Why Gender Constructs Are Like Prison

Why Gender Constructs Are Like Prison

Humans should not have to fit into societal molds.
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If you have ever considered what “gender” means, you have probably come across the fact that gender is a social concept. It is. Gender, gender roles, and separate spheres were created by people in our society to assign certain traits or certain roles to men and to women. Before I continue, let me define the words that I have just mentioned.

Gender: a social concept that defines what is male and what is female in a non-biological sense

Gender Roles: types of behavior that are socially acceptable for women and men

Separate Spheres: the idea that men dominate the public world (i.e. politics, society, law) and women must stay in the domestic world (i.e. the home)

Whether you are aware of it or not, these ideas have been used to oppress people throughout our world history. For example, although the idea of separate spheres has been around for centuries, antifeminists pushed for stricter separate spheres when women were fighting for their right to vote. Why? Well, if women were assigned to the domestic private sphere and men were assigned to the public sphere, then there would be no need for women to vote. Being assigned to the private sphere meant that women could not cross into the realm of the public sphere of government and politics.

In present day, we see these ideas continue to restrict people. Gender roles are what keep women and men from being equal. For example, men are socially perceived to be “breadwinners,” and therefore receive a 6 percent increase in their salary per child. Women, on the other hand, are seen as liabilities and will receive a 4 percent decrease in their salary per child. Why? Because society views that a woman’s “main priority” is motherhood, not a career.

Gender roles also affect the ability of people to express themselves. It is socially understood that men should not express emotion. Anything from showing affection to crying is seen as “unmanly.” The phrase, “be a man,” is used to encourage men to be strong, tough, and unyielding. In other words, gender roles promote a sense of violence in men--- that men need to be these unemotional, blunt, and physically domineering beings. If men veer from this social understanding, then they are criticizes and made fun of for being… feminine.

That’s right. Gender roles made "being feminine" an insult.

For women, society expects them to be fragile, emotional, and dependent. This social understanding means that women who break these assigned traits are “too manly.” I have heard men complain when some women are muscular. Women who take their career seriously are seen as “bitchy” because they do not go around the office in a constant emotional state and yield to male dominance.

As I write these examples, I think it becomes clear as to why gender is a prison. Gender begs society to ask this question: what is male and what is female? That question alone is the beginning of the oppression. Gender sets us on a straight and narrow path with guard rails to prevent us from jumping the fence and expressing ourselves with the complete freedom that was given to us since birth. I ask you this: why are we asking what is male and what is female? Why don’t we ask what it means to be human?

To be human is to be able to think, to express, to create, to feel, to question, to try, and to be. It means that we can exist exactly as we see fit without being assigned to some list of social requirements that bind us. Society needs to stop pretending that it can gather life and existence into one tiny, controllable ball and prevent it from taking any other form. There is no one way to be human. We’re all making up our existence and expression as we go, and we can change, grow, and reform as many times as we see fit. That is the beauty of being human. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to be human than to be what society says I must be.

Cover Image Credit: schoolsofequality.com

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Please, If You're Somehow Still Using The 'R Word'— Leave That Habit In 2018

Come on guys, its 2018. Google a new word.

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Maybe it was because I witnessed two boys get in trouble in elementary school for using this word as an insult.

Maybe it's because I fell in love with a thing called Camp Able. Maybe it's because one of my best friends is a special ed major. Or maybe it's because I try to be a decent human being. I do not use the R word.

Until this past semester, I hadn't really heard anyone use it often despite one encounter in 6th grade. Most of my best friends I have met while serving at places like Camp Able or Camp Bratton Green where summers are dedicated to people with diverse-abilities. I think having been surrounded with like-minded people for so long made me forget that some people still use it as an expression.

Let me tell you, it's annoying.

The word itself has been brushed off even in a "scientific" sense. It means to be slowed down, but it has stretched far beyond that meaning and has turned into an insult.

It's an insult of comparison.

Like any word, the power behind it is given by the user and most times, the user uses it to demean another person. It's like when you hear someone say "that's gay."

Like, what? Why is that term being used in a derogatory sense?

