different, and understanding this distinction is becoming an important issue. The term sex generally refers to the biological difference between females and males, such as genetic distinctions and genitalia. The definition of gender is more complex and may refer to the roles males and females are awarded in society or an individual’s perception of themselves or their gender identity. In some cases, the sex genetically assigned to a person may not match their gender identity. These people usually refer to themselves as transgender, gender-nonconforming, or non-binary.

Gender is the social and cultural roles assigned to each sex by society rather than a purely genetic assignment as sex distinctions generally are. Gender roles are developed in response to the surroundings, such as social interactions, family, peers, education, and the media. In addition to these influences, the primary construction of gender is a personal sense of either being male or female. Biological features such as hair growth on the face or breasts and hips show sex while gender is expressed through names, clothing, pronouns, and behaviors. Society considers these cues feminine or masculine, although the concept of masculinity and femininity changes gradually and is different in various cultures. In conclusion, sex is in reference to biological features, while gender refers to personal and societal perceptions of sexuality and the flexible ideas of masculinity and femininity.

Social Construction of Gender

According to social constructivists, an inherent truth to gender is nonexistent, it is but a construction of a society based on its expectations and gender performance. Social construction is the idea that people’s knowledge of reality is partly, if not completely, socially situated. Gender is an identity assigned by the society that requires contextualization. Individuals assume the expectations of society for gender norms and behave in accordance. The social construction of gender goes beyond groups and looks at the connections of multiple identities and the blurring of restrictions between essentialists categories. This is particularly applicable to categories of male and female, which are perceived typically as binary and opposite. Social constructionism works to blur the twofold idea and mix-up these two groupings, which are mostly supposed to be essential.

In essence, the idea of social constructivism of gender sees society as the basis of gender and not biological sex differences. Family is the first agent of socialization and learning gender identity. A good example of how family determines the gender of an individual is when the moment a child comes into the world, they are given either a blue or pink face. Attending a baby shower, the most astonishing thing is not the number of items a baby needs but the color choice of each item. For a girl, people wear pink clothing, all gifts wrapped in pink; the entire house is decorated in pink. What furthered this social construction of gender was what the girl child is supposed to play with. Most guests bring dolls because society has decided this is the way a girl should play and mimic the caring side of females by being sweet, considerate, emotional, and spending more time taking care of homes.

An example of social constructivism in society is the way women in business are required to dress in a masculine way to signify that they have succeeded in the field. Women in suits that look similar to those of men are taken more seriously. This is a demonstration of how society influences gender expectations and constructs behaviors and standards regarding gender. This might be an indication that some roles require man like abilities and that women must act like men in order to fit certain roles.

Gender Identity

Gender identity is the individual conception of oneself as their male, female, and in a few cases, both (Jenkins). Gender identity in almost all cases is identified by the individual and is the outcome of a combination of factors. For instance, a person who refers to his personal gender in masculine terminologies and considers himself male, then this is his gender identity. He can, however, only fulfill his gender role as a man by demonstrating characteristics including behavior, dress code, and manners that are typical to males. Gender identity is an inner expression that determines gender roles but not automatically so. In many people, gender identity and gender role agree. I am female and label myself as heterosexual. However, I am not limiting myself because I have the freedom and time to explore who I am. Being a female might just the result of social constructivism. Although I am heterosexual, I still believe that no single label captures my identity holistically. This label is just but a shortcut. I use she/her pronouns, and at the moment it is my right to correct anyone that misgenders me. Another interesting thing is that I am Demisexual and experience sexual attraction when I am deeply connected to a person emotionally. Again, I believe in taking the time to discover myself. I believe that certain things do not change, such as the fact that I am demisexual unless something scathing happens. The liberal age gives us the freedom to celebrate every new discovery without feeling the fear of changing labels when necessary.

Race has had a huge influence on my understanding of gender, particularly as an outcome of social construction, such as stereotyping. In the United States, ethnicity is perceived differently in terms of gender. Asian females are considered more feminine than whites, while blacks are seen as more masculine. Race is evidently gendered, which affects how interracial marriages, the selection of leaders, and athletic participation. The way race influences gender is determining which race has the “ideal woman” or “ideal man.” For instance, black women for years have been forced to act in a manner that almost conforms to the gender roles of men. During slavery, for example, they were sent in the field to works alongside men when only white men supervised the fields while white women sat pretty.

Using the example of women’s gender, particularly roles, is hugely influenced by class. Not to stereotype, but women in high social classes act in more feminine ways and try to showcase the same in public. Their advantage allows them to avoid having to change roles to provide for the family (Aguilar). White women, for example, because of their social class since the 19th Century have the freedom to sit home and concentrate on being a mother. In contrast, women from minorities, especially many black women who are not supported by men, have to take up masculine roles.

A person’s sexual orientation or preference sometimes influences how they act in accordance with gender. Some homosexual females tend to act masculine, while males tend to act feminine in terms of clothing the way they talk and so forth. This might also be another social construct.

Sexism, Gender Inequality, and Feminism

Sexism is prejudice or discrimination on the basis of gender or sex, common against women and girls. The second wave of feminism might be the origin of sexism and was constructed to raise awareness about the oppression of women and girls. By the 21st Century, the term sexism including prejudice against men and women, transgender, and intersexual people. As a woman, the male privilege is almost a daily experience of sexism, my male siblings may have the freedom to do their leisure activities, but a girl cannot until all the chores are done. Men can do chores when they feel like and are then considered heroes, and their act considered sweet. This is also the definition of gender inequality. Gender inequality acknowledges that gender influences how a person’s living experience will be. Women have limited access to resources, education, and power. They are usually at the disadvantageous end of discriminatory social practices.

Feminism is the belief in the equality of all sexes in terms of social, economic, and political opportunities (Aguilar). Feminism today is the advocacy of the rights of women based on the equality of all sexes. It is a theory of the possibility of political, economic, and social equality of every sex. It is the belief that men and women are equal in many aspects. My experience with feminism is with the multiple debates that I have been in advocating for the rights of women, although in a simulation setting and at school-level. Feminism is about equal rights and equal access to opportunities. It is not about being “same” because that is not biologically or physically possible. The argument that because men and women are not the same, they should not be equal is wrong at various levels.

Works Cited

Aguilar, Omar, et al. “The intersection between class and gender and its impact on the quality of employment in Chile.” CEPAL Review (2016).

Jenkins, Katharine. “Amelioration and inclusion: Gender identity and the concept of woman.” Ethics 126.2 (2016): 394-421.

Mitchell, Sally. “Feminism.” The Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature (2015): 1-10.