Social Construction of Gender

The societal creation of gender comes in the form of a notion regarding sociology and feminism about the factors of gender differences in the society. According to the view of constructionism, the social and cultural beliefs develop gender roles which are deemed appropriate or ideal sets of behaviours for males and females. Different proponents of the social construction of gender hold the belief that variances in the behaviours between menfolk and womenfolk are common norms. Others argue that an individual’s behaviours are affected by general bio-factors to different magnitudes, with societal concords having a significant consequence on gender behaviour (Sheppard and Mayo Jr. 2013, p.260). For this reason; being born either a man or a woman in the society comes with more than being a mere biological factor. In the typical society, biological sexes are reshaped, represented, valued, and directed to various roles in different culturally pegged ways. In the context of this paper, the community development of gender is looked into in the context of identity-based on the gender criticism theory. The document alludes to and cites different works of American fiction in a bid to bring out the issue of gender identity in the society.

Gender

Gender is regarded as a dynamic feature of social situations, and it is both a result of and basis for different societal arrangements. Further, gender is a means of legitimising among the most fundamental categories of the society. In the ancient times, gender was seen as a factor in differentiating between socialised approaches to femininity and biological sex and masculinity. Further, the issue of gender was regarded as achieved and somewhat stable after an individual acquires it in the early childhood. The modern constructionist point of view suggests the treatment of gender as an act of using normative beliefs and prescriptions sex categories on the grounds situational variables (Scott 2017, p.25). The perceived gender-based activities constitute the belonging of a people to given sex on the grounds of the socially acceptable dichotomy of the men and women. However, the activities are not always seen as feminine or masculine but are always at risk of being deemed as less manly or womanly. As a result, both men and women tend to struggle to fit into the societal connotations and dictates of the manner in which they are supposed to carry themselves and roles they should play in the community.

Gender Roles

The perceived roles that are accorded to different genders revolve around the concepts of masculinity or femininity. In the modern society, women are socially portrayed as caretakers at home where they raise up the children and conduct other household chores. On the other hand, men are seen as the providers where they toil to provide, protect, lead, and even teach the family that includes the wife and children (Crane 2012, p.27). Gender roles are acceptances and creations of social construction regarding the different functions assumed by people in a normal society. The modern gender order is hierarchical in the sense that men generally dominate over the women with regard to privilege and power. However, different and contradicting causes of oppression and power are entangled, and it is not all the men that govern over women (Crane 2012, p.27). The concept of inter-sectionality develops the knowledge regarding the manner in which gender associates with social class, ethnicity, race, and sexuality in uniquely contingent ways.

The stereotyped roles and constructionism of gender can be assessed through a certain setting. A particular patriarchy could turn an abstraction into a material reality. The reality is bargained into all the available interactions. For instance, on the grounds of a mockup debated in “Walk Like a Man, Talk Like a Woman,” there is the illustration of the community development of gender, providing that gender is supposed to be portrayed and perceived as a social structure, structure stratification, and dynamic process. Among the most authoritative perceptions that this mockup inspires is passing teachings from a constructionist view that needs trainers to question the notions through asking the learners to unpack the prerequisites of the sociological factor (Seidman, Fischer and Meeks 2016, p.74).

In Duncker’s novel, the Germanist is persistently perceived as possessing a “hard, bony body with scrawny arms.” Further, he is presented as one who is physically almost congruent to a pubescent boy, and this brings about the question of the narrator’s attraction to her as an ideal sample of femininity. In her first encounter with Michel as a kid, the latter mistakes her for a feminised boy who has a mop of brushed curls. In the end, Michel falls in love with the “boy” claiming that he had been deceived in her sex. Michel in the text says, “I had certainly been deceived in her sex” (Duncker 2017, p.25)

The aloofness and coldness of the Germanist, the adult female, fail to symbolise femininity. Further, her attitude towards sex with the narrator is shown where she assumes the male role and challenges the former’s expectations of a normal or ideal girlfriend. In the novel, the Germanist defies Michel’s definition and expectations of a girlfriend on the grounds of the general perception enforced by the larger society. She states that, “I left my womb at the bottom of the shaft” (Duncker 2017, p.26). The Germanist proves that a person can go beyond the community definition of individuality on the grounds of gender affiliations and expectations laid on a person by the society regarding the purported correct or ideal way of doing things.

