Part 1 of this blog is here.
Conforming to a feminine norm?
Stereotypes of masculine and feminine traits have abounded for millennia and to deny there is any truth in them is wrong. Yet to me they represent a list of traits which are similar to star signs. There are so many that you are bound to have some of the stereotypical traits of your gender, just as you are likely to have some of your star sign. That these stereotypes hold true entirely in any individual is fantasy. That they are biologically determined, even more so.
The World Health Organisation define gender as follows:
“Gender, typically described in terms of masculinity and femininity, is a social construction that varies across different cultures and over time. There are a number of cultures, for example, in which greater gender diversity exists and sex and gender are not always neatly divided along binary lines.”
such as male and female or homosexual and heterosexual. . It is apparent, then, that different cultures have taken different approaches to creating gender distinctions, with more or less recognition of fluidity and complexity of gender.”
They reject the idea of masculinity or femininity having a biological basis. To support their point (and agains the idea that western european notions of gender are biologically determined) they give the following examples:
a) “The Berdache in North America, the fa’afafine (Samoan for “the way of a woman”) in the Pacific, and the kathoey in Thailand are all examples of different gender categories that differ from the traditional Western division of people into males and females.”
What is interesting in reading further is how in their own cultures these groups were accepted and seen as ‘natural’ whereas looked at through the lens of the Western eye, they were deemed (pejoratively) gay, trans or ladyboys (despite the fact that these groups contained both men and women).
b) “Further, among certain North American native communities, gender is seen more in terms of a continuum than categories, with special acknowledgement of “two-spirited” people who encompass both masculine and feminine qualities and characteristics”
These are just a few examples of gender categories that have or do still exist in other cultures. If gender is biological then how are these people to be explained? Why were they accepted within their cultures? Why were they thought of as normal as those who were more characteristically what we would think of as masculine and feminine?
Socialisation evidently plays a part in how we view our sex and the extent to which we have to conform to any gender stereotypes. It makes sense to me that gender is fluid and on a spectrum. It seems that generalisations have led to the creation of stereotypes which have then been imposed as ‘norms’ based on the cultures we have been brought up in.
There is no denying that in European cultures traits have been divided far more strictly to men and women, but this is simply how these cultures have evolved. Even then, there was nothing ‘natural’ about that social evolution.
Having got to the end of this section I realise that if I continue this will be a ‘super’ blog so I’ll stick the last section into Blog 3!