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Gender is a Social Structure

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    “Gender justice” isn’t a catchy phrase you would want to scream out loud throughout an equality protest in the street of a big city. It’s a human right. Therefore, society is expected that men and women should be treated equally on social, economic and political levels… But this is clearly not in the order of the day as we see unequal gender rolls daily around us, like pollen distributed in air-currents during spring. Children are infected and indoctrinated to what masculinity and femininity is and how it should look. We must now look at gender in a social construct in different ways than it has been seen a few hundred years ago. (Connell, 2005)

    We must then broaden our “angle of vision” according to Connell, (Connell, 2005) and that we should analyse gender relation perceptions. Gender can be defined as “the way masculinity and femininity are defined in society.” Sex on the other hand is characterized as “biological, as well as physical differences between a man and a woman’s bodies.” (Connell, 2005) In simpler terms: Gender is what goes on in your head and sex is what goes on in your pants. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote in her book that “Boys and girls are undeniably different biologically, but socialization exaggerates the differences and then starts a self-fulfilling process.” (Adichie, 2014) Connell argued that “gender is a way in which social practice is ordered. “In gender processes, the everyday conduct of life is organised in relation to a reproductive area, defined by the bodily structures and processes of human reproduction.” (Adichie, 2014) She also stated that the social practice is also made up out of arousal, childbirth intercourse and infant care. In other words that people are classified and tied down to how and what their bodies can do and is connected to a gender in that way in the form of the reproductive abilities.

    Gender in social structure has been built upon throughout the ages as it started in early modern Europe in the 18th century as Connell also researched. Back then, women were already seen as different from men, and it was socially expected from them to be inferior to men. She also argues that “we need at least a threefold model of structure of gender.” She describes these relations as Power relations – A concept that originated in European as well as American gender orders (note that these are countries of the Global North – but that is an argument for another day) that leads to the general idea that males are dominant and women submissive towards them. This is also how Patriarchy developed. Production – By means of gender divisions in labour and unequal wages. And lastly Cathexis – how emotional attachments are made like homosexual or/and heterosexual desire. (Connell, 2005) This is how the seed was planted of gender expectations and various aspects thereof sprouted. Socially constructed gender is one of the saplings that grew rapidly thereafter.

    Women are thus socially challenged by men to such a large extent. Society uses secondary sex characteristics to distinguish one sex from another. Gender idealisations are the created and the image of “perfection” is the goal. Which means exaggerated characteristics that are almost impossible to meet, for example a woman’s waistline that should be: 24 in, hips: 36 in, waist between 27 – 31in with 40 in hips. This is an example of how women are expected to be; act; speak; talk; behave and look, but this secret list is never-ending in the society. Another example is that a woman is expected to dress modestly for other women because if she doesn’t, she is called a ‘slut’ and slut shaming is created. But at the same time, women are expected to dress provocatively towards men to show more “assets.” (Baumgartner, 2019) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie also spoke about her experience as a woman in Legos and argued that: “We spend too much time teaching girls to worry about what boys think of them. But the reverse is not the case. We don’t teach boys to care about being likeable. We spend too much time telling girls that they cannot be angry or aggressive or tough, which is bad enough, but then we turn around and either praise or excuse men for the same reasons. All over the world, there are so many magazine articles and books telling women what to do, how to be and not to be, to attract or please men. There are far fewer guides for men about pleasing women.” (Adichie, 2014) This brings the topic of masculinity as part of a social structure.

    Masculinity is seen as “the qualities or attributes seen from a stereotypical man”, or how Connell describes it as “how men ought to be” if a man was a “blueprint” carved by society. She calls the term “the place of symbolic authority” and that is commonly seen from a cultural stand point. And yes, there are several relations amid masculinities that stared to exist due to interplay between class as well as race and gender. It is also then how practises and relations are constructed as patterns of masculinity. Namely hegemony, complicity and marginalisation. Hegemony which is the “configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy which guarantees the dominant position and the subordination of women” (Connell, 2005) In simpler terms, it’s the top of the food chain (or society chain if it may be stated as so). They fit into Connell’s “blueprint” of the ‘perfect’ (heterosexual) man mentioned earlier in this essay. Subordination can be described as homosexual men that are submissive towards straight men. They are at the bottom of the food(/society) chain in a man’s world as this group is easily connected to femininity. Complicity is the last of the three relations amid masculinities Connell groups as. She defines this group as treated as “slacker versions of hegemonic masculinity” This groups simply can not conform to the benefits of hegemonic masculinity due to factors such as class and disability. Ratene has a difficult argument on Hegemonic African Masculinity and states that homophobia (prejudice against homosexual people.) and gender-based violence contributes to the construction of hegemonic masculinity (Ratene, 2014)

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    Gender is a Social Structure. (2021, Dec 16). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/gender-is-a-social-structure/

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