Social constructionism

The foundations of societal constructionist aspect in the field of consciousness are associated with the censure of objectivity embraced by the pragmatist theories of knowledge. Among the commonest deviations of societal constructionism, approaches is the gender criticism concept. The philosophy is an extension of the feminist literary criticism. It goes beyond focusing on the women, rather it looks into the construction of sexuality and gender, more so the LGBTQ issues and then develops the queer theory. The gender criticism philosophy provides that power is not top-down or patriarchal, which is basically, a man dominating over a woman. Rather, power is never in a single direction, and it is multifaceted. For instance, in the 19th Century, women greatly argued and fought for the right to vote in the global society. At the same time, the white women were dominating and held power over the African Americans in the slavery system (Brown 2012, p.38).

In the same ancient times, the white women were portrayed as angelic and ideal. They were seen as angels in the house, and they could protect their male counterparts from the harsh world of commerce as portrayed in Coventry Patmore’s poem. However, it is clear that the idealised perception of the white women was incomplete at the time. From the diaries and different historical pieces of evidence, these women could experience sexual desires and treat people from the African American race harshly and be murderous at times. In this sense, identity is rich and complicated at the same time, and it involves more than gender alone (Poetry Foundation. 2018, p. 14). It is a product of different things such as sexuality geographical localities, race, age, and other factors. Identifying behaviour solely on the factor of gender is erroneous because people have various reactions to different stimuli despite their gender affiliations.

According to the gender criticism theory, it is clear that gender is a socially developed ideology and it is reflected in the cultural practices, educational, political, societal, religious, and economic institutions. Further, it is coded in the language that people use in the daily communication in the depiction of people of different genders and status in the society (Modleski 2014, p.91). Gender criticism looks into the manner in which gender is placed between the perceptions of essentialism. It is a suggestion that women are fundamentally and naturally different from the men on the grounds of their biological sex.

Further, the notion provides that heterosexual identities are different from biological heteronormative differentiation between the males and females. Further, the criticism assesses how gender is caught between essentialism and constructionism. The latter is a perception that gender is not based on biological nature nor is it essentialist but rather developed through a people’s cultural ways of doing things. Different theorists come up with varying ideas and points of view regarding the issues (Modleski 2014, p.91). The bottom line is that gender identity is a controversial issue and the society have constructed in a way that different people believe that they have to behave in certain ways on the basis of their gender.

Duncker in her work “Hallucinating Foucault” brings about a difficulty through comparing the Germanist’s physical appearance to that of an owl. It is the art of symbolism which becomes instrumental at the end of the narrative where Michel’s death is caused by an owl. The narrative confirms the futility of Michel’s life because the desire of the Germanist for him remains unfulfilled with her being a heterosexual female. As a homosexual male, he has to die and halt her desires for him in spite of her trials to fulfil the longing vicariously through her boyfriend. In this sense, the Germanist’s desire is portrayed as precarious to Michel who eventually dies and the narrator experiences a traumatic loss of love and object of desire (Duncker 2017, p.24). In the narrative, the social construction of gender performativity is complex as there is a shortage of female characters. The Germanist remains the central figure to charaterisation and presentation of the untypical femininity of her gender performance.

Gender identity and sexual orientation

Gender identity is an unstable factor and a socially developed one, and it varies over time for a person. In the context of early childhood, kids aspire to be like other people of their individual sexual orientation. Sexual conformity among the adolescents is broadly covered, and it suggests that 6-year-old infants are likely to concur with choices made by their peers. They often start labelling different objects in the grounds of “for boys” and “for girls” and conform to the perspectives expected of them. The perception of femininity or womanhood is achieved through a proactive aspect of developing gender by networking with other people in a communal context. The typical society acknowledges two genders of people only, and hence when transgender people prefer to have sex alteration operation, they have to verify that they qualify either as a male or a female (Chalabaev et al. 2013, p.138). They have to be identified with the existing genders that are established through the social perspectives of the ideal human.

Sexual and gender identities are fluid and fall into the essentialist classes; gay or straight and man or woman. The perception of people’s sexuality comes as an extension of the society’s perception of an individual’s gender. Heterosexuality is deemed to be embraced by the people who seem to act appropriately either in the masculine or feminine aspect (Galupo et al. 2014, p.437). For instance, if a person is to be identified as a lesbian, it is essential that she is first seen as a woman. On the other hand, gays have to be seen as men for them to qualify to fit in that particular category of their preferred sexual orientation.

