What is "gender"?

What is "gender"?

How it has been defined in historical terms.
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Women and men have been treated differently throughout history. Whether it be economically, politically, or socially, the difference in gender and it’s relations is starkly contrasted. Women’s studies as a historical discipline was formed in the 1960’s on the heels of the feminist movement. During the 1980’s, this discipline moved away from a single gender, focusing on the relationship between the two genders, male and female, on a grand scale. Joan Scott’s Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis and Alice Kessler-Harris’s Just Price, Free Market, and the Value of Women are two journal articles that were written in the 1980’s just as women’s studies became gender studies. Each author was influential to the study of gender in her own way.

The first article, by Joan Scott, explains that there is a connection between the individual as well as societal norms when it comes to speaking or writing about gender. Human agency and language are also important attributes of historical work which can modify and/or explain a historian’s implications when writing about gender. Connections must be achieved throughout all aspects of life in order to truly exemplify the term “gender”. We must first understand that gender is an element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes and that gender is a primary way of signifying relationships of power. Scott says there are four different elements to this: using culturally available symbols, such as Eve and the Virgin Mary. One woman is light, while the other is dark. It’s almost as if there is no in-between, that women are reduced to just these characteristics. Scott says that these normative concepts limit and contain all metaphoric possibilities when it comes to writing about women. She explains that these positions are a product of social consensus and not conflict or politics. In order to fix this, we have to find women’s subjective identity. Not all women fit into one box. We need to find relations between identity and social constructs to display women’s own personal experiences.

Scott explains that “gender”, in modern terms, refers to men and women being defined in terms of one another and that the understanding of each one could not be achieved if studied separately. When women’s history was established as a discipline, a new world history was also formed, as it took into account different perspectives regarding women’s personal experience. Women’s history didn’t focus solely on women, it also focused on class and race as well. Women historians use these three facets in order to explain persisting inequalities throughout society as well as personal experiences. Historians use a variety of approaches to achieve their goal.

The two approaches given by Scott are as follows: the first is descriptive, meaning that it speaks of phenomena without actually analyzing it or explaining it. The second approach is the opposite, explaining why these phenomena happen and looking at outside factors to determine the cause. The word “gender” is used heavily in each instance, specifically used to give the subject matter weight or seriousness because it is neutral and objective. Being a scientific word, it lends itself to a more scientific approach rather than a political or feminist one. “Women” as a word, when used historically, gives readers the notion that women are valid historical subjects. By using the word “gender”, they are able to include women without being a threat to men. By using “gender” as a substitute for “women”, it tends to give readers the notion that information about women is also about men, and vice versa. One implies the study of the other. In order words, speaking of women historically is allowed as long as historians talk about men as well.

Scott gives us three methods as to how feminist historians are able to analyze gender. The first attempts to explain the origins of patriarchy. The second is economically, especially based in Marxist theory. The third uses production and reproduction to assert the subject’s gendered identity; mainly, a biological explanation.

Through all this, Scott finally gives us her specific definition of gender. The four aspects listed cannot operate without the others. In order to present good historical research, the relationships between the four aspects must be discussed. We need to think about gender in social or institutional settings.

Kessler-Harris speaks of gender in terms of economics and politics. For some reason, those in power and who make policy keep focusing on the past as their guide to making legislative changes. Women appear as “other” instead of being a symbol of diverse experiences.

Yet, is it really the law? Or is it social constraints? Antonin Scalia, a conservative justice, portrayed his view of women when deciding on a court case regarding a female working in a typically male profession. He said it was a traditionally segregated job category. Yet he also blamed society for making women feel as though they should avoid certain jobs for fear of discrimination. As you can see, the two cannot be easily separated.

A striking example of this trepidation in assuming equal rights for women comes from New Perspectives, a magazine that was actually published by the Civil Rights Commission. They couldn’t find valid proof that women had been the victims of wage discrimination over the past one hundred years. They didn’t feel the need to pass legislation or have a court make a ruling on equal pay or equal worth that assumed the difference in pay was due to discrimination. What other evidence could these two examples possibly need? This reminds us that we have a responsibility as scholars to show the inequality throughout history, especially when it comes to women.

Although there are some who oppose this thought, especially in fear of what will happen to the economy, it is clearly on our nation’s political agenda. Equal pay for equal jobs is necessary for women to feel value in the workplace, whether or not the content of their work is similar. Some also say that the market failed to pay women a fair return for all the hard work, or human capital, that they invested in their jobs. Occupational segregation is the root of this problem for two reasons: first, that capitalism doesn’t work for women, and second, that every job’s value can be compared to that of another job. The market as it stands does not function independently from those who participate in it. They bring their prejudice, bias, and cultural upbringing to the table as well.

