Social Construction and Gender

Let me begin this post by saying that, yes, I have completed my second bachelors degree in Sociology.  As of May 2011, I have double degrees, Music (1997) and Sociology (2011), and will hopefully begin a PhD in Sociology and Gender Studies, beginning in 2012.  Along the path to obtaining this degree, I have become a Marxist, Feminist, Social Constructionist.  I am completely on board with what these three designations entail, politically and socially.  Due to this fact, rise up buffalo is going to become much more sociologically centered.  We will still attempt to keep the community updated on activism and volunteerism in the city, but also try to help you, the reader, better understand some key concepts in the struggle.

Sociology is an awesome base from which to create activist campaigns and also a great source for common sense.  I hope you will continue on this journey with us as we delve deeper into the sociological aspects of our lives and communities.  We will attempt to better understand the world around us and that is always a wonderful and challenging thing.  Please, come along on the ride, it may be bumpy, but it is certain to be entertaining and enlightening.

On to today’s topic – Social Construction and Gender –

Let me begin with a quote from one of my favourite feminists – Gloria Steinem

“In a patriarchy, a poor man’s house may be his castle, but a rich woman’s body is not her own.”

I realize that this quote pertains directly to equality issues, but I find that it also has a lot to do with our perceptions of gender and the way in which it is constructed in our society. As you may have guessed, a social construct is a concept that is created by a particular group. This group may be society as a whole (which we must always remember includes each of us as individuals and is not just some alien concept that one can call upon to lay blame in an argument or debate), a particular culture or traditional system or a social or cultural group that is created by individuals to fill a need of the community. All groups have standards for the way that each member should behave. If we begin by looking at these standards as socially constructed we can start to see how our behaviours and perceptions are constructs.

For example – in American society, we still hold fast to a patriarchal system. When children are born, they are usually named after the father, if he is known. Even if the mother is single, she will, oftentimes, be strongly pushed toward this naming convention. Since this “tradition” has been the norm for so many years, we continue to see it as a social standard. In digging a bit deeper we can see the social construction of maintaining this naming convention. Property is divided up based on a patriarchal code and, as such, children must reflect their fathers family in order to partake in the division. With the rates of single motherhood rising, this trend is changing, however there are still many traditionalists who feel it a threat to our society to make this change. Any social construct that is challenged is seen as an attack on society, but as stated earlier, society is you and me, not some outside source that we have to look to for reason and understanding. We make up our society and we can change it. We can go forward naming our children in any way we see fit and our society will not collapse, just as we will survive if baby girls are not dressed in pink or baby boys dressed in blue. Another example of social construction that is taken for granted and made to seem ultra important in the rearing of children. As if dressing a boy in pink will forever stunt his growth or painting a girls room blue will make her less of a woman.

The funny thing about this particular construct is that it has become so commonplace that even women who profess to be feminists have named their children after the father.  It is as if this naming convention is SO normalized that we do not recognize it as such.  This is extremely dangerous territory.  Normalizing constructs is what keeps us down.  Not just as women, but as a human race.  If we cannot rise above these constructs there will continue to be gender equality in our “free and open” society.  Free for whom exactly?  The powerful and elite?  The XY chromosome group?  The pale complexion set?  The historically powerful, that is who.  I say no more!  We need to start dispelling myths and reversing norms.  This is the one and only way to reach full equality of all genders!

Peace – Chantale (aka hippiegrrl)

appropriate links:
Reading Marx’s Capital with David Harvey – the best site to better understand an extremely important read
Gloria Steinem Official Website – my hero and (hopefully!) yours!
Books by Judith Lorber – interested in the social construction of gender? start with this list and work your way forward!

questions?  comments?  like or dislike?  let us know in the comment section below…
please pass this post along to your friends and foes.  we love the attention from both sides!

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