The issue of gender and sex has been on the forefront while discussing social constructs. Predominantly, sex is aligned on the biological differences between males and females. On the other hand, the term gender describes societal delineation of masculinity and femininity. It is for this reason that gender roles vary from one culture to another primarily because different cultures attribute behaviors and characteristics to either sex (Martin, 1991). This paper will explore this social construct with reference to the “The Egg and the Sperm” article to deconstruct stereotypes about gender as influenced by societal norms.
Notably, on gender identity, it is plausible to understand that self-conception of individuals as either female or male emanate from the association with gender roles of either femininity or masculinity. In some cases, people identify themselves with characters, which are predominantly occupied by opposite biological sex (Lingiardi, 2007). In such cases, these individuals are said to be transgendered. Transgendered females, for example, have an adamant psychological and emotional connection to masculine societal aspects that they usually identify their gender as male. The parallel connection to femininity exists for men who are transgendered. We even find most transgendered individuals seeking medical interventions such as hormonal therapy and surgery to align their physical being with their gender identity. These people are known as transsexuals (Lingiardi, 2007).
Markedly, borrowing from “The Egg and the Sperm,” no doubt that there are gender stereotypes hidden within biology’s scientific language (Martin, 1991). Furthermore, the author denotes that over centuries, scientific research has proved that the sperm and the egg contain masculinity and femininity characteristics. In her article, Martin critics the manner in which biological texts portray the sperm as the most active as opposed to the passive damsel egg, which awaits to be saved by the former lest be flushed out via menstruation process as waste (1991). To support her arguments, Martin (1991) notes that the strength of female egg makes it even harder to penetrate, and this calls for additional sperms to penetrate through the egg. Though using imagery in the form of sperm and egg, the author tries to explain a point across that women are not as fragile as may be stereotyped by the social norms (Martin, 1991).
Undoubtedly, we always find social constructions of stereotypes central to how we perceive the world around us. According to Martin (1991), culture has a significant effect on how, in particular, scientists describe their discoveries. The author through her account of the reproductive technology deconstructs the stereotypes associated with the egg and sperm representation. These descriptions of the egg being feminine and sperm masculine illustrate the typical gender stereotypes in the society (Martin, 1991). Through the implementation of socially constructed stereotypes in the natural science, these ideas appear to be natural and not prone to any alteration. This is because, today’s society has presupposed that natural science gives answers to any phenomenon and hence, perceiving whatever it claims as the truth. Therefore, projects in natural science play a role in defining and internalization of these social constructions.
To another end, as Johansson (2007) notes, another way of reproducing internalization of socially constructed stereotypes is through body behavior. In particular, females are expected to behave in certain manners compared to their male counterparts. For example, women should sit with their legs crossed while men freely occupy more space by spreading their legs apart. Based on this, gender stereotypes extend to the sensory perceptions. That is, the sense of touch, for example, historically aligns with gender associations. Therefore, rough and soft touch has been associated with males and females respectively. Similarly, the sensory perception of sound aligns harsh and loud sound to male connotations while linking soothing and soft sounds to women.
It is evident that most of the gender-specific stereotypes are not natural associations. We find that as we internalize these stereotypes, we tend to behave according to these misconceptions, ultimately shaping how our bodies operate in long-term. Consequently, implementation of gender stereotypes sometimes can result in extreme social consequences. The process goes beyond the mere perception of activity of both the sperm and the egg but to the projection of cultural imagery, which influences not only our understanding of gender roles but also defines our actions and behaviors towards the opposite sex.
On the other hand, as Martin (1991) underscores, it is essential to create awareness of the negative social constructions that define gender roles in the society. This will enable us to gain the power of deconstructing the social conventions associated with sex. From a philosophical viewpoint, the society and culture play a significant role in defining the roles of gender, and, in essence, these responsibilities prescribed an ideal behavior for a particular gender. In other words, social conventions tend to explain the difference between males and females, whereas biological factors to some extent define the behavior of a person. In fact, gender reflects an emergent social attribute and not a personal trait and thus, creating awareness of negative stereotyping, seems the best alternative to undo this bondage of social conventions. However, it remains unclear to what extent this strategy will denaturalize the impact of socially constructed imagery. Therefore, it is vital to unraveling the impact of social stereotypes having deeply embedded in our culture, occupying natural science realm.
Gender just like any other social identities is constructed through social arrangements. Sociologists use the theory of gender constructions to put sex into cultural and historical focus. This theory sheds the light that gender is not an essential or fixed fact but varies across place and time. Most of the gender norms are learned through socialization from birth through childhood. For instance, children learn the appropriate behaviors through interaction with their parents at a tender age. By extension, cultural practices, religious beliefs, and school orientations determine the practicality of these norms in the society (Johansson, 2007).
