This paper will mainly focus on gender, its definition and the way some writers feel about it. We shall look at how Lorber believes that we and gender are like fish and water. Gender is part of us and we are part and parcel of it. It defines us in terms of our identity, which is sexuality, mannerisms and social role. We shall also discuss Feinberg’s believe that challenging the established norms on defining “real” men and women would actually benefit everyone.
Gender is a range of characteristics used to distinguish between males and females especially in the cases of men and women. These characteristics are body shapes, clothing, mannerisms, gender identity, social role and sex. Despite the differences in sex and identity between men and women, they also have different social roles in the society that ensure that the community maintains its cultures and the normal activities run as expected. For example, for a community to have peace and unity and promote communism, each member of the society has to play a role. The men are supposed to play fatherly roles and women are expected to play motherly roles in their families. Children are also expected to play certain roles.
According to Judith Lorber, the issue of gender is a routine ground of everyday activities and talking about it is like actually talking about ourselves. The characteristics of gender are the same characteristics that define us and the matters that affect gender also affects us a lot. Gender is a very familiar part of daily life and it affects the way people expect it to be displayed. This means that people act more differently to how they are expected to do. The indicators that differentiate men from women or male from female are everywhere today that we usually fail to note them but at the end of the day people have to define the others in terms of gender that is each and every person has to belong to a certain gender.
Gender is clearly defined by the dressing of the people. Women are supposed or expected to wear feminine clothes ornaments that is, skirts, dresses, female trousers, earrings, necklaces, wear makeup and so on while men are expected to wear shirts, male trousers and so on. But nowadays, the use of clothing to define gender is becoming an issue since people have mixed up the way they dress. This is mostly common for small children and babies. Many parents do not actually mind the way their children dress. You can find a girl child dressed up in a cap and a t-shirt. It is very difficult to know whether it is a girl or a boy, actually one would actually think that it is a boy where else it a girl. His/her thought will be proven wrong when one sees the child’s hair or earrings on her.
The gender of a person is actually made at birth and the baby is put to a certain category. Then the naming and mode of dressing of babies is according to the gender of the baby and are used as gender markers. Parents dress up their babies to avoid the daily questions on whether the baby is a boy or a girl. The way the community treat babies, either as a girl or boy, makes them identify themselves in terms of gender. At the age of puberty, the child now knows the things people of her gender are supposed to do. They can now differentiate the roles and characteristics of either males or females.
Social roles cannot be used to define gender or as gender markers. This is simply because social roles are changing. Today, fathers are seen taking care of small children and this is meant to be a woman’s job. Also, in many institutions, women are slowly taking up men’s jobs and responsibilities. Unisex clothing has also drowned gender definition. Many communities believe that gender is not equated with the biological and physiological differences between human males and females but rather on the socially constructed statuses. This is simply because the sex of an individual can be changed but that does not change the status of the person.
For many individuals, gender means sameness but not the difference between people. The introduction of certain things to a child by its parents that makes him/her realize their gender are the main issue here. The similar things and characteristics that either a male or a female does or has defines the gender he or she belongs to. For the community, gender means difference in that there are different roles and characteristics that a member of a certain gender is supposed to do as opposed to the other gender. The society defines gender as the difference between being a man or a woman in accordance to body shapes, clothing, mannerisms, gender identity, social role and sex.
According to Leslie Feinberg, there are certain norms that define what it means to be a “real” man or a “real” woman. These norms are at times disgusting and one cannot bear hearing the explanation behind them. It has been said that being a woman means to be thin, emotionally nurturing and so on while being a man means having muscles, be courageous or know how to handle a chain so and so on. These are all comic strips and they do not necessary define a man or a woman. But these comics have been implanted into our heads until they have changed the way we term men and women.
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These perceptions can change the way people behave and they may seem to behave weirdly or even face brutality from people who cannot bear with their behaviors. For example, a young person may tend to dress or behave in a certain manner so as to fit in the “group” of being a man or a woman. The aftermaths of these behaviors, first of all is the difficulty to build mutual relationships since many of your friends will keep away from you. They may also treat you disrespectfully just because you act weirdly. One may find it difficult to figure out who he/she really is since you have no friends and thus you have no one to compare yourself to.
The other thing is that by an individual following these perceptions, he/she may experience emotional damage and he/she may stop maturing emotionally simply because they do not have the room to fully explore their gender expression. An also individual seems to be some years behind his/her age group just because the suppression from reactions from other people towards the individual leave him/her disconnected from themselves and thus less able to really connect with others, whether friends or lovers. Finally, the above perceptions on being a man or woman change the self esteem of many people who do not have the characteristics expected.
Leslie Feinberg did a lot in challenging these established norms in defining “real” men and “real” women. Through his work, there have been movements that oppose the definition of being a man or woman on the comic norms. Among the movements is the women’s movement which defines a woman by her husband and her children. In short, a woman is defined according to the achievements she has and the status she has acquired in the society not on her physical looks. This is because there has been a drastic change in our society today and there are equal opportunities for women as men due to gender equality. The major contributing factors to this change is the way we understand family and marriage, school and work, religion and ourselves. Men are also defined by the responsibilities they have in the society and the capability to perform them well. Men are expected to take care of their families by providing them with protection, food and clothing. They are also expected to act as role models to their children and provide them with parental guidance.
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