Definition of Gender
What is Gender? Scenario 2
Mostly people say they can tell who is a boy and who is a girl by looking at their dresses, hair, shoes, jewelry. For example, in most cases, girls will be wearing earrings, bangles, maybe a necklace, maybe some cosmetics such as kajal, nail polish. Also, the choice of their toys, games, attitudes, and behavior provides the clue.
Let’s analyze this. One big difference in the clothing is the fact that the shorts or pants or shirts worn by all boys have pockets. Seldom would the girls’ dresses have pockets. Hence, the boys have their hands free whereas girls are normally holding something in their hands and thus not free. Most things girls are wearing at the party are to make them look pretty.
Do you realize, dressing up in those pretty attires limits the mobility of girls, their speed?
Turning to games that the boys usually play are competitive and require physical exertion. The toys they have are guns, aeroplanes, cars, and trucks, while girls usually play with dolls, utensils, etc.
It is clear that although there was and is very little difference in the biology of the male and female, they have become very different human beings by the time they are few years old. This is all due to their upbringing. They have been GENDERED.
Definition of Gender
Gender is thus the socio cultural definition of girls and boys, men and women given by society. Our societies define what girls and boys should wear, what they should do, how they should be treated, and what their rights and responsibilities will be. Because societies create gender, the definition can vary from society to society and time to time. Also, because human beings create gender, they can change it, if they want to, if they are not happy with it.
Gender and Sex
Now as opposed to gender, SEX is our biological definition. It is given to us by Nature and is constant. It does not change from family to family and time to time. Except through hormonal treatment and surgeries, nobody can change their sex.
Did you know, among humans, even our bodies can be socially constructed?
Humans are not slaves to their bodies. For example, women’s bodies are such that we can procreate; however, not all women need to have children. They can decide not to have children. Humans can change the shape of their bodies. We can change the size and the strength of our bodies through training, use, disuse, misuse, or abuse. Obvious examples are bodies of men and women wrestlers, body builders, athletes, dancers, yoga practitioners, and so on. Body piercing, cosmetic surgeries, Female Genital Mutilation or FGMs are other examples of humans changing their natural bodies.
Let’s now use this gender lens to analyze our own lives. Let’s see how we have been gendered and how gendering affected us. Please answer the following three questions with some honesty.
- When and how did you realize you were a girl or a boy?
- Was there gendering in your home when you were growing up? Are gender roles still prevalent in your family?
- What has been your most painful experience as a girl or a boy, man or a woman?
Pause your screen here and think about the answers. Write them down on a notepad. This is important friends, you must write them down. You will know why I asked you these questions as you progress with this module.