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Gender Construction

Let’s talk about sex baby- the biological sex of a person that is. And let’s actually talk about gender.

The sex of a person refers literally to their private bits.  The gender of a person, however, is a social construction.  What the hell is a social construct? Well let’s break it down!

The best way to think about a social construct is to change it into terms of something being “socially constructed.” It’s literally two words we use all the time.  Socially- as in relations between people and our interactions.  Constructed- as in built and created.  Therefore, when something is socially constructed it means that we, in our social interactions, have created this “something.”  Alas! it is a social construct.  Social constructs exist on a societal level, meaning patterns across society, rather than just an interpersonal (one-to-one) level.

Gender is the role we are taught and play according to our sex.  A very simple example is that girls wear dresses and boys (usually) do not.  There is nothing in our DNA that programs us to wear certain clothes, yet we categorize store departments into women’s clothing and men’s clothing.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty.  There is nothing so terrible about femininity (the word to describe traits of the female gender role) and masculinity (the word to describe traits of the male gender role) at their core.  But often times our society values and promotes an extremely exaggerated version of these constructs.  Hyper-masculinity and hyper-feminity can cause boys and girls to feel pressured to fit into this narrow mold of what it means to either “be a man,” or “be a woman.”

Society does this primarily through the media, bombarding us with images of what women and men should look like, act like, think about, and be.

  • Girls are essentially sent the message (by society) that what is important about them is not their intelligence or character, but instead how they look and what they have to offer sexually. Girls are taught to think about men as the ultimate goal and feel a need to please them.
  • Boys are sent the message (by society) that they need to be strong, tough, emotionally detached, never fail or ask for help, and be successful in sexual conquests and in monetary matters.  Boys are taught to think about women as existing for their sexual gratification.

If you don’t believe us, go to the super market and look at the difference between men’s magazines and women’s magazines and what messages are being sent.  Better yet, watch any music video with both genders present.

Wouldn’t it be so much healthier on an interpersonal level if we weren’t taught to think this way?  If instead, we approached each other just human to human.  We’re not saying we have to do away with all gender norms entirely.  Wear makeup if you like, but believe you’re value as a human being is in you’re unique personality.  Lift weights if you want, but believe being a man is tied more to being a good person than to being tough. Ultimately, we need to see- in everyone- their humanity and not let gender norms get in the way.

See how changing the media could help here

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