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The Social Construction Of Gender And Sexuality

1338 words - 5 pages

According to Johnny Weir, “Masculinity is what you believe it to be... [it is] all by perception, [I believe] masculinity and femininity is something that is very old-fashioned... [there is a] whole new generation of people who aren’t defined by their race or their sex or who they like to sleep with.” This statement exemplifies the definition of gender as a concept; gender is the expectations of a sex according to the culture of society. Sexuality, within this definition of gender, reflects society’s expectations, which are created in relation to the opposite sex. The variances between cultures means that gender expectations change within different cultures. These expectations put pressure on each member of society to conform and abide by the folkways of their own culture. The creation of gender expectations by society creates a restricting definition of gender roles and sexuality that vary from culture to culture.
Society created the role of gender and created an emphasis on the differences between the two genders. Alma Gottlieb states: “biological inevitability of the sex organs comes to stand for a perceived inevitability of social roles, expectations, and meanings” (Gottlieb, 167). Sex is the scientific acknowledgment that men and women are biologically different; gender stems from society’s formation of roles assigned to each sex and the emphasis of the differences between the two sexes. The creation of meanings centers on the expectations of the roles each sex should fill; society creates cultural norms that perpetuate these creations. Gender blurs the lines between the differences created by nature and those created by society (Gottlieb, 168); gender is the cultural expectations of sexes, with meaning assigned to the differences between them. Due to the cultural creation of gender, it is an element of socialization and is learned by members at an early age.
A member of society assumes gender roles as soon as he or she is born. The socialization of individuals forces he or she to identify with a specific gender and does not allow for the reality that gender is an emotional issue that exists on a continuum, and many feel they fit somewhere between the two rigid cultural definitions of gender. Often times a child is introduced to many forms of masculinity or femininity (Gottleib, 175). Gender roles are introduced and enforced as soon as the sex of a child is determined (Gottleib, 168); boys begin a life of masculinity, with emphasis put on toughness and girls begin a life of femininity, with emphasis put on emotion and tenderness. Each sex is introduced to the gender roles expected for a certain identity to be maintained. The enforcement of gender roles in socialization is present cross culturally, as seen in “Life is Hard” by Roger Lancaster, children are taught the roles they are expected to perform before they are conscious of their own actions (Lancaster, 41). Critics believe, however, that when it comes to defining a person, gender...

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