This week I have decided to write my blog post on the “Gender as a Social Construct” section of the Week 2 reading assignment, this includes the article”Riseman: Gender as a Docial Construct”, the blog post “Sex and Gender are Actually the Same Thing (But Bear With Me..)”, and the article “Doing Gender”.
A “social construct is an idea or notion that appears to be natural and obvious to people who accept it but may or may not represent reality, so it remains largely an invention or artifice of a given society” (Social). We live in a world of social constructs; the idea of the value of money, authority of laws, right & wrong, cultural norms, and sex & gender.
In the article “Gender as a Social Structure”, by Barbra Riseman, she says that “gender is a basis for stratification in our personalities, our cultural rules, and institutions. It differentiates opportunities and constraints based on sex category and has consequences for the development of gendered selves, in interactions between men and women as they face different expectations, and regarding gender specific regulations and material goods”(Risman 433). Gender and Sex as a social construct seeks to separate and assign people to one or the other due to one reason or another.
At first the title of Lane Silas’s post confused me, “Sex and Gender are Actually the Same Thing (But Bear With Me..)”; anyone who has been in a sex-ed class or human sexuality class was taught, in some fashion, that “sex was ascribed by biology:anatomy, hormones, and physiology”, while “gender was an achieved status: constructed through psychology, cultural, and social means” (West). Basically sex was what you had between your legs, and gender was what you felt you were. As it turns out, these definitions of sex and gender, that we’ve been taught and believed in, are a social construct.
Since we were taught that sex and gender were separate ideas, we accepted it as the best way to understand sex and gender. But, Lane Silas pointed out that it may pereptuate ideas that because “people who’s “biological sex” is different from their gender, their “sex” it is immutable”, meaning that they are and will always be the sex that they were born as, though they may consider themselves as a different gender . But, this takes away the ability of “trans and intersex people to define their own bodies and life experiences”(Lane). So is this socially constructed understanding of sex and gender really the best way to look at such an important topic?
Lane points out that the “concept of ‘biological sex'” which we scientifically use to define some one as “boy or girl”, “man or woman”, and “masculine or feminine” is socially constructed as well. “Words like penis and vagina” are just names given to the organ that we assign a sex to. The idea of a “male” or “female” body is a social construct too. These distinctions in categorizing a person operate in a social way as well as a physical way (Lane).
But how do we know who belongs in what socially constructed category? Are genitals the only way? What about they way that a person acts, or the way they look, or dress? One theory of how others decide the category they put others in is the ” ‘if-can’ test if people can be seen as members of a category then they are categorized that way”. This is an interesting idea because in the article “Doing Gender”, a case study of a young boy who adopted a female identity with the name Agnes demonstrated how “gender is created through interaction”. Agnes displayed herself as a woman, and in every way that a person could be a woman, Agnes was, aside from one, she just hat a penis. As an every day person, when categorizing another person as one sex or the other one considers, “hair, skin, breasts, shoulders hands, voice, and the way that they person is”. Would Agnes still be a man even though she and anyone that met her would believe that she is a woman? (West).
The point is, that the social construct of gender tends to do more harm than good in for those that don’t necessarily fall in a neat little box.
West, C., and D. H. Zimmerman. “Doing Gender.” Gender & Society 1.2 (1987): 125-51. Web.
“Social Constructs.” Encyclopedia.com. HighBeam Research, 01 Jan. 2008. Web. 02 June 2016. <http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Social_constructionism.aspx>.
Lane, Silas. “SEX AND GENDER ARE ACTUALLY THE SAME THING (BUT BEAR WITH ME…).” Web log post. Androgyneity. WordPress, n.d. Web. <https://androgyneity.wordpress.com/2015/12/19/sex-and-gender-are-actually-the-same-thing-but-bear-with-me/>.
Risman, Barbara J. “Gender As a Social Structure: Theory Wrestling with Activism.” Gend Soc Gender & Society 18.4 (2004): 429-50. Web.