chapter  4
16 Pages

Gender as a Social and Cultural Construction

Sex and gender are very important aspects of our personal identity, fundamental to how we perceive both ourselves and others. When a child is born, we want to know immediately if it is a boy or a girl, and the way we react to this information is based on a whole set of social and cultural assumptions about that individual’s gendered future. Although gender is usually ascribed to babies on the basis of perceived anatomical distinctions, our assumptions about the child’s future are more to do with social and cultural values than with the direct consequences of such bodily features; we assume, however, that these cultural differences will follow fairly automatically from the physical ones. In this chapter I am going to suggest that this assumption is in itself culturally produced, and that the complex of sex, gender identity and gender role naturalizes socially produced power asymmetries in such a way as to give spurious ‘scientific’ support to prevailing gender inequalities in Western society.