Gender As A Socially Constructed Accomplishment
Gender is a very strange topic in today’s society. Many people don’t know what to do with people who are transvestites or transsexuals and they often times hate them because they are different. People always think that there can only be two types of gender: masculine and feminine. People also feel that these genders most always correspond to a person’s sex. So if the person is a male, then most people wouldn’t accept that person into society if they acted feminine.
?For human beings there is no essential femaleness and maleness, femininity or masculinity, womanhood, or manhood, but once gender is ascribed, the social order constructs and holds individuals to strongly gendered norms and expectations. Individuals may vary on many of the components of gender any may shift genders temporarily or permanently, but they must fit into the limited number of gender statuses their society recognizes.? (Lorber, Night To His Day: The Social Construction of Gender, For Individuals, Gender Means Sameness, Page 463)
??a defining feature of reality construction is to see our world as being the only possible one.? (Kessler & McKenna, Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach, The Primacy of Gender Attribution, Page 475)
Many people don’t realize that gender is a socially constructed accomplishment. People make up methods in their heads about ways that people should be and if one doesn’t act they way the other person deems that one should, then they do not fit into that person’s reality.
?Every society classifies people as ?girl and boy children’?? (Lorber, Night To His Day: The Social Construction of Gender, Page 460)
People always try to guess what gender a person is. If one doesn’t know and is unsure of another’s gender than they keep on looking at them trying to find clues on about that person’s gender. I often times see people, usually children, and I can’t decide whether they or male or female, or should I say masculine or feminine.
?Then we are uncomfortable until we have successfully placed the other person in a gender status; otherwise, we feel socially dislocated.? (Lorber, Night To His Day: The Social Construction of Gender, Page 460)
In other countries this might not even be the case, some countries have more than two genders. These other genders are often called berdaches, hijras, or xaniths.
?Some societies have three genders-men, women, and berdaches, or hijras, and xaniths. Berdaches, hijras, and xaniths are biological males who behave, dress, work, and are treated in most respects as social women; they are therefore not men, nor are they female women; they are in our language, ?male-women’.? (Lorber, Night To His Day: The Social Construction of Gender, Page 461)
Societies that also do not do things the way we do also have ways of defining a person’s gender although there sex could easily be seen.
?Even societies that do not cover women’s breasts have gender-identifying clothing, scarification, jewelry, and hairstyles.? (Lorber, Night To His Day: The Social Construction of Gender, Page 461)
We must accept the fact that gender can be altered because it is only made up from what we think of gender. If we feel that only men should play baseball, then if we see a person wearing a baseball cap, we believe them to be masculine and a male.
?Most people find it hard to believe that gender is constantly created and re-created out of human interaction, out of social life, and is the texture and order of that social life.? (Lorber, Night To His Day: The Social Construction of Gender, Page 459)
At all times we constantly try to find out a person’s sex and gender. We often place the two together and don’t even realize that they could be different. Sometimes we even completely misunderstand the two.
?You might be right most of the time in guessing that a feminine heterosexual with facial hair, a deep voice, and broad shoulders was someone to whom you would make a ?male’ gender attribution were you to interact with that person.? (Kessler & McKenna, Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach, The Primacy of Gender Attribution, Page 474)
When it comes to dealing with transsexuals and transvestites, we often believe that they should not be in our community. Transsexuals and transvestites feel unnatural in the way society treats them so they try to change it by acting differently. They feel that by doing this, society will treat them differently, and often times it does work.
?Transvestites and transsexuals carefully construct their gender status by dressing, speaking, walking, gesturing in the ways prescribed for women or men-whichever they want to be taken for-and so does any ?normal’ person.? (Lorber, Night To His Day: The Social Construction of Gender, Page 460)
?Gender identity refers to an individual’s own feeling of whether she or he is a woman or a man?? (Kessler & McKenna, Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach, The Primacy of Gender Attribution, Page 470)
In the film we saw during class, we saw many men acting like women because of various reasons. The men made the appearance of women to the best of their abilities. They did such a good job portraying women in some cases, that I actually felt disturbed at some point because I found myself accepting the fact that they could be feminine, even if their sex wasn’t female.
??the social construction of gender overrode any possible inborn traits.? (Lorber, Night To His Day: The Social Construction of Gender, For Individuals, Gender Means Sameness, Page 463)
Many people are very good at accomplishing their goal of changing their gender although they are not capable of changing their sex. Some accomplish this so well that the people they live with don’t even realize the person is a different sex.
?Billy Tipton, a woman, lived most of her life as a man. She died recently at 74, leaving a wife and three adopted sons for whom she was husband and father, and musicians with whom she had played and traveled, for whom she was ?one of the boys’.? (Lorber, Night To His Day: The Social Construction of Gender, Page 461)
Then there is the case of the Baby Project X. In this situation a baby was born, with a undisclosed sex, and treated as a neutral gender. Many people at first were angered with this and didn’t want to have anything to do with this.
?The cousins who sent the baby a tiny football would not come and visit any more.? (Gould, X: A Fabulous Child’s Story, Page 453)
This baby faced many problems as it was slowly developing, after all the biggest problem that if faced was other people.
?But nobody could help X with the biggest problem of all-Other Children.? (Gould, X: A Fabulous Child’s Story, Page 454)
?Their parents weren’t one bit pleased with Peggy’s wonderful biology experiments, or with Joe’s terrific needlepoint pillows.? (Gould, X: A Fabulous Child’s Story, Page 455)
People surround the baby and involved with it’s life were very worried about the effect that it would have on their children as well, even though their own children really enjoyed being with baby X because it excelled in multiple-gender activities.
?Just because X doesn’t know what it is, or what it’s supposed to be, it wants to get everybody else mixed up, too!? (Gould, X: A Fabulous Child’s Story, Page 455)
In the end, the baby was sent by societies force to the school’s psychologist because people thought that there was something mentally or physically wrong with this baby, but there actually wasn’t.
???just about the least mixed-up child I’ve ever Xamined!’? (Gould, X: A Fabulous Child’s Story, Page 456)
People soon realized that a person’s true sex would come out when they reach puberty because they will then be attracted to a certain sex, and their gender from then on will always be based on the opposite sex.
?He means that by the time X’s sex matters, it won’t be a secret any more!? (Gould, X: A Fabulous Child’s Story, Page 457)
People must realize that they way gender is made is based upon the way they are treated are looked upon by other people and the way they show themselves to other people. People always try to determine a gender by a person’s sex but often find that they cannot, and can only classify a person by they way that they act.
??.gender cannot be equated with biological and physiological differences between human females and males. The building blocks of gender are socially constructed statuses.? (Lorber, Night To His Day: The Social Construction of Gender, Page 461)
People in the United States often show much hatred towards transsexuals and transvestites because they are NOT socially accepted.
?Modern Western societies’ transsexuals and transvestites are the nearest equivalent of these crossover genders, but they are not institutionalized as third genders (Bolin 1987).? (Lorber, Night To His Day: The Social Construction of Gender, Page 461)
In conclusion, we must always try to understand a person’s feelings about how they wish to be a different gender.