Gender and Sexuality, as Social Constructs

Introduction

The problem of gender inequality is a huge topic for discussion today. It is important to draw attention to this problem. Gender equality is a concept which implies equality of rights between men and women. However, what our society faces right now can only be described as gender inequality. Dill and Zambrana state that “inequality and oppression are deeply woven into the tapestry of American history” (16). This means that it will be hard to forget years of oppression, which strongly affect people’s opinions on this problem. Separating gender from sex and recognizing that these two are not perfectly correlated was a significant advancement in sociology. Gender differences are often emphasized in our society, and parents should be careful with how they raise their children. Girls have to face day-to-day limitations on what they can and cannot do. They often have to accept those limitations created by society during puberty because their confidence in themselves is reduced. This concept is demonstrated in the online video clip “Always #LikeAGirl – Unstoppable.” It is sufficient to analyze the daily life of a modern man or a woman to understand how much our behavior is dictated by gender roles. Gender stereotypes have a huge influence on society and relationships. However, we live in an era when men are more actively involved in family life and women are more active in public. Modern society, formed by millennia of patriarchy, expects everyone to follow established rules and behavioral norms. This situation is further aggravated by the fact that both genders are currently pressured by their respective gender roles. Gender roles are not stable. In addition, it is hard to meet set standards for masculinity and femininity, which affects people’s perception of themselves. Speaking of perception of oneself, social identity is an interesting topic for discussion. Identity is one of the main themes of modern social studies (Jenkins 29). This topic is still not thoroughly researched and there are still many questions left to be answered. Social statuses and roles are learned by each person while they are growing up, and perception of oneself is affected by television and an environment. It is important for one to have an understanding of his social identity to properly function as an individual. However, it is hard for some people to understand and accept their social identity, which could lead to problems with the people that surround them.

Main body

Some believe that there is a set of psychological characteristics that both men and women should have. However, it has been proven that those characteristics are not gender-related. Society should not expect everyone to behave in a particular way, and gender roles should not be forced. Gender problems are further complicated by differences between nationalities. It is important to accept the diversity and uniqueness of people in a multicultural reality. According to statistics, the average man is indeed stronger than the average woman. However, that is not a good enough reason to not allow women to participate in some activities.

It is a well-known fact that gender differences are often exaggerated. However, society still accepts gender stereotypes. Ritzer states that “much of advertising and marketing is targeted at either women or men” (345). This means that products for men and women are often segregated. Household cleaning products are advertised exclusively for women, which many find extremely offensive. Women nowadays are more capable of buying products for themselves. Men and women are treated differently in workplaces because men are considered to be better workers and are paid more compared to women, which is extremely outdated considering the fact that gender does not affect work at all. Women are discriminated against even by their surroundings. Gender roles during the war are dramatically different. The main argument of those who oppose feminism is that women do not have to participate in military conflicts. This point cannot be ignored because men indeed have to risk their lives while defending the country. However, women also have to face difficult challenges during a war. Ritzer claims that “several changes have made it more likely that women will be the victims of international violence” (356). This means that they are more likely to be victims during terrorist attacks, and it cannot be overlooked that civilians are often taken as hostages with no ways of defending themselves. Nowadays existing standards and norms are being revised. Gender roles are getting blurry, women are independent, and they are not satisfied with being just housewives. There used to be huge discrimination against female competitors. Females were considered inferior to men in sports because they simply were not allowed to compete. Nowadays there are no limitations for women, they can participate in all kinds of sports and there are even rumors about a gender-free sport. Men around the world generally have higher status and influence than women. However, it is not the same for different cultures. There are different opinions on why there are differences between genders. Some believe that those differences are formed naturally, while some claim that it is a result of history. For example, status or woman used to be relatively equal to the status of men in non-Muslim African countries until they were colonized. Studies on gender inequalities have impacted people’s perception of this problem (Rahman and Jackson 13). Today this issue is understood better. The reasoning for the inequality of genders in modern society is outdated, which is acknowledged by sociologists. Currently, there are numerous movements that fight for the equality of genders, and they are quite successful.

Feminism can be considered a political movement. Ritzer states that “it has focused on issues such as reproductive rights, labor issues, and sexual harassment” (357). This means that the goal of feminism is to provide women with a full range of civil rights. The women’s movement in the ’70s was without a doubt the most important movement in the second half of the XX century. The second wave of feminism was backed up in 1949 by one of the major books about women’s issues, “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir. The book is filled with the interesting biological and historical background of the economic and social mechanisms of oppression of women, and it also criticized the prevailing philosophies: Marxism, psychoanalysis, and capitalism. In the last part of the book, de Beauvoir formulated ideas, which have led women to make history. Now women have access to all of the spheres of social life and begin to enter so-called “spheres of men”. However, these rights are not granted and they need to be defended by feminists every single day. Right for abortion is one of the important topics of discussion and consensus still has not been reached. Modern women still face some of the old problems and new ones begin to appear. Women of today work on an equal basis with men. However, men are still not ready to take over half of the household duties. A problem of domestic and sexual violence still exists. It humiliates both women and children and does not let them feel safe in their own homes. The harm of sexual violence is downplayed or even disregarded. Prostitution is promoted and pornography is widely spread, which leads to changes in the sexuality of men. Consequently, feminists still have a lot of work to do, even though they are often criticized. This happens because most men are against feminism, but they like to talk about it. Men think that they have damaged the psychology of women by making them their slaves in the past. Ritzer claims that “women throughout the world have not only been involved in the global women’s movement but have also responded at local and regional levels to common problems” (357). This means that feminism is a strong and powerful force in modern society. Sandra Bem, a famous feminist, has developed the concept of androgyny. Androgyny means that every human regardless of gender may have both masculine and feminine characteristics, combining traditionally men and women qualities. There are no set men or women roles, and every human performs a number of different roles (daughter, mother, etc.).

Some countries are more active when it comes to solving this problem. For example, Australia has officially recognized the existence of neutral third gender. There are about 6 million people living outside the set gender system in just India. Gender roles cannot be disregarded right away; it is a slow and steady process. Many governments try to solve this problem by de-emphasizing gender differences in schools. However, there are discussions about the abnormal behavior of children, caused either by hormonal changes or by the fact that they are being raised outside of gender roles. This subject matter is studied by biologists, psychologists, and sociologists. Gender norms have often changed in the past and will continue changing in the future. Even though there are numerous changes happening to gender roles in the world right now, most of the population still acknowledges only two gender roles, those of a man and a woman.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are still huge obstacles to the achievement of gender equality. Small progress is being made every day with the help of feminists and other movements, and organizations. Gender equality is extremely important for modern society. Rahman and Jackson claim that “issues around sexuality and gender cannot be understood as merely personal and private since they raise key sociological questions about the connection between structure, culture, the self and identity” (5). This means that the problem of gender inequality is a global issue, which should be solved worldwide. Most developed countries are ready to accept gender equality. However, it all comes down to differences in cultures and traditions. It may be hard to comprehend such thing as equality of genders for citizens of some countries. It happens because there is a lack of information about gender equality and feminism in those countries, which should be corrected.

Works Cited

Always. “Always #LikeAGirl – Unstoppable.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 2015. Web.

Dill, Bonnie Thornton, and Ruth E Zambrana. Emerging Intersections : Race, Class, and Gender in Theory, Policy, and Practice. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2009. Print.

Jenkins, Richard. Social Identity. London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 2014. Print.

Rahman, Mormin, and Stevi Jackson. Gender and Sexuality. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Polity, 2010. Print.

Ritzer, George F. Introduction to Sociology. 2nd ed. 2014. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. Print.