Social Constructionism of Sex and Gender


SocialConstructionism of Sex and Gender


SocialConstructionism of Sex and Gender

Socialconstruction entails forming certain notions based on the cultural orenvironmental perspectives that influence them in the society. Theidea of social construction emanate from the social constructs thatexist in every society. Defining the term, “social construct”sets this entire discussion into perspective. A social construct isa perception, a phenomenon, mechanism, or even a social category thatpeople create in the society based on the socio-cultural influencesthat shape that kind of thinking(Greco,2013). In this case, the social constructs under discussion focuseson what different societies, especially the western and easternsociety believe about sex and gender that constitutes the dominantsocial constructs in the respective societies. The philosophicalframework that informs the idea of social construction postulatesthat the absence of a distinct character or feature (s) thatdescribes femininity or masculinity. Human behavior is subject tomany other factors that influence such as the culture of a person,the age, the religion, and the social class. When a person sayssomething that has the connotations of social construction, it meansthat they stress the social aspects that create the contingence ofwhatever they are talking about on the society they come from.Hence,the assertions in the social construction framework are vital infinding out some of the social constructs associated with gender andsex both in eastern countries such as China visavis westerncountries. There are credible chances that the different culturesbetween the two regions of the world also have immense influence onthe type of social constructions that exist in both on sex andgender.

Therehave been cases in western societies where transgendered individualsface hurdles in choosing an identity that fits the western socialconstructs about gender and sexuality. For those who may want toidentify as women, they will seek medical interventions that wouldtransform them into the woman their society considers idealfemininity(sFriedan,1983). They will have to learn and practice certain skills inwalking, talking, and grooming that would project them as normal andnatural women. They have to first figure out, and then act in amanner that is socially acceptable. This is a perfect example ofwestern social constructs of gender that compel individuals tostruggle with conformity rather than pick individual features basedon one’s conception of themselves.

Anexample of a social construct in an eastern country is theperceptions of women in an ethnic group called the Nakhi in China’sYunnan province(Xue,2008). Women in the Nakhi society are the major source of labor. They engage in manual work such as digging in the fields, buildinghouses, and ploughing. Mean, on other hand, carry out the domesticroles such as looking after children, cooking, and staying at homeall the time. Women are much respected in the Nakhi society. Thebehaviors and attitudes around masculinity and femininity aredifferent he practices of most. The identity of women in this Asiansociety is coined around their role as leaders in the family ratherthan subordinates to men. Identity for every gender construct in asociety stems from the conformity of individuals to the discourse ofa particular culture.

Thegeneral context of social constructionism in China is that men play acontrolling position in the family. Thus, they view domestic choresas the work of females. Any attempt by a man to participate or helpout a female in doing domestic chores is frowned upon and it isregarded as a sign of weakness. Nonetheless, the trend is graduallychanging because the modern Chinese women are also working towardshigh social mobility. It is not unusual to see Chinese men takingpart in culinary chores and taking credit for it without shame. Discursive psychologists view this trend a new social construct thatmay define the perfect Chinese man as well. The more a man is able tofend for his family and help females do domestic chores the same waythey have taken up manual the more they are viewed as desirable. Thefact that the social structure is changing points out the truth aboutthe assertion that issues of maleness and femaleness are about thesocial discourse entrenched in different cultures than the scientificexplanations in biology and psychology.

MargaretMead’s study from which she wrote the article, Comingof Age in Samoa: A psychological Study of Primitive Youth for WesternCivilization bringsvintofocus the peculiar attitudes that are typical of western culturesthat were evident throughout her experience in Samoa. Mead statesthat the in most instances the actions people are reflections ofentrenched cultural norms rather than rational approaches to issues. She further states that the people’s personal view of life isnormally diminished as they try to conform to the systematicpresentation of the cultural form their communities.Mead observesthat although sexual and gender attitudes about adolescents emanatefrom the existing scientific explanations through psychology andbiology, social and cultural factors also play a role in shapingvarious attitudes. Mead makes an interesting comparison betweenadolescent experiences in Samoa and western countries. An importantfact that she focuses on is the difference in access to educationopportunities and the role it plays in entrenching certain socialconstructs about gender and sexuality of adolescents in both cases.In her study, Mead found that adolescents in Samoa were notpredisposed to the societal pressures arising from the need toperform well in class, rivalry, feelings of envy, and impotence. TheSamoan society did not have “winners” or “losers” like in thewestern contexts(Mead,1954). Instead, emphases were on the diversity of ability andcapacity of individuals. Mead also found that western maleadolescents are prone to societal from school. They are expected toscore good grades. Excelling in school and a good education isconsidered a great achievement and meant a good life ahead. Meadconcludes that unless the society finds a way to reduce pressure onthe child, the solution to teen violence may remain a mirage. Sheblames the cultural patterns westerns societies as the catalysts ofteenage struggles that lead to violence. From Mead’s study it isevident that social constructs play a huge role in the shapingpeople’s behavior and perceptions towards life.

Inconclusion the socio-cultural views of gender and sex are behind thesocial constructs that exists in different societies. Indeed, peopleconstruct their perceptions of the world from their socialenvironment. The attitudes of different societies and communitiesabout sex and gender are as a result of the social constructs thatevery generation has been told about the male or female gender. Inthe perspective of discursive psychologists issues of gender areproducts of social constructs that are born through interactions thatare unique to the cultural structures of different societies.


Friedan,B. (1983). TheFeminine Mystique.1963. Reprint. NewYork: DeU.

Greco,J. (2013). Gender: A Social Construction. Sociological Imagination:Western’s Undergraduate. SociologyStudent Journal,2(2), 8.

Mead,M. (1954).Comingof age in Samoa: A study of adolescence and sex in primitivesocieties.Penguinbooks.

Xue,C. (2008). Critically evaluate the understanding of gender asdiscourse. InternationalEducation Studies,1(2), p54.