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Why Are Critiques Of Essentialism Important To Contemporary Debates About Gender?

1526 words - 7 pages

My understanding of the essentialist view of gender is that they argue that gender is biologically determined and they reject the idea of any social and environmental influences. They also believe that gender is a biological entity which is naturally produced and ascribed from birth, thus gender is fixed and cannot be change. There are many critiques of essentialism such as constructionism and feminism, these and more critiques of essentialism can be very important for modern debates on gender.

One of the main critiques of essentialism in my opinion is from constructionism. They have a totally different perception of gender they argue that gender is produced and shaped by an individual’s natural and social surroundings. As Butler quotes Beauvoir ‘one is not born a woman, but, rather becomes one’ (Butler, 1999: 12). When I was younger, I wasn’t a completely girly baby it was what happened in my life and the way my parents and other people acted around me and towards me is what shaped my gender. When I was younger I was given feminine toys to play with, my clothes would be pink and I would always get told off for getting messy or making a mess with my food. This was different for my brother he was given more masculine toys always wore blue and if my brother made a mess no fuss was made. This made me feel that my gender is female. I have feminine biology but I think that as a child I wouldn’t have had such a big understanding about biological differences between men and women so it was my social surrounding that had to play a major part in creating and shaping my gender and my understanding towards it. This critique is very important in the modern debate of gender because it takes into account the social environment which is now more important than it was in the past people have more knowledge about it and a more better understanding about it than before. The social world has major influences on our views, behaviour, the way we live our life and many more. So why can it not have an influence on our gender development?

Feminism is also very critical of essentialism. They are a very big part of gender debates in the modern world as they mainly argue and debate about gender, unfairness and discrimination towards women. From what I know about feminism I think many of them would agree with constructionist view of gender. Ann Oakley a feminist who I agree with in her book argues that gender is socialized, it varies culturally and historically. She also argues that sex is a physiological difference between men and women, (Ann Oakley, 1993). So she does say that biology is involved but it determines the sexual difference between men and women, gender is a social creation. Oakley talks about culture and history. I believe that culture definitely plays a role in gender because all cultures have different perceptions of what is masculine and what is feminine. My mother and father for example grew up in India and I in England, two completely different...

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