From a personal perspective, gender experiences have evolved substantially. In fact, I have had several ideas that are gender constructed; for example, I believed that the wrestling sport was solely for men since it is associated with toughness, which is a masculinity trait. However, as I grew up, I started accepting that everyone being male or female could fit the game if adequate training is provided. This realization has aided me in questioning some of the gender stereotypes existing in the society, especially ones related to duties and roles of both men and women. To some extent, I had viewed women who are actively involved in politics as trespassing against social norms, but with the understanding of gender and sexuality, I have to reconsider politics as a career that fits all individuals irrespective of their gender inclination. Moreover, masculinity was rewarded over and above femininity as men worked in reputable firms with high pay, in contrast to female counterparts who were denied such access. Nevertheless, a notable change can be observed, and campaigns for equality have yielded fruits immensely (Lingiardi, 2007). Women have been able to acquire predominantly male-tagged jobs and act like their male counterparts.
The bases of the social constructionist group in psychology are similar to the criticism of the objectivism adopted by positivist models of knowledge (Gergen, & Davis, 2013). One of the most acknowledged variations of the social constructionist models is the gender role hypothesis and it is considered as an early type of social constructionism. The much concentration on supremacy and hierarchy discloses inspiration emerging from a Marxist structure, utilized for example by materialist feminism as well as Foucault’s publications on discourse (Gergen, & Davis, 2013). Social constructionism can be described as the idea that there are various things that people recognize or take to be “reality” that are to some extent socially positioned. According to Gergen, & Davis, some categories are social constructions and they exist only because people willingly accept to act as if they subsist (2013). Some examples of these things may include money, tenure, nationality and decorations for valor.
Majority of children learn to group themselves by gender when they are at the age of 3 years (Gorely, Holroyd, & Kirk, 2003). From birth, kids gain knowledge of gender labels and roles from their parents and upbringing. Traditional views claim that males learn to maneuver their physical and social surroundings through physical strength or agility while girls are trained to present themselves as objects to be viewed. Social constructionists assert that gender-isolated children’s activities exhibit gender variations in behavior and that these differences replicate the important nature of male and female conduct (Gorely et al., 2013).
Gender role model treats these conflicting distributions of women and men into roles as the principal origin of sex-differentiated social conduct, their effects on behavior are reconciled by psychological and social practices. Gender roles came from correspondent supposition and therefore that general labor division was enlarged to gender roles (Lindsey, 2015).
Gender roles which are socially constructed are believed to be hierarchical, and are described as a male-benefitting gender hierarchy by social constructionists (Lindsey, 2015). The word patriarchy, in accordance with Lindsey, is used to describe a social order founded on the domination of women by men, particularly in agricultural communities (2015).
There are big disparities in attitudes towards correct gender roles. In a World Survey conducted, respondents were asked if they thought that salaried jobs should be limited to only men in the case of scarcity in jobs. In Iceland the percentage that agreed with the proposition was 3.6 percent whereas in Egypt it was 94.9 percent (Paul, 2015).
Attitudes have also diverged in the past, for example, in Europe, women were normally linked with roles related to medication and healing (Paul, 2015). However, due to the increase of witch-hunts throughout Europe and the institutionalization of drugs, these roles became completely linked with men. Nonetheless, in the last few decades these roles have turned out to be basically gender-neutral in Western civilization (Paul, 2015).
Homosexual communities are usually more open-minded in interchanging of gender roles (Payne, Swami, & Stanistreet, 2008). For example, a person with a masculine voice, a fuller beard, wearing a lady’s costume and high heels, carrying a purse would probably attract ridicule or other cold attention in normal social contexts. This case may be different in Homosexual society where gender roles can be freely interchanged. Since the dominant class views this type of gender expression as improper, unsuitable, or perhaps intimidating, these people are considerably more likely to experience prejudice and harassment both in their private lives and from their employer (Gergen, & Davis, 2013).
Gender roles could be a channel through which people expresses their gender identity, but they could also be used as a way of exerting social dominance, and people may experience negative social outcomes for defying them. Overall, from the philosophical perspective, as one grows up, he starts conceptualizing the real difference between gender and sex. It is from this orientation that a child learns prescribed behaviors and duties expected out of her in the society. This means that cultural and religious beliefs play an important part in defining the responsibility of each gender. It is because of social construction that there exists a misconception in the use of the term sexuality. However, the modern society through awareness creation on the adverse effect social conventions has been deconstructed (Gergen, & Davis, 2013).