chapter  2
60 Pages

The Social Construction of Gender

ByChristie Launius, Holly Hassel

This chapter explores how a social constructionist approach to gender is a key feature of a feminist theoretical lens. One of the early foundational theories underpinning a social constructionist approach is C. Wright Mills's articulation of the concept of the sociological imagination. The "Genderbread Person" image that opens this chapter—and the accompanying controversies around it—is a case in point of the unsettled social understanding of the relationship between biological sex and the various ways that gender is created, expressed, and defined. Some of the primary sites and arenas of gender socialization include the family, education, religion, popular culture and the media, sports, and the legal and criminal justice systems. Broadly speaking, the legal system, including courts of law, the police, and the prison system are sites that convey powerful messages about gender. Reinforced across institutions and ideologies, gender norms are communicated in many settings that individuals experience throughout their lives.