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Gender Structure Theory Essay

1060 words - 4 pages

Embedded deep within the psyche of modern society, gender is a persistent feature of everyday life. It creates normalized behaviors and characteristics for each person, holding them accountable for even the most trivial actions. Individuals are not supposed to step outside the binary male-female framework, otherwise they risk backlash as an attempt to force them back into culturally designated roles. This binary is disturbed by the very existence of intersex individuals – as they cannot be placed into 100% male or 100% female on a binary scale. One of the areas where intersex has caused complications is in organized sports, specifically the Olympics. Since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) requires athletes to be divided into men and women in the various events, the interjection of intersex individuals causes complications with the preexisting system. The result of this being not to adjust the binary system itself, but for the IOC to engage in gender examinations of athletes to fit them into either the male or female categories. In order to understand the implications of the IOC's recommendations as well as why such views are ingrained in society as a whole, it is necessary to make an analysis using gender structure theory via its three levels: individual, interactional, and institutional.
Gender structure theory can help to understand the underlying implications within the IOC's recommendations by allowing gender to be conceptualized as a social structure. The mechanisms and causal relationships by which gender is embedded within society can then be analyzed at the individual, interactional, and institutional levels, thereby encompassing the whole sphere of human interactions. The individual level involves focusing on how individual differences in sex originate - this level also includes the exercising individual choices. These individual differences are assumed to be either biological or social in origin. The interactional level focuses on social interactions and accountability to the expectations of others. This involves the idea of “doing gender” where individuals are expected to possess certain mannerisms, speech patterns, dress codes, and demeanors which are indicative of the gender society believes them to be. Lastly, the institutional level focuses focuses on how the various social institutions create gendered behaviors through rules, laws, and ideologies. These three levels of gender structure theory allow for disentangling information across a variety of places, times, and contexts.
The recommendations by the IOC effectively constrain athletes at the individual level by not only limiting their ability to choose, but also in policing their gendered identities. Policing of intersexed individuals' behaviors and choices is not uncommon within greater society as it integrates the idea that these so-called “deviant” actions can be corrected through intervention – whether it be psychological, surgical, or hormonal. The athletes...

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