Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Brief Comparison between Race and Gender

Race and gender; these socially constructed ideologies are responsible for the oppression of millions and the power of a few. Humanity has been so deeply engrained in the socialization of these two concepts that we don’t even notice their influence. How have we allowed society to accept these skewed perceptions of humanity? Why is it okay to pay women less for the exact job that a male is being paid more to do? Why is it acceptable that we will hire someone solely because they are white, despite the fact that their black competition is equally qualified? There are aspects of our society that we cannot logically explain because of the stereotypes and injustices that the ideas of race and gender have ingrained in our society. Race and gender are not naturally occurring- they were invented by humans. Unlike sex and the "racial" diversity*", race and gender are abstract constructs invented with the intention to explicate and categorize certain diverse and misunderstood characteristics. Further, it seems that the invention of these terms was backed with the intention of exploitation. 

Wikipedia defines gender as, “a set of characteristics distinguishing male and female.” So, instead of the biological terms “man” and “woman,” we get “masculine” and “feminine.” Anyone who fails to meet up with society’s expectations for their gender faces alienation and ridicule. Men who choose to stay at home with the children are going against centuries of belief that men should go out to work and women should stay home and care to the home and kids. Women who play professional sports challenge the notion that they should be careful, dainty, and looking their best on all occasions. 

Race’s entry on Wikipedia is defined as “classifications of humans into relatively large and distinct populations or groups.” “Classification” is such an interesting choice of word; do we really classify each other? There would be countless ways to do so- hair color, height, colors of our shirts-the list goes on. Yet our forefathers decided that it would be the color of our skin. And the fad caught on. People bought it. No scientific facts, no extensive research, just convincing arguments. And thus, the world was changed.

Why? Well, we do know that those in power benefit from exploiting the exploitable.

There is no natural law stating that men have to hide their emotions or that Caucasians are the leading race, but for some reason, society has tricked humanity into believing that there is something inherently wrong with challenging the norms.  We’ve admitted that people on a whole would be more afraid of a black person than they would be of a white person. There’s something illogical within our societal norms. Sure, there might be some evolutionary explanations as to why some of these norms have formulated, but those explanations do not hold the same relevancy as they might have a thousand years ago.  The modern era has only made it more obvious that everyone is capable of doing great things, so why haven’t our societal norms completely caught up?
*I had no clue what was the correct terminology for the "legitimate""precursor to race." What do you think is the best explanation for race? Should there even be an explanation? 

I cut this post down significantly, so sorry if parts sound awkward. I just took out large chunks of text and hoped that it all made sense. 


  1. Sophie you raise some interesting questions. It seems to me that under critical scrutiny they concept of race has been revealed to be nothing more than a social construct originally devised for mere convenience, and lacking in real content. Likewise, the biological differentiation between male and female has been argued by feminists such as Judith Butler to stop at physicality. Any sort of role based on gender is accordingly entirely contrived. So why haven't our social norms caught up? I think it is because even though critical observation reveals these notions to be nothing more than social constructs, we are left with little idea what then to make of them. If a woman's role is not necessarily to cook and clean, then what is it? I think this is what many people who were previously oppressed by strict social norms are beginning to ask themselves.

  2. I really like your comparison of race and gender here. It is true that both are social constructions that limit us and hold us back. This idea brought up a common dilemma I see with challenging race and gender normative constructions. If a person with male genitalia does not necessarily choose to participate in traditionally masculine roles, they are often ridiculed for "not being a man." An example of this with race is when a person with "white" skin "acts black." I am not going to typify what this term "acting black" means, as it is different for every person; however I feel like we have all heard someone use this saying. What does this mean though? It presents a value judgement around the persons actions and has an underlying tone of negativity about race. It could present one race as worse if used negatively , or it could be implying that white and black identities should remain separate. We need to recognize these negative connotations and move away from making comments like this or even having thoughts along these lines because it supports the racist language and constructions of our current society.

  3. I think that gender is self imposed as opposed to one's sex which is biologically imposed. Therefore ones decision to be masculine or feminine is decided by that person and it is separate from whether or not they are male or females. But then why can't race be based off of characteristics rather than be a classification? Or more or less, an identification. But identification becomes more complicated when imposed on by society and it becomes less of an identification as opposed to perception.

    I don't think that gender holds us back the same as race does, which serves more as an handicap. As far as the fact that there is no change, I blame that on the social norms that are greatly embedded in our subconscious. We have not caught up because we left social inequalities and stereotypes still affect how we interact with different races, even the sex of a person plays an important factor.

    And those who do break through the inequalities face even more adversity within their own communities because they are either considered sell outs or have to detach themselves from their own race and identify with another. So a change can be possible with sacrifice.


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