Response Paper #2 The Social Construction of Gender

January 23, 2012 § 1 Comment

Judith Lorber adresses the complex network of gender in her article,The Social Construction of Gender. She explains the notions behind gender for the reader in both a historical and societal context. Gender is a set of societal rules created for the purpose of organization and division of labor. Following its creation is the rigorous application and enforcement, creating a viscous cycle. Thus people are always “doing gender” in some form or another, be it “feminine” or “masculine” behaviors.

Much of the information given has been taught repeatedly in Women’s Studies classes. Yet there are still a few questions about gender that continue to haunt me. How is it that ideas of gender can be both so obvious and subtle at the same time? Why does all of the above seems so obvious, yet “doing gender” remains routine for many of us? How can gender in practice be harmful to society or individual people?

Judith discusses the subtle influences of gender norms and how easily they are mistaken for fact: “Gender is so pervasive that in our society we assume it is bred into our genes…”(pg. 112). While we may be aware of gender mentally, we are programmed to take in the information on a subconcious level. On a personal note, this formula creates a dichotomy of auto pilot gender responses with pockets of self-realization.

As per my question regarding gender and its potential for harm within society, there are two main points to consider. Firstly, gender may assign people tasks based on fabricated information rather than realistic ideas. People are thus exposed to limitations as they are unfairly paired with work. Assigning people tasks based on talent and ambition is a much more efficient approach.

A second idea of how gender can be harmful to society involves a concept known as “stratification”. Through “masculine” ideals of control and domination, men are ranked above women in the gender scope. This enforces and perpetuates a process that continuously places women as subordinates. Further limitations are created and placed on people simply for having different genitals. In this sense it is easy to prove how gender notions can distort the way people interact with eachother.

I would like to pose some questions to the class upon following Judith Lorber’s article. Do you think gender ideas are obvious? Have you ever felt directly influenced by such “norms”? Do you find gender ideas to be beneficial, harmful or both? Please feel free to share your ideas with me and create some discussion.


§ One Response to Response Paper #2 The Social Construction of Gender

  • amandamanbear says:

    Personally, I am ambivalent about my gender. There have been many times in my life that I felt I was not listened too, treated unfairly, or ignored because I am a woman. But, on the flip side, there are some aspects of femininity that I enjoy. I like it when my boyfriend holds doors opens for me and takes me out for dinner. While these acts are considered the norm, I don’t think participating in them necessarily means we are the norm couple. I take him out for dinner and he cooks for me. What does it mean to act out your gender in one way and reject it in another? Can we create a society where men and women enjoy certain aspects of femininity and masculinity and have equal power? Or must we become genderless in order to be equal?

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