Construction of gender refers to the making of the character of an individual. That is the ability of a society to affect and change an individual’s gender. The masculine and feminine gender in the society today is a product of the beliefs and practices that the society has subjected to both the man and woman. The making of a feminine or masculine gender is by the society. As a result, the subject matter that concerns gender and sex is a role of the society at large. In this context, this paper shall highlight the role of the society in the establishment of gender in the society. This aim will be attained by considering focusing on the theories of gender like nature & natural, femininity, masculinity or sexuality, and how these theories support or oppose that gender is socially constructed.
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The ability of a society to affect and change an individual’s gender. This is to say that without the input of the society then there would not have been the present forms of gender. That is to say that the society is responsible for making of a particular habit and belief, which has affected a person’s gender. In the process of constructing gender, hegemony is also a factor that is considered of paramount importance to the community’s way of impacting the values and beliefs to an individual. That is the construction of gender will always be linked to the concepts of hegemony (Hogan p. 22 1997).
Concept of hegemony
The concept of hegemony refers to the understanding of a particular behavior or role that is played by the male sex or the female sex. That is in studying gender, people expect a certain definition of the character and habit of either the masculine gender or the feminine gender. In this regard, hegemony has been extensively used in the studies of gender and sex. However, it has been noted that hegemony is also subject of the different social norms and beliefs of different communities and societies. That is one can find that the habits and behaviors that define a man in one society different from the other society (Connell and Messerschmidt p. 831 2005).
The concepts of hegemony play a significant role in the issues that surround both genders masculine and feminine. For instance, Marchbank and Letherby (p. 12 2007) demonstrate a comedian who has worn a skirt instead of a trouser. In this illustration, one has to critically observe this image before judging whether it reveals masculinity or not. That is it is not usual for a man to put on a skirt, but rather wear trousers. Thus, is the principle of hegemony. It is dominant on one party only. In this regard, we can say that the principles of hegemony are subject to the influences of different societies and cultures.
A person can become more masculine or feminine by a factor of society norm transformation. According to Butler and Salih (p. 23 2004) a person becomes a masculine or feminine due to growth and adaptation of social practices, yet the same person attains his or her sex as are result being born male or female. That is a person could be born a woman and later turn out to be more of a masculine being than she would be feminine. That is the society plays a significant role in enhancing a person to become female or male. The society is responsible for constructing the inner being to be in line with the culture and values. The society inflicts and teaches an individual of the beliefs and values that will in turn shape the person to the gender that would be in the future (Calasanti and Slevin p. 74 2001).
Other factors that affect gender
Apart from the effect of the societ on a person, there are other natural effects that enhance gender. Language and speech is also another aspect that determines the masculinity and femininity of a person. That is there is a difference between a man and a woman from the way they speak. Philips, Steele, and Tanz (p. 189 1987) argue that a woman has a different way in which she expresses herself from the man. Hence, language also affects gender, and enhances masculinity and femininity. For instance, it is clear that men speak in a more aggressive way than women. That is as human beings grow up in their day today life, the child may not know the role or the difference between the male and female. Therefore, the difference in speeches between men and women is a result of the differences on gender roles.
The masculinity and femininity of an individual is also affected by the sexuality of the subject. This is also another natural aspect of gender. A man and a woman have differences that separate their character and habit. This can be termed as natural differences as they are in-born. Unlike the other factors as language and society, sexuality is in born and cannot be altered. That if “sex is fixed while gender is fluid”. The sexuality of an individual determines the hormonal content. That is to say that a man has different hormones from a woman. For instance, hormones that can cause a person to have a certain habit like left writing can be associated with the male sex and not the female. Therefore, it is real that sex also affects gender (Philips, Steele, and Tanz (p. 277 1987).
That is sexuality also affect gender patterns in the society. This is to say that women behave differently from men. This is true as when a child is born he or she has no specification of what gender it is during the first days of his or her life. That is the child only begins to realize that he is a boy or a girl once it is said by the parents or the people neighboring them. According to Lorber (p.1 1994) the baby has no idea of his or her sex type. The first sign that denotes of the gender of the child is his genital appearance. However, once the child begins to grow and understand their sexuality, he or she begins to associate with the children of his or her likes. This could be due to the increase in the hormones of the individual. Hence, it is the activities that children do at their infancy stage that enhance their female or male instincts will determine the constructed gender of an individual.
Masculinity and femininity of an individual also affects gender. The feminists have found out that by the fact that a person is masculine in appearance, he is often given the male gender by the society. For a person that appears to be more feminine with a female figure and shape, she is taken to be female and associated to the appropriate category of women. In this regard, it can be concluded that masculinity and femininity of an individual also play a considerable role in the determination of gender.
Lorber (p. 4 1994) reports that different cultures have also come up with their own styles of administering gender in their society. Unlike the common fact that society imposes gender, these cultures have practices that enhance their women to become more feminine. That is without these ritual and ceremonial practices then an individual is not masculine or feminine enough. For instance, African women remove the clitoris in their girls as a way of enhancing femininity while in western communities women increase their breasts size with silicone and restructure their faces to improve their femininity.
Determination of the gender of a child is again by a natural factor that influences gender in the society. Suppose a child is born female, but happens to groww in a family that constitutes of male children only. This baby girl will grow up with the habits of a baby boy. Furthermore, such a child is likely to grow up dressing like a boy child. In the end, she will be more of a boy than a girl. This is because of the influence that the other children will be putting in her. This is the way the family can construct the gender of the child.
On the other hand, behaviors can also determine the gender of the child. There are certain behaviors that are only related to a certain gender type (Butler p. 2004). For instance, the boy child has a habit of climbing trees and any raised surfaces. While the girls are often found to be calm and often seems to be preparing for a certain trip and outing. Such like habits can quickly denote the gender of a child even before knowing the true sex of the child. This trend has also been seen in adult. There are some male adults who talk and behave like women. One may find a man who is particularly keen on using make up and talks like a woman yet he is a man.
Other feminist say that parents also determine the gender of the child apart from the society. The parents are the first people that can influence the child that has been born (Vespa p. 363 2009). For example, a girl child is likely to be encouraged by the mother this is by natural instincts. The individual is like to grow up with female characters that male characters by fact of adapting the habits of the mother. Hence, the child could appear more feminine or more masculine.
There are also other unnatural factors that influence gender. According to feminist Cook (p. 47 2007) it is clear that the female gender is as a result of the kind of treatment that the female receives from the surrounding. The female beings are all subject to the effect of factors that include culture, race, class, age, and educational achievement. These are some of the determinant which plays a crucial role in determining the woman that results from the society construction and transformation. Amongst these issues are the factors that determine the way women relate with others in the society. That is these factors affect the integrity of women. Hence, women from different societies and communities are likely to behave differently including speech marks unlike men who have dominant relations.
In conclusion, there is a difference between sex and gender. While sex is a component that cannot be changed, gender is a factor that can be altered by the individual himself or even the environment around him or her. That is by the influence of the people a person’s gender can be changed to be different from the way one was born as she can be easily transformed by the society that she lives. The society contributes the most in the construction of gender in an individual and the gender types in general. Nonetheless, there are other factors that also have an impact on gender. These include sexuality and language. Apart from these, there are also cultural practices which are carried out by different communities to improve gender of their men and women. These play a significant role in the gender distribution in these societies and cannot be ignored.
As a result of the fact that gender is influenced by the environment and the people that surround the person, many women have been changed. It is then proven that a woman is not born, but becomes. That is to affirm that, the character of an individual can be modified to become better or worse while the sexuality of an individual remain the same for a life time. Hence, “gender is a performative art rather than predestined” (Bolich p. 42 2007).
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