Sex is biological. This is your DNA, your genitalia, and any physiological marker of male and female.
Gender is socially constructed (Berger 1967). This is a fluid construct that can change over time and context. It is your behavior at any given moment. A century ago, it was proper for a “man” to sit on the lap or even hold the hand of his best guy friend. Nowadays—not so much. This is how society views us.
Gender identity is personal. This is how a person identifies, regardless of their biological makeup. A person can be a biological woman, be viewed by society as female, but identify as a male.
Cisgender is when gender and identity align. Transgender is when they deviate from one another.
Gender in Society
There you have it. When you see the word “gender” in the media, they are not interpreting it the same way that most people do. They are referring to a social construct, rather than biology. This is a very important distinction. To not be able to grasp this very basic tenet is to misconstrue the totality of the situation.
With the “coming out” of newly transgender spokesperson, Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner, the removal of gender labels from Target toy and bedding sections, and a push to make more gender neutral restrooms available to the public; the average person may feel bombarded with the feeling that their typically adhered to social norms are being attacked. This is because they are.
Academia is producing a generation of students that are taught, at length, to challenge our deeply held social norms. Our professors are often radical extremist leftists. Even when they attempt to remain unbiased, the subjects of our classes are not biased. These students leave our Universities and take positions at other schools, in government institutions, and in the media. They have infiltrated every avenue for how we receive information.
Arguments against Gender
Gender is but one target (pun intended), and society has yet to see the fruits of this philosophy come to fruition. Here are three arguments that support why conventional gender is under attack.
- Gender is fluid. Definitions of masculinity and femininity change over time, therefore, society can change gender to fit their own definitions.
- Gender is not binary. None of us are entirely masculine or entirely feminine. Therefore, to judge all people by one of these two terms causes stress and anxiety when proper conformation does not occur. Furthermore, intersex individuals (those born with biological male and female parts) do not fit comfortably into either gender norm.
- Gender is oppressive. Throughout human history, we have oppressed people based on their gender. Women have always been second-class citizens, and feminine men are shamed into conformity or treated the same as women.
The extremists that are pushing this agenda do not want to install gender neutral restrooms and remove labels in stores. They want to totally disrupt any conventional understanding of gender. They want this because they truly believe it will end gender based oppression. There will be “equal pay for equal work”, the removal of the “separate spheres” of the feminine home and masculine workplace, and acceptance of marginalized groups like transgender and homosexual people.
In order for this complete equality to take place, the entire concept of gender must be eradicated. The only thing remaining will be biological sex, and gender identity, and it is the identity that society should use with respect to individuals. Without gender oppression, a person can identify in whichever way they choose without fear of social consequences.
The same logic applies with race and sexuality. Both are social constructions, and we need to eliminate those constructs in order to reach a more equal society. Notice how traditional views of these topics are also under attack? I will post more on these later, but I want you think of them as fractions of an entire movement bent on reshaping society into an amorphous blob of equal members.
This is the goal of social engineers. The postmodern turn has put emphasis on the fragmentations of society, thus each fragment must be “fixed” and placed together neatly in order to reform social order. We are like a puzzle in disarray.
Social scientists talk about “doing gender” (West and Zimmerman 1987) so that our biology has no significance to our behavior. We act out gender roles like a stage performance (Goffman 1959). Our front stage behavior, the actions that are visible to the audience, is gender. The back stage, however, may be our identity. In order to achieve true homogeneity between our representations of self, the front and back stage need to align. With stigma attached to transgender people, the stages do not align causing the actor anguish and inner turmoil.
They argue that in order for all people to feel included and de-stigmatized, we need to neutralize gender in all public settings. As a community of androgynous people, we would eliminate otherwise oppressive views of gender. There would no longer be the need to define feminine as opposition to masculine, but the two would be pieces of the puzzle that neatly fit together.
How Does Gender Occur?
The argument would be that we are born a blank slate, much like John Locke theorized. Therefore, any additional trait other those passed through genetics must be learned. From the moment of birth, the baby is assigned a gender. They are labeled “boy” or “girl” and given appropriate masculine or feminine names. A baby girl is typically adorned with pink clothing and baby dolls. A boy is dressed in blue and plays with trucks, soldiers, and weapons. As they begin to gain a conception of self, they have already been indoctrinated with gender norms. This is why we confuse nature with nurture. It happens from so early, that we assume certain behavior to be natural.
As the child ages, more gender norms become understood. They begin to identify with the parent that shares their gender. Girls want to be like mommy, and they imitate mommy’s customs. They wear dresses, grow their hair long, etc. This often occurs during the play stage (Mead 1934) where children first learn to imitate the “other” and reinforce their behavior through playing.
The child enters school where they encounter other same gendered children and reinforce norms. They realize that any deviation of the norms results in shaming rituals intended to keep them in their place.
As adults, those struggling with the cisgender mentality may begin a second life of dressing in drag. Others opt to go through the process of hormone replacement and surgery to fulfill their desire to “become” the gender that they identify as.
Other adults take to shaming those that are different. The stigma of being transgender is enough to keep many of them silent and unhappy. Cisgender adults eventually have children of their own, and perpetuate gender norms during child rearing and the cycle continues.
This is a very, very short synopsis of a much larger argument. It is almost impossible to condense hundreds of writings into a few hundred words. However, I believe that anyone reading this can gain insight into the world of social construction.
I cannot stress enough the importance of this concept. The media has only scratched the surface of the depths of postmodern deconstruction. Please understand that this is being taught in our Universities to those of us who are most likely to go into the world and affect social change. These are the views held by the media reporting on stories that you read. These are the views held by the Congress that writes laws. These are the views held by judges who rule on cases of discrimination. These are the views of the President of the United States—the most powerful man on the planet.
And this is just the beginning.
Berger, Peter and Thomas Luckman. 1967. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. New York, NY: Doubleday.
Goffman, Erving. 1959. The Presentation of Everyday Life. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press.
Mead, George Herbert. 1934. Mind, Self, and Society. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
West, Candace and Don H. Zimmerman. 1987. “Doing Gender.” Gender and Society. 1(2): 125-151.
2 thoughts on “How Do You Gender?”
But are these your views also? It doesn’t sound like they are.
Not necessarily. I was writing this from a pure academic perspective. Some arguments have merit, but others don’t.