I just started this discussion on the message boards of my online Psychology of Critical Thinking class, and I wanted to hear the thoughts of my friends. Please contribute any thoughts or ideas. Also, read Stone Butch Blues. And I believe the Sextravanga event will discuss this topic so go to that if you go to HSU.
From a very young age, we being to introduce gender to our children by dressing them in either pink or blue, providing toys for them based on either masculine or feminine ideals, referring to them as ‘him’ or ‘her’, suggesting to them that they should act in certain ways based on their gender (“come help Mommy in the kitchen,” or “Daddy’s going to teach you to throw a football”), and generally teaching them that there are important and fundamental differences between the sexes. There are many people now who suggest that gender is socially constructed, largely for the reasons that I named above.
People tend to assert that men are inherently better at sports than woman by pointing to the fact that most men tend to perform better at sports; the same people tend to say that women are more emotionally aware than men by pointing to the fact that they generally respond to emotional situations with more tact and understanding than man. But is this surprising, given that we teach men to value sports but hide their emotions, while we teach women to embrace their emotions but avoid unladylike practices like sports?
Now we’re in college, in an age where experimentation is fairly common, and there are some people who respond by being perturbed because it can be difficult to discern the gender of some people because of the androgynous way they dress. Is this a concern? Should we care what a person’s gender is?
Ultimately, are we responsible or irresponsible for gendering our children? Perhaps by teaching them how to ‘perform gender’, we are helping our child by hopefully ensuring they will be able to fit in in the future. But are we also holding back our society by not allowing future generations to embrace the fact that perhaps it’s time to think about gender in a new, more progressive way?