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Is gender REALLY just a social construct?


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#1 Great Thief Yatagarasu

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 12:56 PM

I'm probably going to have my head bitten off for this, but it's something that I need to clear up.

So, each time I've had a think about my gender, I keep getting the same two responses: "Just go with how you feel inside", and "gender is simply a social construct anyway." But I keep trying to think that over, and I can't help but think that those two ideas don't actually fit together. Because if gender was a social construct, then a person wouldn't really feel strongly as one gender or another - they could be any gender they like, as any gender they have is created by society and they know this. But if gender is something that comes from how people strongly feel, then it's not a social construct because it's stemming from a person's feelings. Do you get what I mean here? Plus, there's always the unfortunate implication that writing off gender as a social construct implies that it could be changed, which isn't the case.

Gender ROLES are a social construct, and the ways in which gender can be expressed are social constructs - but gender itself? I don't think so. That's just my take on it, so I'm sorry if I've caused offence - I just don't understand the logic that gender is both something created by society and something that you have to feel deep down inside.
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#2 BaronTheCat

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 01:22 PM

You say something very important here, and I agree with you.

As you point out, gender roles are a social construct while gender identity is not.

But the "social construct" has impact on us... how we feel about ourselves, describe ourselves and relate to other people... And also how we interpret other people, and what we expect of them... which has impact on their feelings and behavior.

#3 trewdys

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 01:59 PM

This article resonates strongly with me.
I'd reckon gender itself is not a social construct, but there are lots of generalisations attached to each of them, and those are the social constructs.
So yes, go with how you feel.
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#4 PerfectlyDarkTails

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 02:15 PM

Great point, gender itself I believe differs a bit, connected loosely to gender roles of course. It's something that is within and perhaps not influenced by society. Indeed if the mind gender don't match, societies pressure to be the gender you're born with influences people's dysmorphia etc. it is a difficult question to answer...   

#5 Ellii

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 02:26 PM

I think you are right. Also, by that article I probably am agendered.... As a kid, I gave no concideration to my gender (I was kinda the girly one because I was more artistic, but my sister and I grew up helping dad build stuff , playing with hotwheels, and dressing up our dolls for tea.) Now, I kinda want to punch anyone if the face that calls me a woman. A lot of women appear very attached to that identity. I would love if I could be absolutely sexless, which I would imagine would horrify them.
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#6 SleepIncarnate

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 03:27 PM

Keep in mind I haven't read the article linked before responding (I will after), so if I say a lot of the same stuff in it, total coincidence, but also solidifies my point.

Gender is a mix of things. There seem to be two camps, the completely biological and the completely social. Yet both arguments have their faults. If it were entirely social, transsexuals wouldn't exist. Yet if it were entirely biological, then we'd all have the rigidly structured identities the right-wing conservatives, especially the religious ones, would have you believe we really are. There are biological imperatives that are the root of our social roles. Throughout history, men have traditionally been the fighters and women the caregivers. We are both capable of both, but there is a biological imperative there; men the urge to fight and protect, women the urge to care for others. Both have important evolutionary needs. The former to destroy threats, protect the tribe/species, as well as the simple "survival of the fittest" kill or be killed drive. The latter ensures that the former don't end up killing us all off and we can continue as a species. It's just like how men and women tend to have differing views on relationships and desirability: men based on looks (to determine a mate who can bear good offspring) as well as less attached to one individual (in order to have as many children as possible), while women tend to be attached, and while looks are important (healthy, strong, etc.), they tie into the larger issue of dependability and reliability, being there to protect the children.

Now, keep in mind, these are huge generalizations based on the entire course of human history. Within our modern society, being a technological species and the dominant one to boot, we have far fewer issues for survival. Thus, while we may not be evolving physically, we are evolving socially and emotionally. Both of these tie into the increase in more genderfluid and genderqueer individuals. History has shown us that there have always been transsexual people, even if surgery was not an option, but beyond sticking within strict male/female binary roles, there have been few who transcended them. Survival came first. It is because of this social and emotional evolution that we start seeing arguments about gender being a social construct, and seeing evidence to back them up.

The simple fact of the matter is that gender, like sexuality, is an incredibly complex thing that we may never fully understand.

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#7 CDSM

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 07:33 PM

Humans are driven to be social creatures and construct things socially based on biological/psychological parameters.

Because, that framework obviously arose for reasons. And people look at that framework, and they can identify with it. So even though it *is* a social construct to have particular categories, some people still do identify with those categories for whatever reason.

