The norms of society as a whole are rather complicated, but two important components should be highlighted. The first is that they may serve as a guide for how people are expected to behave in our own communities. They assist in understanding what is morally and ethically good and wrong, as well as how to be a civilized citizen in a given time and place. In contrast, the second component presents a harsher reality than the first. In addition to functioning as guidelines, norms may be weaponized and used against members of nonnormative societies. This creates a systemic prejudice and inequality that is difficult to escape and manage for individuals (Barker & Jane, 2016). Even with the recognition and awareness that gender and race are social construction without biological meaning, they continue to have great influence over people since few are in positions of authority to influence or modify the rules.
The formation of gender and sex is a social innovation that has the capacity to damage others. It is essential first to describe each of these terms to illustrate their distinctions since it is usual for some individuals to conflate them despite their distinct meanings. Sex refers to a collection of biological characteristics, such as genitalia, genetics, hormones, and chromosomes, that are present in all humans (Barker & Jane, 2016). These characteristics are used to identify whether a person is biologically a female or male at birth based on their differences and overall composition. Gender, on the other hand, refers to the socially created roles, behaviors, expressions, and identities associated with the female and male genders.
Gender is flexible and may alter based on an individual’s identity; hence, they are not the only two genders that exist. A person’s gender may be determined by their biological sex or their reaction to their surroundings, including family relationships, media exposure, and peer pressure. These positions may differ from culture to culture and are also vulnerable to change throughout time. It is crucial to comprehend the distinctions between sex and gender since one is a biological characteristic. Similarly, the other is a social innovation that has the ability to influence the fundamental structure of a person’s existence.
The development and enforcement of gender in society have generated enduringly distinct social statuses for the allocation of rights and obligations to all members of a community. Due to the unequal categorization of various statuses, gender has become a fundamental component of societal institutions that maintain inequality (Barker & Jane, 2016). This may be seen via the disparities between women and men and how they put importance on different activities. In a gender-segregated culture, for instance, what males do is often regarded more highly than what women do because men do it, even though their actions are comparable or identical (Lorber, 1994). For instance, when males are ambitious and solely focused on work rather than family, they are seen as successful hard workers since their given gender role is breadwinner. In society, a man’s success is assessed by his ability to work successfully, support his family financially, and reinforce other given male characteristics.
A woman’s duty is to be a nurturing and mothering figure at home, not in the office. In contrast, a woman who prioritizes her success at work above her family is not seen in this manner. The success of a woman in society is determined by her capacity to bear children, establish a family, and manage a home. Although these concepts are outmoded and have evolved through time, as women are now present in the workplace and males are no longer expected to be the only breadwinners of a home, guilt and repercussions persist for those who deviate from their assigned gendered roles. To prevent this, people assume a type of responsibility for their gender and act in a manner that is particularly unremarkable and so unworthy of more than a passing comment, since they are seen to be in accordance with culturally accepted norms (West & Zimmerman, 1987). Therefore, one may be aware that gender is a social construct, yet nonetheless, adhere to it in order to avoid the repercussions and pain that might result from conforming to societal expectations. Awareness exists, but so do gendered performance and the trauma that society inflicts on people.
The concept of race is the second social construction that causes damage to others. The concept of race encompasses the socially created idea that humans may be split into physiologically different and exclusive groups based on physical and cultural characteristics (Barker & Jane, 2016). Despite the seeming simplicity of this explanation of race, it is really rather harmful since it is inextricably related to the concepts of white supremacy that crystallized during the colonization of the Americas and the enslavement of African Americans. Race may masquerade as a contemporary notion. However, it is the result of colonial interactions that present system of prejudice against individuals who are not white was developed and continually maintained. Throughout history, it has become obvious that racial classifications were the product of pseudoscience, which was used to rationalize racism. These categories are still used in damaging mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual ways today.
Individual acts of prejudice, such as the use of racial insults and the commission of hate crimes, are widespread in the United States. The usage of microaggressions—daily, common insults and racial slights has had a significant impact on the overall well-being of people of color since these acts of racism have become regular and unavoidable in our culture (Golash-Boza, 2016). When these racist beliefs and behaviors become commonplace, they become dangerous and out of control. They become hegemonic, few challenge them and the social inequalities persist as they protect them with personal autonomy and authority (Golash-Boza, 2016). Given that this is the case, being aware that race and racism are social creations has little influence, particularly for individuals of color.
The reason is that these conventions are a product of white people, a group that has not only consistently maintained power but also developed certain standards and impediments for minorities. It is difficult to escape the harm that racism does. There has been some development over the years, so it is not impossible, but there is still a long way to go until the race is no longer a barrier for people. Through the research on gender, sexuality, and race, it is obvious that some social constructions may be harmful to people who belong to society’s discounted and nonnormative groups.
In conclusion, gender confines people since they are assigned roles and identities from birth, while race defines a person’s worth in society based on skin color. Both may be harmful to a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health since these limits are severe and carry deadly penalties for those who dare to deviate from the accepted norm. This does not imply, however, that these structures are wholly permanent or unchangeable. Norms are, by definition, prone to change as societies and people develop and mature. As individuals become more conscious that gender, sex, and race are social creations, it may become easier to abandon these detrimental notions to establish a more positive and varied society that does not exist at the cost of others.
Barker, C. & E. A., Jane. (2016). Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. SAGE Publications.
Golash-Boza, T. (2016). A Critical and Comprehensive Sociological Theory of Race and Racism. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 2(2), 129–141.
Lorber, J. (1994). Paradoxes of Gender. Yale University Press.
West, C., & Zimmerman, D. (1987). Doing Gender. Gender and Society, 1(2), 125-151.