Gender is one of the most common ways of organizing the social life of human beings. Parents assume boys and girls to be different ever since infancy. In the 1970s, the feminists viewed can the notion of gender as a ‘construct’. Hence, Gender can be regarded as a socially constructed concept used to differentiate men and women and assign them different roles and responsibilities, and so on. Social construction refers to the knowledge created and assumed by social institutions rather than possessing any inherent truth on their own.
Sylvia Walby (1990) categorized gendered subjectivity into three broad approaches – socialization theory, neo-Freudian psychoanalytic theory, and discourse analysis.
It argues that masculine and feminine identities result from a process of socialization that begins in childhood. In Walby’s opinion,
“this approach is severely limited by its inability to realize that gendered culture does not inhabit the specialized places of media, family or education, but is rather constructed in all areas of social life.”
It argues that unseen processes are entrenched in the psyche of individuals passed from one generation to another. This is what leads to gendered identities. Walby adds that gendered subjectivity exists everywhere.
Social Construction of Gender With Examples
According to social constructs, masculine behavior is commonly characterized by being assertive, action-oriented, and lively, whereas feminine behavior is often characterized by being cooperative, polite, passive, and gentle.
For a long time, men and women have been differentiated by their preferred colors. Girls are generally believed to like pink and boys are generally believed to like blue. This belief is ingrained in them since childhood.
Girls are often encouraged to play with dolls and kitchen sets and boys are encouraged to play with toy guns and cars so that they can prepare for their roles in adulthood.
Gender construct exists in school subjects too where boys are thought to be more capable of studying science subjects related to technology while girls are seen to be more apt for arts.
Even in the modern age, women’s accomplishments are measured not by what they achieve in their careers but by who they marry. Their main accomplishment is seen as marrying a worthy man whereas, for men, their accomplishments are all related to their career.
From toys to activities, levels of boisterousness to language, television programs to reading material, everything is selected carefully and monitored by the individuals according to their gender. The media reinforces these ideas and agenda through its portrayal of women as attractive and glamorous and while men are portrayed as individuals who are successful and powerful.