Then you have people like myself who just don't jive with that framework.

It's a social construct in that, you would never identify as masculine or feminine or male or female if you did not know what that is. But you would still have certain personality traits and instincts, and I suspect someone who is transsexual would still feel some kind of dysphoria but might not be able to know why.

It's why you can have people who find their true gender identity as something like agender or binary later in life, because earlier they didn't know "that was a thing".

In some ways it's similar to how we have concepts of time and math, which are abstract, but are created to describe things we actually perceive.

It's not like gender identity is a concrete thing where you can crack open a person's skull, but out a little filing card and say, "Ah, your gender card says you are female!"


There's also the fact that with sexual and gender identity, it's tough to define what actually "qualifies" a person as such, and, if the only qualifier is what you say you are, what exactly you mean when you identify as a given thing.

I think much of the confusion arises because there is no universal definition for these concepts, and people aren't able to properly communicate what they really mean when they use them.
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#8 Akumetsu

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 08:23 PM

I hope I won't offend anyone with this. I'm sorry, if I'm being insensitive.
I've read the linked article and I must say... well, it doesn't help my confusion about what gender is at all.

To clarify: I don't think anyone's gender identity requires justification for other people. But if you're trying for an explanation...

So gender identity is not gender expression. I get what gender expression is. Gender identity is not it. Ok.
But then, the article's author proceeds to strip gender of any meaningful definition, then points and says "there it is".
She says that it's neither patterns of masculine/feminine behavior, nor awareness of physical differences between sexes, but that "The only thing that is consistent across all individuals with a given gender identity (such as “man”, or “woman”, amongst others), is the deep-seated sense of identification with that concept."

But aside from those two - physical or behavioral - differences, there is no other concept of male/female.
Am I missing something?

At best, the only thing that I would conclude from this article is that gender is akin to "psychological sex" - locked at birth and possibly corresponding to physical one. That it's of biological origin, just like sex, and that it would fit on a spectrum between "male" and "female".
Does that sound even remotely right?

It's not what's really bothering me, though.

The main problem I have with this article is that it seems to claim that unless you've recognized your gender since you've literally been a toddler, you're cis, period. That if you're questioning it later in life, or wonder what gender you are at all, that if you have to think about it at all, you're doing it wrong.

She seems to scream that there's this giant part of your identity that you've always known is there, that's your gender. If you didn't feel anything, well - it's cause you're that cis.

I find it deeply ironic that one person in the comments says just that about someone who identifies as agendered.
Hey, I know that one song...

I find it hard to take advice from people who try to decree what others are (not) and what they (don't) know about themselves, while at the same time shouting "you have no right to question our gender identity and it's definition".

Rant over, before I say something really stupid.
Sorry about that.

#9 eamonn

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 09:35 PM

Genders are categories of personhood, maybe - they're ways of being a person. An autist, for example, has specific characteristics which qualify him to be considered an autist. Consider that the category of "autism" has not always existed; it's only about 70 years old. But "autism" is the name of a cluster of symptoms - it seems ridiculous to say that this cluster of symptoms did not exist until the category of personhood which we call autism became recognised.

Put it like this: what we call autism existed before the 1950s (or whenever it was; I forget), but before the 1950s, "autism" was not a way to be a person. This is actually the main line of argument that I used in my thesis - in the offline world, asexuality does not exist as a category of personhood; AVEN (and other places) present it to the person who lacks sexual attraction as a viable way of being a person.

Do you see what I mean? It's ludicrous to suggest that the symptoms which comprise autism didn't exist and were "socially constructed" in the 1950s; what happened was that those symptoms existed and were recognised in the 1950s and the category of the autist was socially constructed out of pre-existing, externally-recognisable symptoms.

(I'm drawing almost entirely here on Ian Hacking's excellent article 'Making Up People'. He actually has a book called 'The Social Construction of What?' which I've been meaning to read; it's a critique of all of this stuff.)

So, who wants to apply this to gender?

Let' consider that gender is a category of personhood in the same way, made up of particular physical and mental characteristics. A person is categorised into one or the other based on their possession of said characteristics. This idea of what constitutes gender is thus a social construct again made up of already existing characteristics.

But it gets really interesting when the "pre-existing" characteristics interact with new ideas of what characteristics a member of the category has - and indeed it's a mess of characteristics with nothing recognisably "pre-existing"... Excuse me for rambling, I haven't eaten in some time.