When speaking of wages, meaning equal pay for equal work, we run into a problem. Societal gender roles throw a wrench in an equation that should be simple. There is some sort of archaic social sense on what men and women are responsible for. Customary wages help to preserve this status quo. Since wages are tied to social hierarchy, it makes women secondary. A male worker would never want to be compared with a female worker because it would violate his “manhood.”

In order to fix this, we actually need to change society. This is no easy task. We are at a new historical stage, as men and women are both in the workforce, even doing similar jobs. Household chores still primarily fall in the hands of women. We are starting to see a shift in this. As more women enter the workplace, we are starting to see more things such as stay at home dads or parents who equally share household responsibilities. The fact that this wage argument is at the forefront of American politics proves that.

Cover Image Credit: WUNC

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I'd Rather Be Single Than Settle – Here Is Why Being Picky Is Okay

They're on their best behavior when you're dating.
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Dating nowadays described in one word: annoying.

What's even more annoying? when people tell you that you're being too "picky" when it comes to dating. Yes, from an outside perspective sometimes that's exactly what it looks like; however, when looking at it from my perspective it all makes sense.

I've heard it all:

"He was cute, why didn't you like him?"

"You didn't even give him a chance!"

"You pay too much attention to the little things!"

What people don't understand is that it's OKAY to be picky when it comes to guys. For some reason, girls in college freak out and think they're supposed to have a boyfriend by now, be engaged by the time they graduate, etc. It's all a little ridiculous.

However, I refuse to put myself on a time table such as this due to the fact that these girls who feel this way are left with no choice but to overlook the things in guys that they shouldn't be overlooking, they're settling and this is something that I refuse to do.

So this leaves the big question: What am I waiting for?

Well, I'm waiting for a guy who...

1. Wants to know my friends.

Blessed doesn't even begin to describe how lucky I am to have the friends that I do.

I want a guy who can hang out with my friends. If a guy makes an effort to impress your friends then that says a lot about him and how he feels about you. This not only shows that he cares about you but he cares about the people in your life as well.

Someone should be happy to see you happy and your friends contribute to that happiness, therefore, they should be nothing more than supportive and caring towards you and your friendships.

2. Actually, cares to get to know me.

Although this is a very broad statement, this is the most important one. A guy should want to know all about you. He should want to know your favorite movie, favorite ice cream flavor, favorite Netflix series, etc. Often, (the guys I get stuck on dates with) love to talk about themselves: they would rather tell you about what workout they did yesterday, what their job is, and what they like to do rather than get to know you.

This is something easy to spot on the first date, so although they may be "cute," you should probably drop them if you leave your date and can recite everything about their life since the day they were born, yet they didn't catch what your last name was.

3. How they talk about other women.

It does not matter who they're talking about, if they call their ex-girlfriend crazy we all know she probably isn't and if she is it's probably their fault.

If they talk bad about their mom, let's be honest, if they're disrespecting their mother they're not going to respect you either. If they mention a girl's physical appearances when describing them. For example, "yeah, I think our waitress is that blonde chick with the big boobs"

Well if that doesn't hint they're a complete f* boy then I don't know what else to tell you. And most importantly calling other women "bitches" that's just disrespectful.

Needless to say, if his conversations are similar to ones you'd hear in a frat house, ditch him.

4. Phone etiquette.

If he can't put his phone down long enough to take you to dinner then he doesn't deserve for you to be sitting across from him.

If a guy is serious about you he's going to give you his undivided attention and he's going to do whatever it takes to impress you and checking Snapchat on a date is not impressive. Also, notice if his phone is facedown, then there's most likely a reason for it.

He doesn't trust who or what could pop up on there and he clearly doesn't want you seeing. Although I'm not particularly interested in what's popping up on their phones, putting them face down says more about the guy than you think it does.

To reiterate, it's okay to be picky ladies, you're young, there's no rush.

Remember these tips next time you're on a date or seeing someone, and keep in mind: they're on their best behavior when you're dating. Then ask yourself, what will they be like when they're comfortable? Years down the road? Is this what I really want? If you ask yourself these questions you might be down the same road I have stumbled upon, being too picky.. and that's better than settling.

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?

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This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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