In Duncker’s narrative, the Germanist lacked a mother but had two “father figures” and have perfectly adapted and become contented with the situation. It hence implies that there is a rejection of female and biological gender roles that are supposed to be executed by the mother. In the relationship with her father, the Germanist relapses into “girlish” behaviours. The narrator’s flatmate appears to be intimidated and uneasy in the company of the Germanist. Such case arises due to the Germanist’s lack of coherence with her gender behaviour as a typical girl that are to fit into the stereotypical expectations of the female gender (Duncker 2017, p.26). At this point, the narrator is gendered as a female; hence the flat mate’s unease can be explained as sexual jealousy towards the lesbian association between her and the Germanist. The narrative at this point brings about the issue of sexual orientation where the Germanist and narrator’s lesbian relationship is being envied, yet the society portrays heterosexuality as the ideal practice. In this sense, sexual orientations and preferences are also creations of the larger societal and cultural beliefs.

Core gender identity

The logic of a person’s gender individuality is obtained via the internalisation of exterior pieces of information. However, it is not ever absolutely attained and has to be persistently reenacted and executed in the communal relations. Gender is deemed as a part of an identity which is woven from a specific and complex societal context and requires local and particular readings. For this reason; gender affiliation can be seen as a part of communally positioned comprehension of the sexual orientation of people in the society. The term “gender identity” provides for people to express their approaches towards and stance in association to the prevalent statuses of both the men and women (Kuper, Nussbaum and Mustanski 2012, p.249). Shifting the latitude of gender identity from the societal accord to detachment and self-association with a given gender appearance allows added space for the description and disparity amongst people with regard to sexuality.

Association between gender identity and other forms of identity

The manner in which gender is developed and defined for a person relies on the gendered interactions the individual enjoys with other people and other identities or roles one takes. Class, race, gender, and other oppression are probable relevant categories. However, they are not all identically significant in all sets of societal associations where inequity is prevalent. Various oppressions are not deemed as coming with multiplicative or additive impacts but are perceived to be depending on one another to develop a distinct form of oppression at the same time (Collier et al. 2012, p.312). The intersections between social identities are consistent interactional achievements. Both the females and males are deemed responsible for the normative aspects of gender. However, such responsibility is likely to differ with regard to content founded on class, race, ethnicity, age, and other similar factors.

Women of color and their white counterparts tend to experience gender differently since. Both of the groups’ association with males of various races tend to be unique in a collective setting since, in their respective traditions, they authenticate masculine influence in diverse ways. Some of the women of colour are usually subordinated to the factors of rejection, or the denial of patriarchal solicitation to privilege (Lindsey 2015, p.52). For example, some of the white males perceive women of colour as sexual objects and casual labourers. In this sense, there is the creation of an opportunity for the men to exercise their power and sexual aggression towards these women. The men engage in such motives without the emotive that they are likely to have with the white females. The white women are seen to be responsible for their individual and collective gendered display as culturally submissive to their macho colleagues. On the other hand, ladies of colour could be held responsible for their gendered performances as sex tools, bawdy, and intractable women in their associations with the white men (Lindsey 2015, p.52).

Gender as achievement

Gender goes beyond the description of an individual, it involves the activities in which a person engages, and it is portrayed in the social interactions. Gender is an achievement with regard to managing a situated behaviour in the context of normative approaches of activities and attitudes that are suitable for the sex category of an individual. For the performance of gender to materialise, it is unnecessary for people to be mixed in gender-based discourses. The formation of gender identity takes place with other functions, but it is also performed solely in the context of the imaginary presence of other people. Developing gender identity is more than merely concurring with the stereotypical roles played by the males and females as dictated by the society. Rather, it involves active engagement in any form of behaviour which is gendered or conducts which could be assessed as gendered. Gender performance depends on the space, social interactions, space, and other similar factors. The representation of roles of gender depends on a given context where they are deemed as “situated identities” rather than “master identities.” The knowledge of sociology must firstly associate itself with what the people regard as reality in their modern ways of doing things.

Gender performances tend to normalise the essentialism o sex classes. By developing gender identities, there is the reinforcement of the essential classes of gender by emphasising the fact that there only two categories which tend to be reciprocally limited. The notion that males and womenfolk are fundamentally distinct is the factor that makes both parties behave in ways which tend to be different in behaviour. Sex categorisation is founded on biotic sex, but it is seen as a grouping through the communally developed presentations of gender affiliations. Further, different institutions ten to develop normative concepts regarding gender. In this context, gender is developed and maintained at the same time as a procedure and product, medium and result of different power relationships (Fenstermaker and West 2013, p.58). Hegemonic masculinity comes with a standard of acceptable conduct for men and is also a product of the behaviour of the males, and this can be concluded for any form of identity in different contexts.

