This essay is written in response to Go Terps remarks about how we are constantly making changes in order to make things right in our society. She provocatively states:
“There will always be problems that individuals will find in the structure of society, but it will get better in time. It is a process. We are only human and mistakes happen, but it seems like our society is constantly practicing trial and error until we get it right. Our social structure has already changed immensely over time, and this should be acknowledged for what it is — very impressive.”
It is true that our society is changing. However, we should not assume that those changes are necessarily good. What is truly important is not change but the kind of change that happens. Go Terps brought up interesting areas in which changes are occurring but fails to demonstrate how these changes will eradicate the gender related problems in our society.
In the 2005 film TransGeneration, we see how difficult it was for transgendered students to discuss their gender with new friends and colleagues. It took them a whole lot of courage to openly explore issues related to their identities and how they feel as human beings. Lets take for instance one of the characters, Raci, who transitioned from male to female. Even though she was born with male genitalia, she didn’t feel that she was a man. She couldn’t live the norms associated with our social construction of gender. She struggled emotionally and physically with how people perceived her, and it was only after the transformation of her gender from man to woman that she was able to live and feel comfortable. This is an example of how problematic our social construction of gender is. I think it is important to be able to live according to how we feel about ourselves and not necessarily by the demands of others.
I feel it is imperative to allow individuals to explore their own identities. We are all created differently by God and have different aspirations in life. And if we want to impose onto others a rigid definition of what constitutes an appropriate gender, then people will suffer. It is important to realize that no matter how we construct gender, there will always be deviations. Therefore, what needs to change is rigidity. A “constantly improving” society is one which demolishes rigid gender categories.
In a recent online post entitled “The Social Construction of Gender,” the author writes that the construction of gender “reveals that gender is not immutable or set in stone. Harmful aspects of our construction of gender can and should be discarded. But beyond that, if gender exists to support hierarchy, then gender, as it is viewed and practiced in our culture, is not only uncomfortable for many people, but a tool of oppression.” This post suggests that gender is not constant and the way we construct it is often offensive or distasteful to others who do not identify with the social construction. As long as we continue to have a rigid gender system, then the system will need to change. Again, the problem is the rigidity of the system, and this is precisely what Go Terps fails to understand.
The Class Blog Project, or CBP, is a blog featuring undergraduate students forming a critical dialogue with each other around ideas related to the sociology of gender.