Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gender: The Social Construction,

     From the moment we are born, we are raised to believe we will have to follow certain unwritten rules that are dependent on our sex. This construction of  "femininity" or “masculinity” normally begins with the color of our clothing. We dress our girls in pink and for our boys, blue. Growing up children are given toys that reinforce these rules. Girls are given dolls and play kitchen sets, because as a girl, you must learn to be gentle, and to be "domestic". Boys of course are given guns and G.I. Joe’s, because as a boy, you must be tough, powerful, and strong. If a boy falls down and cries, they are told that little boys should not cry. If a fight occurs, a boy is told to fight back, except if it is a girl. this reinforces that girls are supposed to be "weak", but since other boys should be "strong" it is okay to hit them. Little girls are told they should not be too loud and shouldn't get dirty or fight, because it's not what girls are "supposed" to do.

Question for everyone.. why should we not give kitchen sets to little boys and give the the same amount of coddle we give girls, and why should we not have little girls participate in sports? Why does there have to be a division between the two genders at all? There has been studies in which children were raised in an entirely gender-neutral environment, and observed. These children possessed no identity problem. It is no secret that many of us have identity problems because we are defining ourselves by our gender, and whether the traits of being “masculine” or “feminine” fit us or not. If we are a boy and are too "feminine" it is a problem. If we are a girl and are too "masculine", this is also a problem, but not nearly as much so as for a "feminine" boy. How sad it is that many people put so much weight upon a socially constructed machine to determine who we are.

Society constantly imposes that we be either “masculine” and “feminine”, whether it be in the media or ideals transferred onto us by our parents or peers. Many women have focused on challenging the idea of “femininity”. Over the last decades, women have become more involved in sports, they are no longer expected to always wear skirts or dresses, women have taken more powerful positions within society and taking more control over their lives without the reliance on a man. However, what about us men?? Society has not done much, or at least enough to allow men to challenge the idea of “masculinity”.  Think about this...a woman can wear jeans without fear, but can a man wear a skirt if he chooses? Many men are afraid that by challenging or not conforming to the stereotypical image of a man or being “masculine”, that they somehow become more feminine. It is as though there can only be one definition of what is it to be a man, and that this definition cannot expand or be flexible. If a man is sensitive, that is feminine. If a man is moody, that is feminine. If a little boy wants to play with a doll, that is feminine. Now keep in mind, these are all socially constructed examples of what it means to be a women. It is true all stereotypes have an origin. plenty of women are moody, sensitive, and many little girls like dolls. BUT that is mainly because they've been socially molded to be so since birth. Men haven't.

 Feeling as though we need to conform to being masculine or feminine serves no real purpose in society, except to continue on a sexist tradition. Masculinity and femininity do not have to be two separate entities or at opposite ends of the spectrum. I think we need to reconstruct what it is to be “feminine” or “masculine”. We must realize that both men and women possess traits that would consist of both, and that this is healthy, and in fact better for both men and women. If our little boy wants to play with a princess doll, that is okay! If our little girl wants to play army-woman, that's okay! Our world would be a much better place if we could be free to be who we truly are, without risking ridicule for doing the "wrong" activity or expressing the "wrong" emotion for our sex. If we raised our children as gender nuetrally as possible, we are paving the way for less sexism and stereotyping in the future. Through this, not only will it make for a better society, but it will benefit familial, romantic, and platonic relationships and benefit ourselves by allowing our society progression. 

1 comment:

Cory L. said...

Excellent points! I also find it fascinating that these rigid, socially-constructed ideas of what makes one male or female are so influential that even the GLBTQ community hasn't escaped it completely. For all the gender-bending freedom afforded by a queer identity, it still amazes me that many GLBTQ people simultaneously reject the rigid stereotypes of their birth sex only to embrace the extremes of their identified gender (i.e. caricatures of uber-femininity or "butchness.")