I'll add that identification would be considering yourself a member of a particular category of personhood. In terms of gender, one is automatically dumped into one category or the other based on their genitals. If one considers their characteristics not to be typical of their 'category of personhood', they'll feel out of place.

Basically, I'd say this:
1) Humans have physical and mental characteristics.
2) They are grouped into social-constructed categories which are based on these characteristics, race and gender being the two most obvious. These, being social constructs, are partially imaginary and partially based on fact, but people generally believe them to be facts.
3) People can have a sense of identification or lack thereof with their category of personhood; this is a subjective feeling.

Some anecdotal thoughts:
Identity is more like grammar than some kind of essence; it's only when it is violated that one really sees it, as when someone makes a grammatical mistake or a man wears a dress.
I think, too, that many people don't have a strong sense of identity because of this. Identity is brought out when one's characteristics clash with their assigned category of personhood, or in a context with different kinds of people, or something. I mean, I'm an Irish heterosexual guy living in Ireland, so I don't have a strong sense of identity. But if I was gay I might, or if I was transported to a village in the Congo. Put more simply, identity becomes salient due to a sense of rupture.

And, simply in order to defend myself, I'll add that given my self-reported lack of a strong sense of identity it would be rather easy for me to make mistakes as to the nature of identity, gender or otherwise.

Edited by eamonn, 28 June 2012 - 09:53 PM.


#10 Great Thief Yatagarasu

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 11:03 PM

I hope I won't offend anyone with this. I'm sorry, if I'm being insensitive.
I've read the linked article and I must say... well, it doesn't help my confusion about what gender is at all.

To clarify: I don't think anyone's gender identity requires justification for other people. But if you're trying for an explanation...

So gender identity is not gender expression. I get what gender expression is. Gender identity is not it. Ok.
But then, the article's author proceeds to strip gender of any meaningful definition, then points and says "there it is".
She says that it's neither patterns of masculine/feminine behavior, nor awareness of physical differences between sexes, but that "The only thing that is consistent across all individuals with a given gender identity (such as “man”, or “woman”, amongst others), is the deep-seated sense of identification with that concept."

But aside from those two - physical or behavioral - differences, there is no other concept of male/female.
Am I missing something?

At best, the only thing that I would conclude from this article is that gender is akin to "psychological sex" - locked at birth and possibly corresponding to physical one. That it's of biological origin, just like sex, and that it would fit on a spectrum between "male" and "female".
Does that sound even remotely right?

It's not what's really bothering me, though.

The main problem I have with this article is that it seems to claim that unless you've recognized your gender since you've literally been a toddler, you're cis, period. That if you're questioning it later in life, or wonder what gender you are at all, that if you have to think about it at all, you're doing it wrong.

She seems to scream that there's this giant part of your identity that you've always known is there, that's your gender. If you didn't feel anything, well - it's cause you're that cis.

I find it deeply ironic that one person in the comments says just that about someone who identifies as agendered.
Hey, I know that one song...

I find it hard to take advice from people who try to decree what others are (not) and what they (don't) know about themselves, while at the same time shouting "you have no right to question our gender identity and it's definition".

Rant over, before I say something really stupid.
Sorry about that.


I think the aspect is that if gender were purely decided based on your behaviour itself and what qualifies as "male and female" traits, and the awareness that physically men and women are different, then that's not YOU deciding what you're gender is - it's society and other people you interact with deciding it FOR you.

I'm (mostly) cisgendered, although I do think I'm a femandrogyne/cross-dresser. However, that's still a mostly female gender identity. On the other hand, if we were to go with my personality, then most people would peg me as a complete 50-50 split of male and female, possibly a butchandrogyne. And going by physical differences between the sexes, then everyone would be totally, 100% cisgendered. So it's not an accurate thing to measure your gender with.
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#11 CDSM

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 07:13 AM

I think the thing about agender is... there's no reason you wouldn't feel you are cis... no matter which body you had... because one variety of agender if being gender-irrelevant. I don't see how that isn't valid.

It's almost like she's saying if your alternative gender identity doesn't involve a struggle, it's not valid.

Which is pretty much why I still just identify as a straight cisgendered male, because I'm "not allowed" to be anything else.
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#12 BaronTheCat

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 10:11 AM

eamonn: Your hypothesis is interesting, but it has to be modified since it doesn't consider all the facts.

Let' consider that gender is a category of personhood in the same way, made up of particular physical and mental characteristics. A person is categorised into one or the other based on their possession of said characteristics. This idea of what constitutes gender is thus a social construct again made up of already existing characteristics.