Responsibility

People tend to hold themselves and one another accountable for their individual and collective representations of gender. In the society, people are aware of the fact that other individuals could assess and characterise their behaviour on the grounds of their gender affiliation. Accountability can potentially apply to different behaviours which conform to the cultural concepts and the conducts that deviate. Gender is deemed to be highly relevant in certain circumstances. For example, when a lady ventures in a career field which is dominated by the males, the question of gender arises in the context of suitability with the career in question. However, gender groups also tend to be significant in settings where it is less obvious (McBride and Parry 2016, p.63). For example, gender is likely to be maintained before a woman engages in a male-dominated group through the approaches of masculinity.

Accountability is deemed as interactional since it does not take place only within a person. Further, it is institutional since people could be thought responsible for their conduct by institutes or by other people in societal stakeholders such as members of different communal discourses of people. Such a perception of responsibility renders gender dynamic. The factors considered as suitable behaviour for both the men and women are reproduced and change over time, relying on the setting in question (McBride and Parry 2016, p.63). Gender is developed in various ways among different discourses of people including different racial affiliations and education levels.

Sex category

Sex is defined as a determination which is developed through the application of societal biological criteria for the categorisation of people as males or females. The basis for the sorting can be founded on genitalia during delivery or the chromosomal categorisation before birth. The distinction between sex and gender came up in the late 1970s when researchers used the terms separately. In their studies, gender referred to a person’s self-identity while sex referred to a person’s sexual organs and chromosomal makeup. The binary of female and male excludes all the people who fail to fit into the mentioned classes on the grounds of genital composition, hormone levels or chromosomes. In essence, sex category is accomplished through the application of sex criteria (Lorber 2014, p.99). However, in the everyday function of the people, categorisation is founded on the socially required identification displays which proclaim the membership of a person in the different categories. Sex category is applied to an individual in their daily lives through the commonly acknowledged cues which do not essentially fulfill the biological criterion of sex.

Gender performance

In elaborating on gender performativity, Butler looks into a performative utterance to apply it in explaining the manner in which gender works. According to Butler, gender is a factor which is made by doing. In this sense, it comes into existence because it is done in a particular way. For instance, when women put on skirts, the pieces of clothing are deemed feminine. Such kind of feminisation does not take place since women wear skirts naturally or because male autonomy is seen when the skirts are worn. It takes place because the female body has been placed in a certain social category that accords it the power to assign its prescribed meaning to the things it subscribes (Butler 1988, p.519). For this reason; when a woman puts on a skirt, it is marked as feminine.

Another example is when a woman waits or allows a man to open a door for her; it is seen as a feminine kind of conduct. Such behaviours marked in such a way are actualised as symbols of or components of the larger discourse of femininity. However, these factors are made symbols of the feminine category via a body that passes on the larger categorical meaning to the things it achieves. The behaviours are assimilated as a compulsive and integral part of the categorical meaning and turn into a conglomerate of the category in question. Gender performance is acquired unconsciously and consciously on the mind of a person, who could be unaware of performing gender roles. The same individuals could be accepting gender identity given to them by their behaviour or performance that is repeated and interpreted within the gender relations discourse in a social and cultural setting (Skrla 2010, p.300). Performativity is supposed to be comprehended as a citation and reiterative practice through which discourses enforce on the behaviour of people in the larger society.

Butler applies post structuralism approaches and uses a feminist point of view in the exploration and theorisation of female and male gender roles. The scholar asserts that gender identity is developed and is an effective type of performance or reiterated “acting out” of the meaning of being male or female. The concept of gender performance means that individuals are tied into static roles which are socially and culturally defined as fit for males and females. The idea of normal gender roles is portrayed to be restrictive in Butler’s work. The argument is that a person’s gender performance or behaviour can have contradicting aspects which cause instability in his or her typical conduct. The ideology of a “true gender” is complex since the qualities or definitions of gender are part of a broad narrative which reinforce expectations and stereotypes of the implications of being female and male (Evans, Davies and Penney 2016, p.171). The words, desires, acts, and gestures of a person tend to be performative. The principle of affiliation that they claim to exhibit result to be creations constructed and maintained by discursive means and corporeal signs.

Gender performativity can be measured by the perception that all the roles are products of constructions and they are performances played out by individuals, later refuted or embraced by the larger society. The performances reenact and use the definition of being male or female gendered and identities which are supported by the reiteration of gender-based behaviours. The performance of gender role is recurrent, and hence it develops into the recognisable conduct of the gender in question as a part of the broader society. Further, Butler develops the concern for the authenticity of gender performances which are possible to change, become exaggerated, and fictional in the long run. However, they are integrated into broad cultural and societal contexts as being universal and natural as legitimate and true gender roles. Performances can be recurrent and reenacted by different people, and this means that they tend to become powerful and acknowledgeable code of conduct with the recognisable qualities deemed fit for a certain gender.

