How does society construct sex and gender?

Society constructs sex and gender through clothing, media, politics, the medical establishment, and an array of institutions and other factors.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Society constructs sex and gender in countless complicated ways. One way to start to unpack this fraught relationship is to think about how society constructs sex and gender as two different entities, with sex as a biological given and gender as a societal invention. For some queer theorists, such a separation is problematic. The differentiation is itself a construction. It fails to account for the fact that biology and science take place within society and thus can’t be separated from its conventions and norms. One cannot examine sex without gender because the two are entwined.

Another path to unpacking society’s construction of gender and sex is via clothes. Consider how people, whether intentional or not, construct their gender (and, perforce, their sex) everyday by getting dressed. A person in a dress who was assigned male at birth might be perceived differently than a person in a dress who was assigned female birth. Such perceptions are not the result of some natural development like sunlight but the constructs of a given society. One assesses gender and sex according to the messages that one’s society creates about gender and sex and then promulgates through media, education, politics, religion, and so on.

As gender and sex are constructs, they are liable to change. In the past years, Israel has altered its construction of gender and sex. It’s gone from marginalizing LGBTQ+ persons to publicly embracing them. Israel’s key ally, the United States, has also altered its construction of gender and sex recently, especially as it pertains to military policy. Now, women can compete for all combat roles while gay people and trans people can serve openly.

Some LGBTQ+ persons have tried to counter these constructions. They don’t want their gender identity to be shaped in a way that lends support to policies that they find abhorrent. Whatever one’s angle or view, the Israel and United States examples illustrate how the politics of a country also contributes to their society’s construction of sex and gender.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial