What does it mean to define gender as binary? Discuss challenges to that definition both in the United States and in other cultures.
To define gender as binary means that gender is classified into only two distinct and opposite forms of either feminine or masculine. Challenges to this definition come in the form of some cultures offering a third option that is neither masculine nor feminine. An example of this challenge is the hijra people of South Asia and the Navajo of the U.S.
- What are some of the characteristics generally associated with boys and men in our society? What traits are associated with girls and women? How might these affect our expectations about the ways that men and women should behave?
Some characteristics associated with boys and men include instrumental character traits like ambition, self-reliance, confidence, assertiveness, and strength. Girls and women on the other hand, possess expressive character traits such as the ability to express concern, tender feelings, selflessness, and warmth. These societal expectations tend to fashion our expectations in a certain way. However, several instances of gender bending have shown that both the masculine and feminine genders may maintain a conventional gender identity but alter the rules just a bit.
- How do gender structures in major social institutions such as politics, religion, education, and the economy affect how people “do” gender in their families? What are some issues that transgender individuals and their loved ones face today?
Social institutions present socially structured opportunities to people. These socially structured opportunities then affect men and women’s choices and behaviors. Major social institutions involve the assignment of divergent roles to men and women. These roles in turn reinforce gender differences. Moreover, social institutions influence how people do gender. The practices and expectations in one social institution end to affect those in other institutions. Some of the issues that transgender and their loved ones face are harassment and stigma, lack of legal protection especially in employment circles, and anti-transgender violence.
- Women and men may renegotiate and change their gender, attitudes and behaviors as they progress through life. What evidence do you see of this in your own life or in others’ lives?
It is very evident that some women and men end up changing their gender, attitudes and behaviors. Take the instance of a single parent; either a mother or father. This parent may have to change their attitudes and behaviors so as to manifest both parents. A single mother may have to act in a masculine manner at times and a feminine manner at others for the sake of the children. The same applies to a single father.
- Policy Question. What family law and policy changes of recent years do you think are related to the women’s and men’s movements? What policies do you think would be needed to promote gender equality or more satisfying lives for men and women?
The Equal Rights Amendment of 1972 paved the way for equality regardless of race, sex, and gender (Peterson). This is in line with the desires of both the men’s and women’s movements. Recent policy changes such as California’s state Senate Bill 826 requiring the mandatory inclusion of women on corporate boards are huge advances made by the women’s movements. Policies required to promote gender equality should start by ensuring inclusivity in the government and corporate vehicles that enact these policies. As such, both men and women should be sufficiently included in leadership positions. The specific policies aimed at promoting gender equality should then touch on the society’s major social institutions: government and politics, religion, education, and economics.
Peterson, Kristina. “Equal Rights Amendment Could Soon Be Back in Congress.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 3 July 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/equal-rights-amendment-could-soon-be-back-in-congress-11562155202.