Discussion Provocation #3

Published by Jerico on

In the simplest terms, gender is a social construct. That is an irrefutable fact that only gains credence as time progresses. But what are the origins of gender; more specifically, why is gender mainly viewed as a binary and its respective roles? It helps to define what gender binary is first and what it enforces. Karen Blair from Psychology Today summarizes what the gender binary is: “The gender binary refers to the notion that gender comes in two distinct flavors: men and women, in which men are masculine, women are feminine, and, importantly, men are of the male sex and women are of the female sex” (Blair). But, back to the question of where the gender binary and its role originated from. Like many things in today’s society such as race, the social construct of the gender binary and gender roles came from European settlers as they colonized roughly eighty percent of the world. Gender binary was then perpetuated by society’s institutions such as education, politics, economics, and religion.  

Although gender is a complex spectrum, when focusing on the gender binary in the colonial context, it is obvious that it served to hold men as superior to women. Because most countries still foster post-colonial societies, this narrative persists. Özlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo iterate many facts in their book Is Everyone Really Equal? that illustrate that this colonial gender constructs continue to oppress women such as one in four women in the United States has experienced domestic violence, one in three women has been a victim of rape, a woman is beaten every 9 seconds in the United States, and fifty-one percent of Canadian women report having experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence (pp. 126 –127).  

Understanding how the gender binary and gender roles are maintained by institutions and how they serve to oppress women, it is obvious that this narrative must be disrupted. Without any action, women will continue to be silenced, consistently abused, and be outcasted to the fringes of society. But, how does one disrupt the gender binary narrative? Personally, I believe there are two battles here to fight. There is a battle to fight the constrictive gender roles that men and women are expected to satisfy, and there is a battle to fight systemic sexism.  

From personal experience, it is easier to fight constrictive gender roles. Since my junior year of high school, I have worn clothing that is usually typified as being feminine, worn makeup, and participated in “feminine” hobbies. These habits came rather easily to me, but I understand that this is not the case for all people. The ideas of masculinity and femininity are engrained in everyone’s education and upbringing and to go against one’s beliefs creates resistance (ideological incongruence). It is a gradual change to challenge one’s ideology, so a sudden change shouldn’t be expected. With the establishment of new morals and values, it becomes easier to break free of the gender binary and its roles.  

The battle to dismantle systemic sexism is more difficult to comprehend. I believe that just like dismantling constrictive gender roles, dismantling systemic sexism requires evaluation of oneself. For an individual to fight systemic sexism, they require a deep understanding of how they participate in its perpetuation. From there, an individual can properly have courageous conversations with others to make others understand the injustices that play out today. This is a rather simple approach to battling systemic sexism, but it begins a steady sphere of influence with the mission to end it.   

Works Cited 

Blair, Karen. “Has Gender Always Been Binary?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 16 Sept. 2018, www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/inclusive-insight/201809/has-gender-always-been-binary

Sensoy, Özlem, and Robin J. DiAngelo. Is Everyone Really Equal?: an Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education. Teachers College Press, 2017. 


Hunter Stinson · March 29, 2021 at 7:40 pm

Wow, Jerico what a good read. I really like how you brought up references to help support your arguments. The whole idea of gender identity is quite new to me because growing up in a small town I never knew anyone that was not cisgender and to this day, to my knowledge, have never met face to face with someone who wasn’t cisgender. It is nice to hear other people’s input and to learn from it. My question for you is what are some ways to challenge one’s gender identity and to become more of an ally for the LGBTQ community?

Miles Wilson · March 31, 2021 at 12:03 am

Well that was amazing to read Jerico, you wrote with passion and emphasis on the topic while still connecting your own self connections and feelings towards the matter in a way that wasn’t just personal but symbolic of your reading. I appreciate your concluding paragraph more than most however, similar to challenging your oppressor when it comes to racism, I like to be open minded and understanding, so in a sense I hope that those who do suffer from systematic sexism and gender bias will speak out or openly communicated with those who are willing to listen and understand.

Trevor Price · April 13, 2021 at 9:54 pm

Great work Jerico. Similar to Hunter, I haven’t really been very educated on the matter of gender identity. Your provocation really showed me how much sexism and oppressions exists in todays society. I didn’t realize how high the rates of violence against women have been. I also liked how you used your personal experience to describe the the constrictive gender norms that exist in the education system.

Kacie Reimer · April 15, 2021 at 7:22 pm

This was an amazing read, Jerico! It was well written and very fluent, so it was easier to really understand your thoughts and opinions! Talking about a subject this serious can be frustrating and, at times, scary because you do not want to say anything offensive and want to show respect to everyone, no matter their gender identity, and you did just that. You remained respectful while educating the readers on this topic. I was kind of caught off guard when you shared that you typified with being feminine or partook in ‘normal feminine’ routines. It is so rare these days that you see a male openly and confidently wearing makeup or dressing in feminine clothing, and it’s upsetting! Everyone should be able to feel confident and comfortable in whatever clothing they want to wear without fear of being judged. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts

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