Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Ann Oakley’s sociological differentiation of “sex” and “gender” provides an insight on the terms’ function in the society we live in. On one hand, “sex” is a reference to the biological difference of male and female. On the other hand, “gender” is a parallel reference to the socially unequal difference of femininity and masculinity. The latter sparks controversy because of the social construction of differences between females and males. Citing medical studies involving hermaphrodites and other subjects with biological anomalies, Ann Oakley asserts that early on, gender permeates a person’s consciousness to create this person’s individual identity and personality.
However, it is not always that one’s gender goes parallel with one’s biological identity. Biological females can perform social roles attributed to males. In the same manner, biological males can perform social roles attributed to females. Even sexually defective persons like penis-less males can crystallize a gender-defined identity for as long as they are conditioned into performing social roles assigned to males. Then again, there are instances when gender does not give any clear indication of femininity or masculinity. This seems to point out that gender is something so slippery that persons of any biological identity can switch genders or altogether defy being defined via gender.
Nonetheless, in this society where our culture influences our personality and identity, masculinity and femininity continue to propagate cultural ideals and stereotypes. We still get upset by women who pursue careers such that they pose a competitive threat to professional men. We still look up to men as providers of the home even as the physiological makeup of both men and women is not regarded anymore as a basis for the assignment of soft roles for women while men are assigned the rough roles. The tip of social justice’s scale still does not budge to make structural shifts in which sexual divisions of labor in social systems and institutions may go in favor of the women. It does not have to make an entire role reversal between men and women. It just looks and feels better if women become in equal footing with men.
Since across cultures, gender gets warped anyway, it should be that men and women must have equal division of labor. The homemaker need not be the wife, but can be the husband. Employment discrimination should be abolished so women may be given the chance to be promoted and to perform jobs normally associated with men. My interdisciplinary studies of issues connected to gender has enlightened me on the need to help make a balanced social construction of difference. This way, the structures of power do not have dignify men at the expense of women. After all, men and women alike are persons with respective talents, capabilities and rights.