Why is someone's sexuality an insult? Hearing someone use the R-word physically makes me cringe and tense up. It makes me wonder what truly goes on in someone's mind. People will argue back that it's "just a word" and to "chill out," but if it was just a word, why not use something else?

There is a whole world full of vocabulary waiting to be used and you're using something that offends a whole community. Just because you don't care, it does not mean it shouldn't matter. Just use a different word and avoid hurting a person's feeling, it really is just that simple.

There is not a good enough reason to use it.

I volunteer at two summer camps: Camp Bratton Green and Camp Able. If you know me, I talk nonstop about the two. More realistically, if you know me, it's probably because I met you through one of the two. Even before I was introduced to the love at Camp Able, I still knew that this was a word not to use and it never crossed my mind to think of it.

The history behind the R-word goes back to describe people with disabilities but because of the quick slang pick up it was sort of demoted from the psychology world. Comparing someone or something that is negative to a word that you could easily avoid speaks volumes about who you are as a person.

The word is a word, but it is subjective in its meaning and in its background.

Just stop using it.

A List of Objective Words/Phrases to Use:

Fool/Foolish

Blockhead

Nincompoop

Silly

Ludicrous

Dim-witted

Trivial

Naive

"A few beads short on the rosary"

"On crack or something"

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'Surviving R. Kelly' Shows How Poorly Society Still Handles Sexual Abuse

Watching the documentary, it was clear that the reason why it was so swept under the rug and why R. Kelly was found not guilty was because these girls were minorities.

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The other night, when I should have been studying for my MCAT's, I was flipping through TV channels in my living room and I stumbled across, "Surviving R. Kelly" on Lifetime. I usually hate Lifetime documentaries but something about this one was so intriguing to me that I couldn't change the channel.

I assume it was because growing up, everyone in the black community had polarized opinions about him. People either loved him or hated him. And hated him for a good reason. Since I was younger, I've heard rumors about R. Kelly's behavior... the sexual assault, the child pornography, and the luring of teenage girls. But this documentary was more than just reiterating what we all already heard... this documentary tried to get to the root of it and pull substantial evidence from recordings, eyewitnesses, and first-hand accounts.

But something that haunted me when I was finished watching the six episodes of the special was that stories like these aren't unique. The sexual assault of young women happens literally EVERY DAY, by family members, friends, and even total strangers. But what interested me, was the sociological impact it had on our community. The fact that the issue like this is so swept under the rug is truly devastating.

What also struck me was that during R. Kelly's trial for child pornography, many fans (whom being black women) stood outside the courthouse and supported him throughout his trial. I mean... like dang, this guy is literally ON TRIAL for CHILD PORNOGRAPHY. A victim in situations like this could be anybody: You, your daughter, your best friend, your niece, etc. and they decided to SUPPORT this perverted creature? It's sickening. It's something that really makes me upset because I feel like sexual abuse just isn't talked about in the black community as much. It's something that's borderline "normal" or if it happens no one will believe you. It's terrible because people should stand by victims and believe them.

Watching the documentary, it was clear that the reason why it was so swept under the rug and why R. Kelly was found not guilty was because these girls were minorities. The jury said that they didn't believe the girls who got up on the stand to testify against R. Kelly about the video, and although it wasn't explicit, it's clear that it's because they were young ethnic females. Do I believe that the process would have been speedier and that he would have been found guilty if his victims were white, young women? Of course. It's just sickening that these minority youths didn't get a chance to see their predator locked up.

I will admit, the reason why he was also found not guilty could have been due to the fact that he was rich, famous, a genius with music, charismatic, etc. But this poses an even bigger issue: Why are the stories of these young girls debased because of a famous person?

Don't their lives, sanities, and physical wellbeings matter more than a #1 hit on Billboard's Top 100?

It truly baffles me how people STILL support this man, even though there's so much evidence implicating him as a child predator. We should be holding this man and ALL THE ABUSERS OUT THERE ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS AGAINST THESE VICTIMS. This needs to STOP. We need to stop giving people like this the time of day and enabling them to continue this god-awful behavior.

That's why the #MeToo movement is SO IMPORTANT! We need the narratives of these victims in order to end the disgusting cycle of sexual abuse in our society. Situations like these need to be brought to light and taken seriously.

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