1. Gender: A Social Construct
While every society has its distinct culture, norms and features, gender pervades through societies as a common reality. As a matter of fact, while gender is a social construct it is often viewed by people as universal, unproblematic and accept it in a natural manner.
Gender matters because it shapes the identities and behavioral dispositions of individual… gendered characteristics are acquired and precisely….become a part of the person….while modern life enables people to have many identities, gender identity may be among the most influential in shaping the standards people hold for themselves.
The term ‘Gender’ has been usually seen a “psychological, social and cultural aspects of maleness and femaleness” - in other words, it represented the characteristics taken on by males and females as they encountered social life and culture through socialization. As we know the process of socialization begins the moment a person is born, this socialization process, through its various agents of society involved in normalizing gender roles and their respective behaviour. Thus different language, different spaces (public/private), different dress codes, lifestyles are being allocated to both the gender.
The construction and reproduction of gender takes at three levels. For some, this action resides in individual-their personalities, traits, emotions etc. For others gender is created through social interaction and in inherently contextual in its impact. This implies that gender cannot be reduced to an identity or set of personality traits. Still others argue that gender is embedded in the structures and practices of organizations and social institutions, which appear on the surface to be gender neutral.
However, the problem arises when this social construction boosts up an unequal power relationship with male domination and female subordination in most spheres of life. It further leads to a hierarchical position of everything done by men over those done by women. Men and the tasks, roles, functions and values contributed to them are valued-higher than women and what is associated with them and thus creates a gender bias.
This inequality in both the gender has been advocated by early thinkers as ‘natural’ and consequence of ‘biological differences’. They found significance in a relative universality of physical characteristics among humans and of a gender division of labor that assigned men to certain tasks and women to others, a division that sometimes characterized the public sphere as a male domain and private sphere as a female domain. This view of biological determinant in deciding gender stereotypes was however, replaced and questioned later on by feminist scholars who hold the view that though there are basic differences between the sexes which are biologically determined, the differences in gendered role are the product of ‘social conditioning’ (typically set early in life). Ann Oakley, a British sociologist disagreed on the notion of ‘sexual division of labor or gendered role’ as something universal and rejected it as a myth that women are biologically incapable to carry out heavy and demanding work.
For Oakley, sex is a word that refers to the biological differences between male and female: the visible difference in genitalia, the related difference in procreative function and gender is however a matter of culture, it refers to the social classification into masculine and feminine.
Simone de Beauvoir similarly questioned the assumptions behind such biological formulations in her feminist classic ‘the second sex’ and said that “anatomy is not destiny and that one is not born, but rather becomes a woman”.
1.1 Normalization of Gender Relations
For decades the gender structure, the unequal gender relations have been maintained through a male hegemony and acquired a commonsensical understanding of the society. Gramsci’s pivotal concept of ‘hegemony’ has been relevant in this regard. For Gramsci, hegemony involves two elements through which it maintains its power: the first element of hegemony is that it produces consent among people to accept the group in power and live within existing structures. Second, this hegemony involves the production of what Gramsci (1971) calls “historically organic ideologies…[that] ‘organize’ human masses,…[and] form the terrain on which men [sic] move, acquire consciousness of their position, struggle, etc.” “As ideologies permeate both culture (Gramsci’s ‘civil society’) and politics, they settle into people’s unconsciousness to generate “sedimentation of common sense”, a shared understanding that the workings of society have a natural logic and are meant to be the way they are. In this way the ruling class which is mostly a male dominated strives to normalize the gendered structure and tries to gain consent from women in the process.
 Amy S. Wharton, Introduction to the Sociology of Gender, Blackwell Publishing, Singapore, 2007.
 Edward Stein, The Mismeasure of Desire: The Science, Theory and Ethics of Sexual Orientation, Oxford University Press, New York, 1999.
 Amy S. Wharton, Introduction to the Sociology of Gender, Blackwell Publishing, Singapore, 2007. P.8
 A. Oakley, Sex, Gender and Society, Gower Publishing Company, Hants, 1985.
 Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, London, 1988.
 Cited in Kaela Jubas, “Theorizing Gender in Contemporary Canadian Citizenship: lessons from the CBC’s Greatest Canadian Contest”, Canadian Journal of Education, Vol. 29, No.2, 2006: pp. 376‐77.
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- gender mainstreaming gender role gender bias inequality gender and sexual violence gender inequality sexual politics