Haver ever wondered why we have gender in our society? Distinctions – efforts to distinguish one’s group from others that pertains to high heels and more to our focus the word “gender”. Traditionally, gender is about distinction – male, female, and the expectations we as a society assign to it. These expectations are culturally defined and social forces prevail to uphold those distinctions. So, where did these expecations come from? The video, “The origin of gender” provides some explanation of the origins of gender.
The origin of gender – video clip that explains the origins of gender by PBS.
When we talk about gender we must distinguish between “sex” and “gender” as these terms are often used interchangeably. Sex refers to the biology one is born with – most often referred to as male or female, and NOT the verb (which is another topic unto itself – human sexuality). Often we are asked to designate our “gender” on forms we fill out, but they are really asking about our biology. “What sex are you?” Gender is the cultural and societal expectation place on your biological designation. It is the symbolism of masculinity and feminity that is connected to being male-bodied or female-bodied. Sociologists note this as a social construction that is culturally derived and learned. In a sense, it is what you are given.
Learn about social construct in the video below:
The authors of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions post the following questions, which I encourage you to think about them. It helps you to reflect on what kind society we are living. It is about being curious why things happen the way it is and what you can do to make it better.
- Why does virtually every society differentiate people on the basis of gender?
- Why is virtually every society based on male dominance?
Well, how about another video on Gender Theories form the Crash Course.
Ideologies are a set of ideas widely shared by members of a society that guides identities, behaviors, and institutions.
Gender ideologies are widely shared beliefs about how men and women are, should be, how they do and should behave. These are the expectations of women and men’s behaviors as well as their obligations and responsibilities to each other and society as a whole. In western culture, the ideology holds to a gender binary – the idea that there are only two types of people male-bodied people who are masculine and female-bodied people who are feminine. Because we tend to think in terms of a gender binary, we routinely group men together as if they are all alike, and likewise for women. In reality men and women have more similiaries than differences, and we both have strengths and weaknesses.
This tendency to categorize people according to the gender binary results in some steretyping. A large number of us don’t believe we, personally, conform to a stereotype; we are personal expectation. When we stop and think about it, we realize that many of the people we know well don’t fit into the stereotypes either.
Most of us had our sex identified at or before birth (now that there are ways to find out ahead of time). Biology loves variation, to that end there are a number of people who are born intersex.
Intersex is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a sex that does not fit the typical definitions of male or female. This may be due to genetic, hormonal, or anatomical differences. It is estimated that one out of every hundred people is intersex and more than one in ten report feelings as masculine as they do feminine, or more gender atypical than typical. You probably know at least one intersex person, and may not know who they are. Most of us don’t know for sure about anybody’s genitalia, unless we’ve undressed with or for them – we simply assume.
Since we realize that we are more than our bodies, our tendency to categorize based on bodies is flawed. People with intersex bodies are living proof that not everyone fits into a gender binary that allows only for “opposite” sexes.
The assumption that because there are two biological sexes there must be only two genders is a cultural construction. Many other cultures have recognized and honored more than two genders in their societies. This variation includes the expectations of behavior and appearance with including other genders. These “other” genders are not considered deviant or abnormal, instead they are accepted and acknowledged within their societies. This week you are asked to watch the movie, “Two Spirit People” on the ‘to do’ list. This movie illustrates the inigenous people’s inclusion of more than two genders. Please note: the movie is older, and has examples that depict two-spirit people using western culture stereotypes of gay men.
Social constructionism is a theory of knowledge in sociology and communication theory that examines the development of jointly-constructed understandings of the world that form the basis for shared assumptions about reality. Sociologists consider the variation in definitions and expectations from different societies – and conclude that there is no inherent truth to gender; it is constructed by social expectations and gender performance.
Why is it so important to learn about gender? The TED Talk by Audrey on how gender is an unconfortable construct. On that note, a lot of things around us are relied on gender to cause us to think, judge and interact with based on gender.
When Men Wore High Heels:
Why Women’s Pockets Suck….
I hope you enjoy reading it and care to learn more about the gender thing as much as I do.
Additional resources on gender
How did pink become a girly color?
Gender is social construct.