WOMEN AND GENDER
Womenhave come to acknowledge that they live in a patriarchal society.However, this has not gone unchallenged as women have risen to claimtheir rightful position in the society. The first step in this isrecognizing the fact that their current position is not the naturalposition. However, there are certain aspects in society perpetuatedby both men and women that reinforce this patriarchal nature ofsociety. Mead wrote
Inevery known human society, the male’s need for achievement can berecognized. Men may cook, or weave or dress dolls or hunthummingbirds, but if such activities are appropriate occupations ofmen, then the whole society, men and women alike, votes them asimportant. In a great number of human societies men’s sureness oftheir sex role is tied up with their right, or ability, to practicesome activity that women are not allowed to practice. Their maleness,in fact, has to be underwritten by preventing women from enteringsome field or performing some feat.1
Basedon Mead’s comments, the paper makes a critical discussion of genderidentity supported by relevant literature.
Mead’sview on society explains what is wrong with many societies today. Menhave occupied certain positions and branded them as manly while womenhave also been awarded certain roles. These roles and careersassigned to men according to Mead are not in any way connected toone’s biological sex but rather culture and socially-constructedgender identity. For this reason, Mead believed that if currentgender roles were to be swapped, feminine roles such as child rearingwould be perceived more important than they are today just becausemen are involved in them. The same case applies to other feminineroles such as knitting. This is because temperament or personalityis more influential that biological sex in creating one’sidentity.2ideally being a male or female is more of a socio-cultural issuethan just the biological make up
Agood example is the reaction to the inclusion of two moms in Disney’sprogramming. This issue received different reactions based on thewestern society’s view of gender-based identities. The maleidentity is to a large extent informed by the role the man plays insociety and in the family. In most cases, a man plays the role of theprovider and protector of the family while women take care of thefamily. In certain situations such as in single parent households,either gender can play the two roles. A can play both roles of takingcare of the family and also providing for it. However, the society isnot comfortable with such situations. The reaction to the portrayalof same sex couples and families in GoodLuck Charliecaptures what society expects in each gender play its assigned role.Delagracia notes that some conservative groups are opposed to suchportrayal of two moms. The same views are also included in theepisode with one character named Bob making the surprised observationthat “Taylor has two moms!"3This is spite of the fact that one or both of the two moms acts asthe ’father’. The society does not allow any of the two women tocovert to the other gender as it would be against the natural orderof things. For many societies, everything exists in dualism male andfemale.4However, in some societies such as the native North American tribe ofthe Zuni, gender identity and biological sex were kept separate.Women were allowed to be men and at the same time men were allowed tobe women. The community perceived such people as possessing twosouls male and female. For some people such an idea is anunacceptable.
Someconservatives have openly opposed lesbianism by terming it asunnatural or against the laws of nature as intended to play thefunction of reproduction. What many these people fail to acknowledgeis that the perceived natural order of things is just a culturalcreation or social construct. What does not fit into oneculture-informed worldview is termed as unnatural. The cultural viewperceives individuals strictly as either male or female in line withdualism. Therefore, the dualistic view also does not condone same sexmarriages (…..). The Zunis did not ascribe to dualism. They createdroom for choosing one’s gender and recognizing that it is sociallycreated as opposed to being natural.5
Manyquestions arise in considering the nature and identity of lesbiancouples. Given that the perceived gender identity takes precedenceover biological sex, this could have implications in the legaldefinitions of same sex couples. In this regard, women or men canproactively choose to take any gender identity free from theirbiological sex. This separation of gender identity from sex-basedidentity in Michfest workers is the same as the Zuni tribe.6However, while the Zuni tribe used interchanged gender roles such asknitting for men to acquire a female identity or hunting for womenacquire a male identity, the Michfest workers use semiotic markers,nudity, clothing and other markers to express their sexuality. Theyhave created new standards for themselves that may not mean much toother people.
Lesbianand gay relations thus directly challenge the concept of normal ornatural. The fact that the mainstream heterosexual society is eagerto label lesbians and gays as queer and not normal is not justified.The experiences of the author for not clearly expressing hersexuality on the surface are evidently noticeable among the womyn inMichfest. There are unique caps, t-shirts, haircuts and even generalgrooming practices that they have used to identify themselves and areperceived as normal among lesbians.7Again this just confirms the claim that gender identity has nothingto do with biological sex. On the contrary, it is created to fitwithin the narrow confines of cultural worldviews. The growing samesex community is thus pushing to redefine normal. The push to exposeyoung children and free their minds from this narrow worldviews interms of gender as Disney is doing could have far reachingimplications on gender studies and gender relations in futuregenerations.
Froma legal and social perspective, there is evidence of change. Severalstates in the US and some counties around the world legally recognizesame sex couples. The legal definitions of husband and wife areslowly changing with partners being preferred. Terms such as domesticpartnerships have been legally adopted to define same sex couples. Inthe case of Softy, a bisexual a participant at the Michfest, sheprefers to call her husband as simply “partner” which does notexpress much about the sex of the partner.8
Froma social point of view, same sex relations greatly affectrelationships with others. For instance, motherhood demands a certainlevel of dedication that pushes back nearly all other forms ofidentity. Science informs that much of motherhood identity is drivenby nature in forms of hormones. The inability of men to naturallypossess such hormones has led to conservatives largely questioningthe ability or even the knowledge behind same gay couples. Forlesbian couples, motherhood also lacks the same level of moral senseof responsibility towards providing and protecting the family.9Nonetheless, both gay and lesbian couples acknowledge that parenthooderodes on their gay/lesbian identities and gives way to moreparenthood identity that reshapes their relationships.
Thediscussion portrays that society’s gender roles are not related tobiological sex. The issue of same sex couples, which is seen as tochallenge social expectations and natural rules of reproduction,reinforces the claim that gender identity and biological sex are twodifferent things. The social, cultural and legal implication of theseparation of the two has been far reaching. However, society mustlearn to change and accept the new definitions of normal and same sexcouples as natural and normal.
Delagracia,N. (2014). ‘Good Luck Charlie` Gay Couple [VIDEO] Disney Channelfeatures first
lesbianparents, facing backlash from conservative groups. Retreived from
Lewin,E. (2013). Resignation and refusal. The moral calculus of lesbian andgay parents in the
US.In Brettell, C. & Sargent, C. (eds). Genderin Cross-Cultural Perspective(6th ed.) New York: Pearson.
Matza,A. (2013). Constructing the lesbian body: The worker community of theMichigan
womyn’smusic festival. In Brettell, C. & Sargent, C. (eds). Genderin Cross-Cultural Perspective(6th ed.) New York: Pearson. 229-236
Mead,M. (1949). Maleand female.New York: HarperCollins
Ward,M. & Edelstein, M. (2013). Worldfull of women6thed. New York: Pearson education.
1 Mead, M. (1949). Male and female. New York: HarperCollins. p.168.
2 Ward, M. & Edelstein, M. (2013). World full of women 6th ed. New York: Pearson education. p. 39
4 Ward & Edelstein p. 150
5 Ward & Edelstein p.160
6 Matza, A. (2013). Constructing the lesbian body: The worker community of the Michigan
womyn’s music festival. In Brettell, C. & Sargent, C. (eds). Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective (6th ed.) New York: Pearson. 229-236. p. 230
7 Ibid p. 232
8 ibid p.231.
9 Ward & Edelstein p.165