Gender: Essential or constructed?


Female Male SymbolsOur discussion in Feminist Theory class this week revolved around whether gender is essential (biological), socially constructed, or a combination of the two.

Since we obviously can’t do justice to this subject in one class session, I am posting a few of your discussion questions to our blog so we can extend our conversation in cyberspace.

Read the questions below and post your comments on one or more:

  1. How can we stop the social construction [of gender] and separation of men and women (in terms of their expected behaviours and roles), especially if these roles and behaviors are deeply rooted in societies all over the world? – from Laura
  2. In John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women, he states that “to be an equal is to be an enemy.” Would this not go against the equality for all and feminism? – from Amanda
  3. Does the Mill reading relate to any other readings we have covered in class thus far? If so, in what ways? Explain. Further, do you believe women are oppressed by men today, as they were in the past? Explain and cite examples. – from Sarah L.
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3 Responses

  1. “How can we stop the social construction [of gender] and separation of men and women (in terms of their expected behaviours and roles), especially if these roles and behaviors are deeply rooted in societies all over the world? – from Laura”

    I think we need to start when children are very young, and teach them roles that are equal and not domineering. However, it will all be hard to change, because the parents are deeply ingrained in there ideologies. I think the best example would be the story of Baby X, that someone brought up in class the other day. Parents should try to emulate that story. I think that would make a good start. However, these changes, that need to be made, will never occur over night. It will take decades, maybe even centuries. Further, each person’s culture need to be taken into account, as well, if changes are to be made worldwide. ~ Sarah

  2. Does the Mill reading relate to any other readings we have covered in class thus far? If so, in what ways? Explain. Further, do you believe women are oppressed by men today, as they were in the past? Explain and cite examples.

    I think that women are oppressed by men today especially if they are being authoritative towards them. One example that I can think of is the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes.” Kathy Bates’ character is trying so hard to get her husband to notice her and all he wants his dinner and beer and he orders her around as if she is not a person. When she asks him about how she looks, he doesn’t even notice her. This is definitely an example of a woman being oppressed by a man.

  3. Changing the social construction of gender is a long process, Sarah L. says. Sometimes it seems like a discouragingly long process to me.

    Then I read the next comment, from Amanda. She cites an example from a popular movie featuring female characters and talks about a scene in the film that illustrates women’s oppression.

    I think this example shows progress being made. They may call “Fried Green Tomatoes” a “chick flick,” because its target audience is women. But a film like this does help us recognize the problems we face when we are forced into gender roles that oppress women. That’s progress, isn’t it?

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