Yes, Age Is Also A Social Construct, Just Like Gender

Yes, Age Is Also A Social Construct, Just Like Gender

Let’s stop laughing at issues and start fixing them.

Recently I overheard some guys laughing over the idea that gender is a social construct, dismissing transgender and nonbinary people as made-up things. “What’s next?” they said. “Can you just decide to be twenty or forty or eighty? Is age a social construct, too?”

Well, yes.

Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that gender and age are two completely different things and talk about how, yes, age is also a social construct.

I don’t mean to say that age does not exist, in the same way that people who say that gender is a social construct don’t mean to say that gender does not exist. Age is something that happens as time passes and our bodies and minds change. It is a physical and behavioral thing, yes, just as there are physical and behavioral components of gender. But that is not all that age is, just as that is not all that gender is.

What age means is absolutely a social construct.

Just like how the decision to have boys wear blue and girls wear pink is completely arbitrary (we switched the colors in the 1940s), the way we assign numbers to age is equally arbitrary. In the United States, we start counting age at zero, and add a number on each birthday. In Korea, however, everyone is considered “one” when they are born, and the number goes up on New Year’s Day. If you moved from one country to the other, and wanted to fit the cultural norms there, you would have to “just decide” to be a different age number than you were.

Furthermore, the way we assign meaning to age is based on society and not on immutable fact, in much the same way that our society has assigned meaning to gender.

When can a person legally drink, drive, or vote? It isn’t the same everywhere. In most parts of Europe, the drinking age is eighteen. In the United States, it’s twenty-one. In some parts of the United States, fourteen-year-olds can get married with their parents’ consent. In other parts, people can’t get married until they are sixteen, eighteen, or twenty. None of these numbers are based on an immutable fact about at what age a person “can” drink alcohol or get married. They are societally constructed, based on what people in a particular society currently think is best and safest.

The meanings societally ascribed to age have changed over time. In the United States, the voting age used to be twenty-one. During World War II, the minimum age for the military draft was lowered to eighteen, and over time people grew angry that they could be drafted into war but could not vote for or against the people declaring those wars. So, in 1971, Congress amended the U.S. Constitution to change the national voting age to eighteen. Before, eighteen was not considered old enough to vote. Now, it is. Nothing changed about being eighteen; rather, our societal construct of what it means to be eighteen changed.

We do things the way that we think is best, forming societal constructs and creating restrictions based on those constructs that we think will protect people from hurting themselves.

Regarding age, we try to keep people from drinking, driving, or getting married too soon, so that they won’t get hurt. Regarding gender, we used to, and some people still do, use gender categories to protect people. The same person who says a girl is too young to be married might also say that she is “too female” to have a mentally-taxing job.

When we get new information and perceive that our societal systems are no longer working, and that the current restrictions are causing more harm than good, then we change them.

For the moment, our age system seems to be working. Maybe, in the future, we’ll realize that it isn’t anymore, and change it. But right now, we are realizing that our gender system is not working. In the current gender system, there are children under so much mental distress from the things that society tells them they should or shouldn’t do that they kill themselves – and that is a big sign that the system is not working anymore! Rather than laugh at the idea that the way we currently think things are is wrong, we need to take a step back, assess the situation, and create a better societal construct.

And I hope that when I am older and a young person comes up to me and says, “Your restrictions are hurting people, we know now that your system doesn’t work anymore, and here is a better system,” I will have the humility to listen instead of laugh.

Cover Image Credit: PX Here

Popular Right Now

20 Rules Of A Southern Belle

It is more than just biscuits and grits.

These unwritten rules separate the people that move to the South and were born and raised in the South. If you were born and raised in a small southern town, you either are a southern belle or hope you get to marry one. Their southern charm is hard to dislike and impossible to be taught.

1. Adults are to be answered with "Yes ma’am" and "Yes sir."

Whether it’s your parents, grandparents, or the person that checks you out at the grocery store, always say yes ma’am.

2. Always write a thank you note.

For any and everything. No gesture is too small.

3. Expect a gentleman to hold the door open and pull out your chair.

Chivalry is not dead; you just need to find the right guy.

4. All tea is sweet.

Below the Mason-Dixon Line, tea is made no other way.

5. Don’t be afraid to cook with butter.

I’ve never met a good cook that didn’t giggle a little.

6. “Coke” refers to all sodas.

Here in the south, this means all types of sodas.

7. Pearls go with anything — literally anything

And every southern belle is bound to have at least one good set.

8. "If it’s not moving, monogram it."

9. Pastels are always in fashion.

And they look good on almost everyone.

10. And so is Lilly Pulitzer.

11. Curls, curls and more curls.

The bigger the hair, the closer to Jesus.

12. If you are wearing sandals, your toenails should be done.

13. Never ever ever wear white shoes, pants, dresses, or purses after Labor Day or before Easter.

Brides are the only exception. Yes we actually do follow this rule.

14. Never leave the house without lipstick.

A little mascara and lipstick can work miracles.

15. Always wear white when you walk down the aisle.

Weddings are taken very seriously here in the South, and they should be nothing but traditional.

16. Southern weddings should always be big.

The more bridesmaids the better.

17. Saturdays in the fall are reserved for college football.

Whether you spend it tailgating in that college town or watching the big game from your living room. You can guarantee that all southerner’s eyes will be glued to the game.

18. Sunday is for Jesus and resting.

19. Learn how to take compliments curiously.

20. Have class, always.

Cover Image Credit: Daily Mail

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?


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.

Related Content

Facebook Comments