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Gender as Socially Constructed Category
There are a number of definitions that have been fronted in an attempt to describe the concept of gender. According to Hesse-Biber and Carger (2000, p. 91) gender is determined socially. These two scholars define gender as a certain meaning that society assigns to male and female. Hesse-Biber and Carger (200, p. 91) noted that societies have a way of influencing the kind of roles to be played by either men or women. Beasley (2005, p. 27), on the other hand, gives a clear distinction between gender and sex in his definition. He stated that whereas gender describes the characteristics of men and women as socially constructed, sex, on the other hand, is associated with the characteristics that are determined biologically. He also added that sex is categorized into male and female while gender is categorized into masculine and feminine. Beasley’s argument was that whereas people are born male or female they learn to be either girls or boys and later graduate into women or men.
Therefore, gender is made possible through child socialization, peer pressure, especially in adolescent, and gender works and family roles. Gender, therefore, results in a complicated system of relations characterized by the domination and power which are able to socially create and maintain women and men (Glasius 2006, p. 11).
Gender as Biologically Constructed Category
The biological aspects of gender come into play when women and men are made to believe that they are to portray differences in their behaviors, attitudes, and emotions. Biologically, gender is one’s inner feeling that he/she is a male or a female. It is normal that individuals in any society always seek to know the behavior that is expected of them. A boy child is socialized into what is perceived to be a masculine role. For instance, they are encouraged to be courageous and aggressive. Biological females are socialized to perform feminine roles characterized by submissiveness, emotionality, and empathy (Beasley 2005, p. 25).
Theoretical Explanation of Gender
There are three theories put forward in an attempt to define gender and explain its continued existence. The theories include: psychoanalytic theory, social learning theory, and cognitive developmental theory. According to Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis, gender results from children’s observation and perception of their genitals. He gives an example of penis envy and castration anxiety (Beasley 2005, p.162). However, social learning theorists have sharply disagreed with this notion. These theorists see gender as resulting from the reinforcement and modeling impact of one’s environment. That is, people become what their environment teaches them to be. On the other hand, cognitive developmental theorists claim that we learn about our gender through our mental efforts to organize the social world (Beasley 2005, p. 162).
The other theories are the feminist theory and the queer theory. The feminist theory, for example, has sought to account for the production of gender identities by challenging the essentialist’s notion of sex and gender. There are also the theories of affect and objection that seek to explain how the media text works in making an individual feel more attached to a particular gendered attributes and not another (Beasley 2005, p. 152).
In conclusion, it is clear that gender is a controversial concept with different theorists having different view points concerning the way in which human internalizes it. However, the concept has continuously persisted being based on three major factors. These are: the polarization of men and women as different, the view that males are superior beings, and finally, biological differences between male and female. The concept is also represented differently based on such factors as class, nationality, and sex.