In Patricia Duncker’s work, “Hallucinating Foucault,” there is a clear presentation of the concept of gender performativity. It is eighteen pages into the book that there is a reference to the gender of the narrator. The scene identifies the narrator as a male in the debate of whether he should put on the phallic indication of clothing. In the novel, the character of the Germanist and the association with the narrator provides for the readers to view the narrator as a female or associate of a lesbian relationship (Duncker 2017, p.26). There are different instances regarding gender performativity which question the role and feature of gender identity in the characterisation of the Germanist, the narrator, and Michel.

From the presentation in the novel, the key ideas regarding gender performativity and homosexuality can be viewed as subcultures of the main ways of doing things adopted by the larger society. Although Michel is portrayed as ‘beautiful’ in the youthful days, he is not willing to spearhead the establishment of a gay movement despite him being homosexual. He embraced the part played by a sexual outlaw, pervert, and being on his thought patterns despite the views of other people and institutions. For Michel, homosexuality is a space designed for rebellion, and it is in his interest to oppose the institutionalisation of the practice. In the text, Michel claims that “he cherished the role of the sexual outlaw, monster, pervert” (Duncker 2017, p.28). The presentation is similar to that of Butler who expresses unease regarding the restrictiveness of gay freedom as an autonomous movement.

The female character portrayed by the Germanist in the novel is a significant facilitating factor to the other characters, the plot, and is important to the gender performativity in the book. She appears to be the only conspicuous female character and not sympathetic which is often associated with the females in the society. In this regard, it is difficult to understand and empathise with this character of a person. The gender performativity complications of the Germanist are shown in different variables of expectation of her. Expectations come because she is the lead female character, but they do not materialise in the course of the narrative. In naming the character the “Germanist,” the author symbolises the coldness and harshness that she shows towards other characters in the narrative. Coldness is manifested in the cold relationship that is developed between the Germanist and the readers as well as with the narrator with whom she has an uncharacteristic love concern. The narrator abandons the heterosexual association that he is engaged in with the Germanist (Duncker 2017, p.28). He travels south in a bid to have an experience of intense emotions and love in the homosexual association with Michel.

In the novel, fluidity and duality of sexuality are seen through the complex affections embraced by the Germanist. She is presented as a heterosexual woman who is in love with a man who happens to be homosexual. The man had initially fallen in love with the Germanist when she was a ‘boy-like’ kid. Upon developing into an adult, the Germanist manipulates her heterosexual partner to engage in a love relationship with the homosexual object of desire. The narrator goes ahead to destabilise the part played by the heterosexual man through engaging in a homosexual association with Michel. The author presents the desire of Michel as being of paramount importance where there is a portrayal of neutrality regarding his sexual affiliations (Duncker 2017, p.28).

The resulting impediments of interwoven associations are developed by the Germanist. However, on another level, they can be seen as a fervent ‘love story’ since she has been in love with Michel since childhood. Further, she can solely consummate and express the love physically by sending him her boyfriend. The Germanist makes comments to the narrator regarding rescuing her love. Her sentiments are reiterated by Michel when he tells the narrator regarding the Germanist statement to him as a child. From the American fiction portrayal of gender identity, it is clear that it is a socially constructed phenomenon (Duncker 2017, p.30). Without the societal discourses guiding the sexuality affiliations and genders of the people, it could be impossible to have the well-defined gender roles as they are currently defining in the modern global community.

Conclusion

The social construction of gender is all about the definition and shape accorded to male and female members of society with regard to the manner in which they assume roles and behaviours. Gender roles are associated with the social and cultural beliefs that define the manner in which men and women are supposed to carry themselves. The society develops the way people of different genders in the community should treat each other where from time immemorial men and women take various responsibilities and assume distinct codes of conduct. However, beyond the biology of one being born either male or female, the society has come up with distinct connotations that create gender with reference to different aspects. People engage in acts and behaviours associated with their gender affiliations because they found the society engages in such practices. Further, sexual orientation is also a construction of the society where being gay or straight is not an inherent characteristic of humans. These traits are developed over time and learned from the larger community before being instilled in individuals. The paper alludes to different works that fall into the category of American fiction in the depiction of gender identity in the society. The novels cited present a clear picture of the manner in which both men and women are showcased in typical society.

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