What role does gender play in society?

Why is there such an all-consuming desire to place people in a gender category? It perplexes me as to why people choose to publicly monitor and “police” those who do not fall into what is believed to be the norm. Characteristically “feminine” males, macho females, or even unknowns such as Lois Gould’s “X”, stretch the boundaries of what society feels comfortable with, ultimately becoming an issue of contention. I never really thought about how people exercise prejudice against others by using their gender (or how well they conform) to label them. From the articles we have read and our class discussions, it appears that “doing gender” is an inescapable phenomenon. Specifically, the article about the Swedish family who decided to keep their child’s gender a secret backfired. By attempting to conceal such a defining characteristic as gender, their child, Pop, garnered even more scrutiny, which further complicates the role gender plays in society. Granted, not everyone is intolerant or prejudiced when it comes to how well people fit in, it still appears that gender is a critically important factor that is inescapable in today’s society.

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One Response to What role does gender play in society?

  1. lschott1 says:

    It doesn’t seem perplexing as to why people “police” others and try to categorize them. We constantly categorize each other. To categorize others is to categorize ourselves. It is a trick we play on ourselves to believe we have some sort of stability of self. Lorber states (I’m fairly sure there’s a better, more concise, quote to show this but I can’t find it), “As a social institution, gender is one of the major ways that human beings organize their lives” (114). She later states, “In social interaction throughout their lives, individuals learn what is expected, see what is expected, act and react in expected ways, and this simultaneously construct and maintain the gender order” (115). Generally, people need constant reinforcement of their identities, of their purpose. An outlier, like Pop, undermines their whole way of life. I agree that there are those who are not so irrationally insulted by outliers (not just in terms of gender but anything). This is seen in Anzaldua’s concept of the mestiza (oddly similar to an idea presented in a Russian sci-fi film, Stalker, I recently watched). The idea she presents is that flexibility of identity allows for tolerance of ambiguity. If you are not attached to your identity, to your category, then you can possibly bring about “uniting all that is separate” (79).

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