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.