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Gender Construction

What is the definition of Gender Construction and what is it all about?

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In sociology, "gender" is the term used to describe what it means to be feminine or masculine. This is very different from "sex"; that is, the biological differences between a man and a woman. While men and women do have clear differences, gender refers to the cultural differences between the two. The idea that women are more caring than men, for instance, or that men watch more sports than women, are just some examples.

Because gender is not based on biology, sociologists says that gender is socially constructed. In other words, ideas about gender are developed and transmitted through the various institutions of our society, like the home and school. To take the example of the home, sociologists argue that being masculine or feminine starts at birth when individuals undergo the process of socialization. According to the sociologist, Barrie Thorne, parents treats their baby sons and daughters very differently. Boys are generally dressed in blue, for example, while girls are dressed in pink. They also receive and play with different toys and parents have different behavioral expectations. Boys might be encouraged to be messy and boisterous, for example, while girls are encouraged to be nurturing and more creative. (See the first reference link.)

It is these often subtle differences which teach individuals how to be masculine and feminine and, therefore, how to behave according to gender.

For more information, see the second reference link provided.

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Gender, to social scientists, is not the physical difference between male and female.  Social scientists refer to this as "sex."  To social scientists, the term "gender" refers to the socially constructed differences between men and women.  Since gender is socially constructed (as opposed to being a biological fact the way sex is) gender construction is the process of creating the gender differences that exist in a society.

Gender construction is the process of defining what is masculine and what is feminine that has occurred and is occurring in a society.  As a society grows and changes, definitions of gender change.  For example, in the United States today, there seems to be a change going on in the perception of what is feminine.  Work and making money is no longer seen as completely masculine and the idea of women working outside the home, even in positions of power, is much more accepted now than it was a few decades ago.  However, this transformation is not complete and there are still double standards that exist in our expectations.  This shows how our society's construction of gender is changing.

So, gender construction is this process of creating and changing a society's vision of what it means to be a man or a woman.

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