Social Construction of Gender and Sex

Social Construction of Gender and Sex

Introduction

In recent years, there has been a war raging against the prevailing societal concepts of gender and sex. Through the emergence of feminism and the queer subject, these social construction of gender and sex are no longer sustainable leading to the need for revising the conventional understanding of the aforementioned. In the past, sex and gender were synonyms with no discernible difference, however, distinct definitions of these terms have cropped up. The social construction of gender and sex is the main culprit for gender-based inequalities where women and other gender non-conforming groups have been marginalized.

Thesis statement: The binary nature of the social construction of gender and sex categorizing people as either being male or female has been used to marginalize women and other groups based on their sexual orientation on an institutional level. With many “divergent” sexual identities emerging, the current binary system of definition is seen to exclude certain groups from the normal sociopolitical discourses. It is for this reason that there is a need for a complete revision of the prevailing gender-centric laws based on the current trends on gender and sexuality.

Sections

  • Current definitions of gender and sex where sex is the anatomical identification of a person’s reproductive organs while gender is a personal identification of sexual inclinations.

McDermott, R., & Hatemi, P. (2011). Distinguishing Sex and Gender. PS: Political Science and Politics, 44(1), 89-92. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40984490 

  • The role of the social construction of gender and sex in feminist criminology based on intersecting inequalities including race, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

Burgess-Proctor, A. (2006). Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Crime: Future Directions for Feminist Criminology. Feminist Criminology1(1), 27–47. https://doi.org/10.1177/1557085105282899

  • Gender inequality in the police force as evidenced by the adoption of aggressive tactics that highlight men masculinity.

Steve Herbert (2001) 'Hard Charger' or 'Station Queen'? Policing and the Masculinist State, Gender, Place & Culture, 8:1, 55-71, DOI: 10.1080/09663690120026325

  • Gendering of children by society has led to the binary system of identification based on gender.

Hawthorn, Ainsley. (2019). Gender neutrality doesn't hurt children - it's part of our history: The rigid distinction between young boys and young girls seems like an ancient divide, but things were much more fluid as recently as a century ago. The Globe and Mail; Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont].

  • Binary system of identification of American law based on the social construction of gender and sex.

Bell, Melina Constantine. "Gender essentialism and American law: why and how to sever the connection." Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy23.2 (2016): 163+. Business Insights: Global. Web. 8 Nov. 2019.

  • Medical institutional roles in perpetuating gender binaries and the marginalization of the transgender people.

Jaye. C. Whitehead, Jennifer Thomas. Bradley Forkner, & Dana LaMonica. (2012). Reluctant gatekeepers: ‘Trans-positive’ practitioners and the social construction of sex and gender.

  • Experience of women in the workplace based on the number of female representatives in managerial positions.

Ely, R. (1995). The Power in Demography: Women's Social Constructions of Gender Identity at Work. The Academy of Management Journal, 38(3), 589-634. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/256740 

  • Cognitive development of gender identity in society is based on societal stereotypical construct of gender and roles.

Erica S. Weisgram. (2016). The Cognitive Construction of Gender Stereotypes: Evidence for the Dual Pathways Model of Gender Differentiation.

  • Gender as a socially constructed concept makes it real as social norms largely determine what is “real.”

Root, M. (2013). Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique. Analysis, 73(3), 563-568. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24671140 

Conclusion

The prevailing gender-centric laws based on the social construction of gender and sex are responsible for the marginalization of different groups in society like homosexuals, transgender people, and women, just to mention a few. With the current wave towards a more enlightened and gender-conscious society, there is need for a complete re-evaluation of the said laws to be more inclusive to the various types of sexual orientations.

Annotated Bibliography

Burgess-Proctor, A. (2006). Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Crime: Future Directions for Feminist Criminology. Feminist Criminology1(1), 27–47. https://doi.org/10.1177/1557085105282899

Burgess challenges the established understanding of feminist criminology by stating that there are multiple factors of intersecting inequalities based on race, ethnicity, class, sexual identity and age that must be considered in order to have an informed picture. The author proposes that this intersectional framework should be the basis for the future of feminist criminology. The marginalization of women and girls has different facets of intersecting social factors that determine the basis of victimization, criminal offending, and criminal judicial processing. Gender alone is no longer sustainable as the basis of understanding feminist criminology and gender-based crimes as the aforementioned factors, for example, race also plays major roles in effecting the existing inequality in the justice system.

Steve Herbert (2001) 'Hard Charger' or 'Station Queen'? Policing and the Masculinist State, Gender, Place & Culture, 8:1, 55-71, DOI: 10.1080/09663690120026325

Herbert acknowledges that gender inequality persists in police departments. Although the “operating” professional paradigm in police departments is open to women officers, there current direction and reform models subtly exclude female officers by promoting the prevalence of masculinity in the field. The current operating model places emphasis on aggressive tactics intended to maximize felony arrests thereby foregoing other efficient and gender-inclusive models like community policing. Whether conscious or not, the current aggressive models can be seen to sustain patriarchy by promoting masculinism. The author warns that the current aggressive models not only undermine feminist and gender equality efforts but can also be seen to undermine democracy.

Hawthorn, Ainsley. (2019). Gender neutrality doesn't hurt children - it's part of our history: The rigid distinction between young boys and young girls seems like an ancient divide, but things were much more fluid as recently as a century ago. The Globe and Mail; Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont].

The topic of gender identity has been a hotly contested one, the main concern being the uncertain outcome of communicating to children that gender is fluid. In the article above, the author argues that the gendering of children is a relatively new concept that has been in place for around 300 years. In fact, children in the past were treated as asexual beings as manifested in the gender-neutral clothing they wore especially in the Victorian period. It is only through “breeching” (transition from a toddler to the “age of reason”) that boys and girls got their first gender distinct clothing. The author claims that there was a close correlation between gender and sexuality and as such, gendering through clothing in children was frowned upon. In conclusion, Hawthorn disqualifies the need for gendering children and assigning them into particular gender norms is counterproductive.

Bell, Melina Constantine. "Gender essentialism and American law: why and how to sever the connection." Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy23.2 (2016): 163+. Business Insights: Global. Web. 8 Nov. 2019.

American law is instrumental in maintaining the current system of gender inequality through its binary definitions of gender. Current American laws based on gender roles, for example, men or women have made it difficult to self-identify. Conversely, there are many rulings that have used gender as its basis thereby promoting institution bias through gendering. The use of gender-centric laws is evidence of the perpetual marginalization of a group much like the previous racial discriminatory regimes. Constantine reckons that all gender-centric laws in the United States should be re-evaluated and adapt to Canada’s methodology which goes beyond the binary concepts of gender.

Jaye. C. Whitehead, Jennifer Thomas. Bradley Forkner, & Dana LaMonica. (2012). Reluctant gatekeepers: ‘Trans-positive’ practitioners and the social construction of sex and gender.

Whitehead and company, examine how medical institutions are being used as agents of maintaining society’s gender binary norms through the pathologization of people identifying as transgender. Procedures like gender-confirming surgery and hormone therapy are highly regulated with medical practitioners asking for Gender Dysphoria (GD) diagnosis before any medical intervention can commence. GD as a field has been instrumental in quelling the efforts of trans-identification as its framework routinely denies trans-people gender-confirming medical procedures. The GD framework contains definitions of what practitioners consider appropriate gender traits, and if a person does not meet these requirements, they may be denied medical services. The article argues that using the GD actively undermines efforts of self-identification by transgender people as medical practitioners use their assumptions of gender in their decision making.

Kimmel, Michael S. (1986). Introduction Toward Men's Studies: BEYOND "SEX ROLES": GENDER AS SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION NEW PERSPECTIVES ON MASCULINITY REFERENCES. The American Behavioral Scientist (1986-1994); Thousand Oaks Vol. 29, Iss. 5.

In the article, Kimmel argues that the current gender roles are not innate to every individual, but they are as a result of social constructionism. This is to say that gender roles are assigned by society and have little to do with an individual’s involvement. Through the theory of social organization which affirms that the social construct keeps changing with time and education, masculinity as a male attribute is being redefined. These social changes correlate with the changing of gender roles championed by the feminist movements which refute traditional understanding of gender-centric socially acceptable behavior. The article aims to sensitize the “male gender” about these changes in society by highlighting the repercussions of this direction.

