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Social Construct of Gender

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Elina Nassar

SOC 355 A

Dr. Bloom

September 12, 2018


To improve my paper, I first fixed minor details with citations, grammar and spelling. In addition to this, I added more in-depth explanations to ideas that I already had in my paper. I added another source from our unit readings as well.

Critical Reflection 1

The social construct of gender can be studied in many different forms. From personal experience, I have studied this ideology in anthropology courses, sociology courses, as well as women and sexuality courses. To claim that gender is socially constructed is a valid claim. This is because the way that society is taught to socialize is very salient. Socialization is a process that is continuous throughout adolescence and varies drastically between the two genders of male and female. With influence from institutions and settings such as schools, family, sports, music, and the media gender seems to comes with a scripted set of behaviors and attitudes for each respective category. By taking this information, the readings throughout this unit, and personal experiences, it is safe to assume that the social construction of gender can be observed on an everyday basis.

Gender is socially constructed and is a result of an individual’s experiences throughout their lifetime, typically beginning even before birth. Before birth, expecting parents put such an emphasis on their newborn’s gender by creating gender reveal parties, themed nurseries, and so on. Personally, I was just doing this myself when mindlessly speaking with my boyfriend about our future children – telling him that if we have a boy we will have a space themed nursey, and a princess themed nursery for a girl. This simple assumption can be seen throughout everyday life wherever we turn, and this is what causes the overlooked and often unnoticed social construction of gender. Our gender identity can be influenced from our ethnicity that we grow up around, our historical and cultural background, and definitely family values, religions, and expectations from both society and at home. It is very common for many people to confuse or not understand the difference between the terms gender and sex. The term sex refers to the biological distinction of being male and female. Gender is a structural feature of society and the sociological significance of gender is that it is a devise by which society controls its members (Henslin, 2006). Gender is much like race and social class because it is often used as a basis for harassment, prejudice, and discrimination. An easy way to remember the difference between sex and gender is that sex is biologically assigned and determined, while gender is considered to be a “learned behavior”. The term sexism comes from this issue. Because gender is socially constructed, society is seen as the basis for gender identity as opposed to biological sex.

As said before, we as a society tend to force gender on each other and ourselves. Recently, over this past weekend in fact, I attended a baby shower in Pittsburgh. I was not shocked by how many things that were gifted and the baby needed, but I was shocked that everything was either blue, green, or had something to do with sports. I am guilty of giving a blue gift and sports related gift as well because it “seemed right”. From the moment we are born, we are thrown into this reality.

In Sherry B. Ortner’s 1972 essay titled Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture we can connect the previous thought to her claim that a woman’s social role is defined by her physiology in that she, through lactating and nurturing for her offspring, is enclosed in the domestic family context. Women are seen to be the nurturers, caretakers, and everything that comes with that. This is a socially constructed gender quality due to women’s biological make-up. Biologically, women carry children and give birth, and this ties them to a lifelong expectation from society that they must take care of others. Ortner argues that women are closer to nature while men are connected to culture. Women, due to their biological ability to have children, have been believed to be closer to nature, while men’s bodies have given them more freedom since they are not able to reproduce. Ortner writes: “In other words, woman’s body seems to doom her to mere reproduction of life; the male, in contrast, lacking natural creative functions, must (or has the opportunity to) assert his creativity externally, “artificially,” through the medium of technology and symbols. In so doing, he creates relatively lasting, eternal, transcendent objects, while the woman creates only perishables – human beings” (Ortner, 1972). However, to connect this to the idea that gender is socially constructed, we can delve into the thought that the social framework of gender ideas is what made this belief so prominent historically throughout time. Because of this socially constructed way of thinking, women have been domesticized and excluded from many things in life including work, religion, politics, and every day things that men get to enjoy. My mother only began working about two years ago because she was finally able to convince my traditional Arabic father that her working would not take away from her able to be a caretaker to their children and to him. “The cultural reasoning seems to go, men are the “natural” proprietors of religion, ritual, politics, and other realms of cultural thought and action in which universalistic statements of spiritual and social synthesis are made. Thus men are identified not only with culture, in the sense of all human creativity, as opposed to nature; they are identified in particular with culture in the old-fashioned sense of the finer and higher aspects of human thought – art, religion, law, etc” (Ortner, 1972). This ultimately created a hierarchy between men and women, in which men have been consistently seen as above and better than women. These social constructs have had lasting impacts in that women are often looked down on, are generally paid less than men, and are abused socially, mentally, and physically on an everyday basis. Over this past weekend, rapper Mac Miller died due to an overdose resulting from a long time drug addiction problem. In May of this year, singer and actress Ariana Grande ended her three-year relationship with Miller due to his drug abuse. When news broke that he died, everyone on social media instantly began to blame Grande for his death. Why? Because they believed that she should have stayed with him and taken care of him through his addiction. This ties into the belief that women are responsible for taking care of everyone around them, especially the men in their life. She was expected to stay in an unhealthy, abusive relationship just so a man would continue to be able to do drugs while using her as a crutch.



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