Summary: Gender is often considered to be a social construct, but is it? While men and women are biologically different, does this mean a man can do what a woman does and vice versa?
Over the years you may have heard that gender and sex and two separate things, and that gender specifically is a social construct. A social construct is when an idea and consensus is formed by society, or a group of people, as opposed to observed reality. Specifically when it comes to gender, the idea that certain toys, clothing, activities and jobs, as well as roles is a social construct. However, is gender as a whole a social construct? The answer is no.
Just what is sex and gender? Sex is your physical anatomy and chromosomes. If you were born with a penis and testes, you are a male and will develop secondary male characteristics when you go through puberty. Likewise, if you were born with a vagina and ovaries, you are a female and will develop secondarily female characteristics when you go through puberty. Sex cannot be changed as it is determined before birth. While transgender people can take hormones and get surgery to change their secondary sex characteristics, it cannot change the foundation of their anatomy, which was determined before they were born and will be static until they pass away.
Gender on the other hand is characteristics that develop from one’s sex. Some of these are often considered a social construct. For instance, the idea that girls like pink and boys like blue is a social construct since that isn’t always the case. It is only if there is evidence to support the reason for this idea from a biological standpoint that it wouldn’t be a social construct. Another example is that men shouldn’t cry and be strong, while women are too emotional. This too is a damaging social construct since every human being should cry to let out negative emotions and not bottle them up. Society puts pressure on men to hold it in. Hormones also play a role since estrogen does cause moodiness, which is why women can be more emotionally expressive than men.
With some of these gender roles that are considered social constructs, there is some truth behind them, making it more of a mixed issue. For instance, men are physically stronger than women. This is an objective fact that can be proven. This is because men have far higher levels of testosterone than women. Only men can produce testosterone in this quantity, unless the woman has a hormonal issue, but that’s besides the point. It’s this testosterone that makes men stronger than women. This is not a social construct. Another example is certain job types being better for women than men or vice versa. How often do you see a female architect, plumber, or electrician? And how often do you see a man in the medical field as an assistant or a secretary? It’s probably not often since these are male and female dominated industries since men have things they can do better than women and women have things they can do better than men.
The reason men and women dominate these industries is not because of discrimination, societal pressure, or social constructs, but rather because men and women’s brains and bodies are made differently and both have different interests. This is by design and we should embrace it instead of shunning it. Men and women are different. This is a good thing. However, the social construct aspect comes into play when a woman wants to pursue a male dominated job and thinks she can’t because she’s a woman. The truth is, she can.
The idea that work and activities are gendered is a social construct, as are expectations put upon you by society based on your biological sex. A woman can choose if she wants to enter into male dominated industries, but she may not be good at it, or she may excel because of her different skill set and strengths based on her biological female sex. And vice versa for men. However, the truth is that while some of these are partially social constructs, for the most part we have to realize that men and women are different, have different physical and mental strengths and weaknesses, and brains think differently. This is not just based on hormones, but also the structure of the male and female body being different, and brains being wired differently. So, gender is not a social construct, but some aspects of the expectations of men and women are.
Let me know how this works for you. Have a great day!
Many people know the differences between a man and a woman since they are instilled within us from not only observed reality, but also from society. Some of these expectations from society of what a male and female should do can be discriminatory and dangerous. However, there is truth to many of them. Physically men and women are different, and we shouldn’t stop a male from liking things that mostly females do, nor should we stop a female wanting to enter into a male dominated work space. Be free to be who you are and do what you truly like.