Ely, R. (1995). The Power in Demography: Women's Social Constructions of Gender Identity at Work. The Academy of Management Journal, 38(3), 589-634. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/256740 

The article is a comparative literature into the working experience of women based on the number of female leaders in the corporate environment. In more specific terms, Ely examines the effects of having more female executives and how this situation affects the professional working experience of women. The dangers of underrepresentation of women in organizations have led to negative outcomes like increased performance pressure and isolation from both social and professional social interactions by their male counterparts. The author argues that this underrepresentation of women in the workplace has been instrumental in maintaining the gender-based stereotypes that target women’s sexuality. The article deduced that a better representation of women in the workplace is instrumental in the reduction of gender inequality.

Erica S. Weisgram. (2016). The Cognitive Construction of Gender Stereotypes: Evidence for the Dual Pathways Model of Gender Differentiation.

Erica examines the cognitive development of gender-based interest and identity predicated on the current gender constructs in society. She argues that these stereotypes determine the interests and behavior of developing children and adults. Through both the attitudinal pathway and personal pathway models, personal interests and gender stereotypes are seen to shape an individual’s interests and identity. In the study, it was found that the construction of these gender stereotypes have a great influence on the developing interests of children. For example, boys will favor toys that are considered “masculine” like fire trucks while girls will often choose dolls. These interests as affirmed by society’s stereotypical constructs of gender often end up becoming the individual’s dominant characteristics into adulthood.

McDermott, R., & Hatemi, P. (2011). Distinguishing Sex and Gender. PS: Political Science and Politics, 44(1), 89-92. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40984490 

McDermott (et al., 2011) attempt to distinguish between gender and sex from a biological, social, and cultural perspectives. For many laypersons, this distinction is not apparent leading to problems in communication when debating gender-sensitive topics. Sex is defined through a biological basis where the genitalia (whether female or male) are the dual categories. Gender, however, is the personal perception and identity of sexuality by an individual. These subtle differences in meaning have often impeded a wider understanding of gender-centric norms, deviances, and the general struggle of gender equality. In the past, the terms “sex” and “gender” were used as synonyms which is no longer the case today. From a philosophical perspective and sociology, gender forms the basis of the study and not necessarily sex.

Root, M. (2013). Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique. Analysis, 73(3), 563-568. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24671140 

In the article, the author iterates that although gender is a socially constructed concept, it does not detract from the fact that it is real. Root makes comparisons between race as defined by ancestry and gender as the contemporary conception of sex by society. The prevailing understanding of gender and race is enforced by social norms rather than nature. The author states that the duality of categorization in both respects (gender and race) goes hand in hand with comparative privileges predicated on these differences. These comparative privileges have led to the current state of both gender and racial inequalities.

References

Bell, Melina Constantine. "Gender essentialism and American law: why and how to sever the connection." Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy23.2 (2016): 163+. Business Insights: Global. Web. 8 Nov. 2019.

Burgess-Proctor, A. (2006). Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Crime: Future Directions for Feminist Criminology. Feminist Criminology1(1), 27–47. https://doi.org/10.1177/1557085105282899

Ely, R. (1995). The Power in Demography: Women's Social Constructions of Gender Identity at Work. The Academy of Management Journal, 38(3), 589-634. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/256740 

Erica S. Weisgram. (2016). The Cognitive Construction of Gender Stereotypes: Evidence for the Dual Pathways Model of Gender Differentiation.

Hawthorn, Ainsley. (2019). Gender neutrality doesn't hurt children - it's part of our history: The rigid distinction between young boys and young girls seems like an ancient divide, but things were much more fluid as recently as a century ago. The Globe and Mail; Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont].

Jaye. C. Whitehead, Jennifer Thomas. Bradley Forkner, & Dana LaMonica. (2012). Reluctant gatekeepers: ‘Trans-positive’ practitioners and the social construction of sex and gender.

Kimmel, Michael S. (1986). Introduction Toward Men's Studies: BEYOND "SEX ROLES": GENDER AS SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION NEW PERSPECTIVES ON MASCULINITY REFERENCES. The American Behavioral Scientist (1986-1994); Thousand Oaks Vol. 29, Iss. 5.

McDermott, R., & Hatemi, P. (2011). Distinguishing Sex and Gender. PS: Political Science and Politics, 44(1), 89-92. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40984490 

Root, M. (2013). Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique. Analysis, 73(3), 563-568. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24671140 

Steve Herbert (2001) 'Hard Charger' or 'Station Queen'? Policing and the Masculinist State, Gender, Place & Culture, 8:1, 55-71, DOI: 10.1080/09663690120026325

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