Gender As An Accomplishment

Gender As An Accomplishment - Gender As An Accomplishment...

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Gender As An Accomplishment Allison Taylor- 803577009 Lianna Hart- Monday 3:00 SOC M162 November 30, 2010 1
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It can be difficult to see how gender is socially constructed because we tend to assume that gender is something that is strictly based on biology or human nature. The differences between men and women seem to be self-evident and we think they would occur whether society had a hand in constructing gender or not. (Lorber 1993) In reality, according to West and Zimmerman, gender is something that is socially constructed through actions being created and re-created through social interactions and social life. Therefore, we are always “doing gender.” It is impossible to not be at risk for gender assessment and a large part of participating in “doing gender” is being aware that you are constantly at the risk of gender assessment. (West & Zimmerman 1991) Along with the constant act of “doing gender,” it is important to note that “doing gender” is an accomplishment. Individuals involved in social interactions “organize their various and manifold activities to reflect or express gender (West & Zimmerman 1991: 14).” We are socialized to perceive and interpret the behaviors of others in the same way that we behave in order so successfully pass as our own gender. In this regard, gender can be seen as an accomplishment. On a daily basis we self-regulate our gender required behaviors, looks, and speech to be socially identified into a particular gender category. These gender depictions are less to convey our “essential sexual natures (West & Zimmerman 1991: 17)” than to portray to others which gender category we would like to be associated with. Our identities either as a female or a male have an intense impact on our self- development, the choices we make, how others treat us, and the general life paths we take (Newman1997). Neither at-birth sex assignment nor the actual existence of essential genitalia for the sexes necessarily distinctly identifies someone in a gender category. 2
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“Doing gender” consists of managing situations so that whenever and wherever, the context of gender is clear and distinguished. Ambiguity about gender is something that most people are uncomfortable with because of the inability to place that individual into a distinctive sex or gender category. When gender lines cross over one another, placement into either the male or female category becomes difficult. After dressing up and trying my best to pass as a man in public, I am much more aware of this phenomenon. It became much more clear that “people go along with the imposition of gender norms because the weight of morality as well as the immediate social pressure enforces them” (Lorber 1993: 106) to do so. There was an incredible amount of stares from people towards my group members and myself who were participating in this gender bending exercise. Being a girl, I am used to getting non-subtle stare downs from guys, but I was
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Gender As An Accomplishment - Gender As An Accomplishment...

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