I'll add that identification would be considering yourself a member of a particular category of personhood. In terms of gender, one is automatically dumped into one category or the other based on their genitals. If one considers their characteristics not to be typical of their 'category of personhood', they'll feel out of place.


People with gender dysphoria often have a strong feeling of body dysphoria; they feel as if they can't relate to their body, because their body is the wrong sex. This is almost always the case both with regular transsexuals, and sometimes also with those who feel like they don't have a gender, or are a bit of both. So it's not just about being placed in the wrong category of personhood as in "person with so-and so genitals must have a such-and-such personality", though it's partly about that too, of course. But I think you may be right that gender is an "invented category" based on already existing traits, and what we put into that category might be different for different people. The sense of gender regardless of one's physical and "masculine"/"feminine" personality traits exists, though. If it didn't, there wouldn't be so many people reporting such a feeling. But maybe not all people have it.

(edit: I know what I said above sounds a bit contradictory. What I meant, is that the concept of gender and the sense of gender are two different things.)

I think, too, that many people don't have a strong sense of identity because of this. Identity is brought out when one's characteristics clash with their assigned category of personhood, or in a context with different kinds of people, or something. I mean, I'm an Irish heterosexual guy living in Ireland, so I don't have a strong sense of identity. But if I was gay I might, or if I was transported to a village in the Congo.


This, however, is a great observation I think.

#13 BaronTheCat

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 10:35 AM

I think the thing about agender is... there's no reason you wouldn't feel you are cis... no matter which body you had...


Interesting!

...I think some people would feel like they're NEVER cis, no matter which body they had.

#14 eamonn

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 09:16 PM

eamonn: Your hypothesis is interesting, but it has to be modified since it doesn't consider all the facts.



Let' consider that gender is a category of personhood in the same way, made up of particular physical and mental characteristics. A person is categorised into one or the other based on their possession of said characteristics. This idea of what constitutes gender is thus a social construct again made up of already existing characteristics.


I'll add that identification would be considering yourself a member of a particular category of personhood. In terms of gender, one is automatically dumped into one category or the other based on their genitals. If one considers their characteristics not to be typical of their 'category of personhood', they'll feel out of place.


People with gender dysphoria often have a strong feeling of body dysphoria; they feel as if they can't relate to their body, because their body is the wrong sex. This is almost always the case both with regular transsexuals, and sometimes also with those who feel like they don't have a gender, or are a bit of both. So it's not just about being placed in the wrong category of personhood as in "person with so-and so genitals must have a such-and-such personality", though it's partly about that too, of course. But I think you may be right that gender is an "invented category" based on already existing traits, and what we put into that category might be different for different people. The sense of gender regardless of one's physical and "masculine"/"feminine" personality traits exists, though. If it didn't, there wouldn't be so many people reporting such a feeling. But maybe not all people have it.

(edit: I know what I said above sounds a bit contradictory. What I meant, is that the concept of gender and the sense of gender are two different things.)


I was actually just thinking about that this morning - body dysphoria and not just gender dysphoria - and I don't really think there's a simple answer... One could suppose that in the case of body dysphoria those physical elements and characteristics of personhood related to categorisation are the ones out of kilter with one's category, to a greater extent than the mental ones. I don't know.



I think the thing about agender is... there's no reason you wouldn't feel you are cis... no matter which body you had...


Interesting!

...I think some people would feel like they're NEVER cis, no matter which body they had.


I was also thinking about the term "cisgender" today. Like I said earlier, I believe a lot of people don't have a strong sense of identity, because their identity has not been made salient. Because of this, while there may be many people who are cisgender, there are probably very few who consciously identify as cisgender (of course, there's also the fact that people have never heard of the term, but there's the concept it names, too).

Incidentally, I've previously considered the notion that many people who have no strong sense of gender identity enter a context in which gender identity is a salient topic (such as AVEN, actually), and as a result of their immersion in said context they reflect upon their gender identity - upon realising that they have no strong sense of gender identity, they conclude that they are agender. Equally plausible is that they simply "are" agender, since either possible is indiscernible from the other. More significantly, it goes back to what I said about categories of personhood and the identity-rupture thing. Err, somehow. I just got distracted right there at the end of my sentence...

#15 PoeFreak

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 11:19 PM

Growing up in two subcultures really played up what the OP is saying. In one I was fine and still a girl for wrestling and playing with boys, in the other they thought it was crazy that I wanted to be in boy scouts because they went to the gun range.

#16 henshin

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 06:56 PM

Theres some really interesting responses on this thread.

