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Social Construction of Gender - Admission/Application Essay Example

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Social Construction of Gender Question 1. Since the period of the Enlightenment when Western societies began to investigate the world using scientific methods, there has been a fascination with the biology of the human body. A preoccupation with natural sciences has led to people thinking of gender mainly in this way…
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Download file to see previous pages The sociological perspective illuminates also the way children are conditioned by everything around them to adopt a masculine or feminine persona, starting with their name, and continuing with their clothing, toys, and the expectation of different behaviors in boys and girls. Scientific analysis reveals that “The link between biology and human life is highly mediated by social and cultural values” (Anderson and Witham, 2001, p. 23). It was interesting to learn that males and females have more common traits than dimorphic traits which in turn raises questions about the way society privileges the male gender with better access to highly paid jobs, more power in society and a status as the norm, while women are seen as the second, lower status category. I feel that I have learned a great deal about the way society defines gender, and constrains people within certain definitions but so far I do not feel that I have learned so much about what can or should be done about this. Changing these basic values and assumptions would be very difficult, and although some progress is evident in the way modern society operates, there are still major areas for improvement. Question 2. The readings are very useful because they give a broader perspective than any one person can have simply from his or her own personal experience. Kimmel’s work on masculinity explains the subtle pressures that boys are under, and it was interesting to think through the consequences of continuous evaluation by other males. This explains why men in American and other Western societies are so competitive, and why violence is tolerated and even encouraged in areas like sports and gang behavior. Peer pressure is a significant factor in prolonging out-dated stereotypes, and some of the media, such as pop music and videos, present a very sexist and hierarchical image of masculinity, with swearing and disrespectful names for women such as “bitch”. The further pressure brought by fear of appearing to be homosexual explains the exaggerated boasting and masculine behavior that men often display when they are alone among themselves. It had not occurred to me before that they often put down women to impress other men, rather than out of any particular dislike or disrespect for women. This explains why men are often more sexist in public than they are at home, and it proves that the way gender is expressed depends on social factors. Another dimension that Kimmel elaborates well is that between manhood and power: “Feminist women have theorized that masculinity is about the drive for domination, the drive for power, for conquest.” (Kimmel, 1994, p. 136) There is a mis-match between the way that men and women understand masculine power, since women struggle against collective masculine power, while men perceive themselves as powerless, and compete against other men. Once again this nuance is helpful to women in understanding masculinity. The reading about Latina women highlighted also that there are cultural differences in the way that gender is passed on to children. The pressure on women to present a particular kind of appearance is in fact culturally defined, so that height, weight and to some extent also behavior in the family and in society at large, are features which are valued differently in different social contexts. The fact ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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