Deconstructing Gender As We Know It

Anna Log


Staff Writer


Through referencing a glossary of terms provided by the Human Rights Campaign, it’s time to deconstruct the concept of gender as we know it.

Firstly, “gender” is defined as a person’s inner concept of themselves and how they identify as a man, woman, both, or neither.  Since the perception of gender identities like “man” and “woman” are largely societal, gender is considered a construct.

You might be wondering what that specifically means since gender is so integrated into our society.  But think of everything you know about gender roles – women are commonly associated with softness, flowers, cleanliness, and the color pink, and men are often associated with toughness, traditionally male-dominated activities such as working with cars, and the color blue.  When women aim for promotions and focus on their careers, it’s thought of them neglecting family values, but when men do the same they tend to be thought of as “working for the family”.  There are a lot of double standards when it comes to gender!  Another one that is not often talked about is that men are often invalidated about hardship, usually being told to “toughen up” because of the perception that men shouldn’t be “emotional”.  We all can agree that these notions are harmful to all involved.

However, all of these things are entirely built from ideas that we have as a society about gender, making gender a social construct.  For instance, this article by Encyclopedia Britannica studies fashion spanning through 1500–1800 with a particular focus on Europe and speaks of men wearing bottoms that would be considered skirts today and having long, well-maintained hair – both of which would be modernly considered feminine.

A fun fact is that associations of gender tend to align with the historical concept of wealth and power.  The nobility of all genders would dress in rare and expensive garments that could today be considered to align with the opposing gender.  Additionally, while men having long and pristine hair showed that they had the time away from work to take care of it back in the day, nowadays short hair on men shows a level of professionalism that aligns with corporate values.  However, today short hair on women is considered “masculine” and long hair on them is thought of as “pretty”.

In a research article done by Maleigha Michael from the UMKC Women’s Center called “Sexism in Colors – Why is Pink for Girls and Blue for Boys?”, the color blue was once considered a “dainty” color and assigned to women, while pink was thought of as “strong” and so assigned to men.

Just from those examples, we can see that gender roles and conceptions are fluid and based on society at the time in which they were created.  Because of this, we can conclude that gender is a societal construct.  Meaning that gender is only what we make of it!

However, there is a common misconception between “gender” and “sex”.  To put it simply, gender is identity while sex is biology.  Sex includes the organs that every person is born with and gender is how a person sees themselves.  These two things can misalign – an example of this would be someone identifying as a woman yet occupying a male body.

While the society we live in tends to place us into boxes, the best we can do is realize that gender is just a societal construct and it is solely up to ourselves to find out who we are.  Happy LGBTQ+ History month, everyone!