I always wonder if transexualism isn't about a thing called gender identity per se, but about a mixture of physical body dysphoria, non-traditional gender behaviour, and the aspiration to be an adult of he opposite sex (in the sense that you want the things they get to experience). I don't know, I hope thats not offensive, but I think the concept of gender identity is, like the OP says, contradcitory to my understanding of gender as a social construct. I understand the argument that maybe cisgendered people djust don't feel their gender made salient all the time, but as someone who is pretty gender queer and has experienced mild gender dysphoria, I really don't feel like I have a thing which is my 'gender identity'. I have how I act and whether this is more masculine or feminine, I have wanting to be a man because of all the social and cultural things that go along with that, and I have a genuine desire to be male bodied a lot of the time.

Any trans* people feel like this?

#17 BaronTheCat

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 10:45 PM

Well, I know psychological gender exists because I have one. And many others (trans and cis) know it too. But if you don't know what it's like to have a gender identity, you're likely to think it's just a social construct.

(Most?) Asexuals don't know what sexual attraction is, as they've never felt it, but don't think I've ever heard an asexual claim that sexual attraction is a social construct. Guess it's easier to prove, as people actually seem to be attracted to each other. But wouldn't transsexuals count as proof that gender identity exists?

#18 eamonn

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 11:25 PM

Sexual attraction itself is not a social construct, but many think that our sexual orientations are (at least partly), and the very idea of a sexual orientation certainly is. I wonder how useful an extended analogy between sexual attraction and gender identity might be.

#19 BaronTheCat

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 11:45 PM

The analogy is useful as in "If two people feel differently about the same thing, it doesn't necessarily mean that one of them is lying or imagining things".

I chose sexual attraction because asexuals know what it's like to be disbelieved.

(I agree, btw, that sexual orientations are partly a social construct. The idea of orientations could also be that, partly. But it certainly isn't altogether. We're influenced by culture and experiences but not slaves to them, and we like different types of looks and personalities, even within the gender(s) that we prefer. The "social construct" is rather the boxes and labels we have for sexual orientations. Attraction to genders is considered an orientation while attraction to personality traits, or non-gendered exterior traits, are not considered orientations. E.g. the label "geeksexual" doesn't exist but some of us are attracted to geeks anyway.)

#20 eamonn

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 12:32 AM

I wasn't attacking the analogy, by the way. I meant wondering literally.

#21 5_♦♣

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 12:37 AM

Re: Geeks.

Geeks are intelligent though and there is a label for sexual attraction to intelligence: Sapiosexual.

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 08:00 AM

... But wouldn't transsexuals count as proof that gender identity exists?

I do not think that the question is whether or not gender identity exists but rather does it develop externally or internally (nurture or nature). People can have an identity as a Republican or as a Roman Catholic and those are entirely nurture.

Be careful to not conflate gender and biological sex. If you take physical sex attributes (primary and secondary sexual characteristics, gonads, hormones, etc.) out of the equation then most of what you are left with are gender expression and roles.

#23 BaronTheCat

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 03:12 PM

*sigh* not another one!

When I said gender identity, I meant the one that comes from nature, not nurture.

#24 Sophiatrist

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 07:03 PM

*sigh* not another one!

When I said gender identity, I meant the one that comes from nature, not nurture.

Your statement presupposes the idea that gender comes from nature and not nurture. I think that was the OP's question.

My point was that if you take the elements of physical sex out of gender identity then what is left?

#25 Great Thief Yatagarasu

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 09:39 PM


*sigh* not another one!

When I said gender identity, I meant the one that comes from nature, not nurture.

Your statement presupposes the idea that gender comes from nature and not nurture. I think that was the OP's question.

My point was that if you take the elements of physical sex out of gender identity then what is left?


...What's left is your gender? Whether you feel you're a man or a woman?
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#26 Quiverfree

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 12:31 AM

I get that gender identity and gender, the social construct, are two different things. I just find it really confusing they're called by the same name, especially since I was taught the social construct definition without anyone telling me there was another one.

#27 CDSM

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 05:35 AM


I think the thing about agender is... there's no reason you wouldn't feel you are cis... no matter which body you had...


Interesting!

...I think some people would feel like they're NEVER cis, no matter which body they had.


Some of these things are perception based too. So I think someone would feel that way because there's no real way to appear genderless. Androgyny is really only gender-ambiguous, and even then, there's no way to be perceived as not being a certain sex or gender.

