Social Construction of Gender

Social Construction of Gender

  • Submitted By: eewen
  • Date Submitted: 12/05/2008 1:01 AM
  • Category: Social Issues
  • Words: 3334
  • Page: 14
  • Views: 10

(Word Count: 2750)

The issue of gender, and gender equality in particular, has been at the center of public consciousness and debate for much of the 20th century. The increasing recognition of the importance of addressing gender in any attempt to make sense of the world in which we live has been reflected in the numerous books on the subject that have appeared, both in the academic and public spheres, in recent years. Alongside the traditional factors of class and race, gender is now widely accepted as one of the master statuses that define our place in society. Whether we are male or female, masculine or feminine, shapes every facet of our lives, from the jobs we occupy, our positions within our communities, how we dress and behave in social situations, and even our individual attitudes and beliefs. As Michael Kimmel (2000, p. 2) makes the point, “virtually every society known to us is founded upon assumptions of gender difference and the politics of gender inequality.” This distinction between male and female is such a fundamental aspect of our culture that most people are not even aware of it, or see it as something “normal” or “natural”. But is it? From where do our notions of gender arise and how is it that these notions have such a strong influence on our lives? In tackling these sorts of questions in the past, sociologists and other researchers have tended to adopt one of two contrasting perspectives, essentialism and constructionism, more commonly known as “nature” and “nurture”, each with its own particular strengths and weaknesses.

For essentialists, gender differences are a direct result of our biological or psychological dispositions; what makes us behave as we do is solely determined by our genes, hormones and instincts. According to this perspective, men and women behave differently because they are born with different characteristics and attributes; our subsequent notions of masculinity and femininity are simply reflections of these...

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