I, for instance, would prefer to have a more androgynous appearance, but on the other hand, I really like having a deep voice, which would clearly identify me as "male" to anyone who listens to me. But is preferring to speak in a male voice the thing that makes me male? Heck if I know.

Then there's the fact that I feel like what I am has led to unfortunate circumstances in my life, and that, maybe I wouldn't feel that way if these things weren't the case.

I was also thinking about the term "cisgender" today. Like I said earlier, I believe a lot of people don't have a strong sense of identity, because their identity has not been made salient. Because of this, while there may be many people who are cisgender, there are probably very few who consciously identify as cisgender (of course, there's also the fact that people have never heard of the term, but there's the concept it names, too).


Right, they are not forced to question it by living in a situation where something is wrong (in this case, their physical body).

One thing I've always wondered is how I'd feel if I really did have the body of a woman. Because, I've a male body now, and I don't experience dysphoria. So, if I was given a woman's body, would I experience dysphoria? How would I feel about it? Unfortunately there's no way to know.

I usually don't talk about this because obviously I don't want to come across as appropriating anyone's struggle or anything. I'd just like the option of being a woman if it were possible. Or something.

But it's not really an option and not really high on the priority list, so I just deal with it.

Well, I know psychological gender exists because I have one. And many others (trans and cis) know it too. But if you don't know what it's like to have a gender identity, you're likely to think it's just a social construct.

(Most?) Asexuals don't know what sexual attraction is, as they've never felt it, but don't think I've ever heard an asexual claim that sexual attraction is a social construct. Guess it's easier to prove, as people actually seem to be attracted to each other. But wouldn't transsexuals count as proof that gender identity exists?


It's pretty complicated. And it's hard to really examine, since it's not like we can just run experiments on this kind of stuff.

I guess it depends on how you define terms.
What is sex? What is gender? What is masculine? What is feminine? What is a man? What is a woman?
I'd need concrete definitions on all these things before I could say that I am one of them.



One other thing: Does anyone else think that something being a "social construct" doesn't mean it isn't real? Because I mean... culture, nationality, religion, all of those are social constructs too but that doesn't make them less real.
I think someone saying "gender is a social construct since I don't have one" REALLY means "my gender identity (or what someone else might consider my gender identity) does not fit in with the framework I see in our society" or something like that.
Because your gender identity is something inherent to you, but if you lived in a different society that had different views on gender and such, would you really be exactly the same?
There's no real way to tell.
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#28 The Joker

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 06:30 AM

I honestly believe that gender is what you feel on the inside :) .

#29 endplusone

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 01:34 PM

I think a lot of people misunderstand or misconstrue social construction as either a simple personal decision-making process or a direct force acting upon you. The purpose of social construction is to illustrate the multitude of social actors and processes that shape society in all its forms over time. It's a mixture of both structure and agency within a highly complex process. You don't just become a gender or take up an identity because one person, one day, decides to tell you what you apparently are and say, "Okay absolutely!". You're born into a world that is cultured and engage with it, even to the extent that what you do feels like it is habitual. To say something is socially constructed is not to say it's illegitimate. If anything it upholds the opposite: People make their lives meaningful. I do not deny that belonging within a community or having an identity matters. The role of social constructionism is to illustrate power relations and to entice resistance, which you can't do if you are arguing that everything around you is absolute.

I really need to find a good book or journal article that explains this, because I have to have this discussion over and over again with people. Mainly my parents. "Does that mean if I had a son and I put him in a dress, I'd make him gay?" :rolleyes: No.

The biological perspective on gender and other social categories ('race' for example), however, have been shaped by Social Darwinism and explains what feels habitual and your everyday actions down to the workings of genetics, hormones, and so forth. From my understanding at least, they are entirely different approaches to understanding the world around us. Obviously their compatibility is still up for debate.

I think I stand with Kirsten Scherrer in her journal article on asexuality, though, where she argues that it's logically inconsistent for the asexual community to, on the one hand, state that sexual attraction is not innate and then, on the other, argue that the asexual orientation/identity is. I think it's important to think heavily about the implications of saying something is biologically inherent. I can understand strategic essentialism from a political standpoint - saying a gender, sexuality, 'race/ethnicity', etc. is biological in order to protect the community from a perceived threat. Yet, what about the history of using biological markers, like 'race', to socially exclude?
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#30 CDSM

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 03:27 AM

I honestly believe that gender is what you feel on the inside :) .


But what exactly are you feeling inside, and how does that translate to the label you use to identify yourself?
"Everything that humans can imagine is a possibility in reality." -- Physicist Willy Karen




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