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Brianna Johnson
Professor Jon Beadle
English 115
9/15/15
Gender Has Replaced Sex
Everyday someone is being positioned in a certain group of gender roles based on their
biological differences. Sex is biological while gender was created and is continuously changing.
As I read Composing Gender, Judith Lorber’s article talked about how we our assigned our
gender roles at birth and that they can change while Aaron Devor mentions that the way we
perform in our gender, according to society, predetermines our gender identity. The common
idea I found between the two was that society has molded our views on gender roles through
social interactions with others to create structure but our actions will not be permanently fixed.
Regarding this issue, I agree with everyone who does believe that it has started from a
society as a whole due to there being no specific person who started this trend. It was a collective
effort and was passed down through generations of parenting. How and why society chose our
gender roles were based on what sex a child was identified as during birth. For example, if
someone was born physically female, their gender roles would be focused on having and taking
care of a family. For those born male, growing up, it was expected for them to play the role of
the provider of that family and focus on working to earn their living. As Ruth Hubbard states in
her article about women’s biology, “the concept, woman (or man), is a socially constructed one
the little girls (or boys) try to fit as we grow up” (46). Moving through childhood to adolescence
we become what we are exposed to because it influences how we address things in the future.
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“Older children have acquired a wide range of social and technical skills that enable them to
come up with marvelous strategies and inventive solutions for dealing with the increasing
pressures that society places on them” (Armstrong). Since society formed our gender roles based
on our sex expectation it does not matter what we do so long as our actions are the opposite.
“Gender identities act as cognitive filtering devices guiding people to attend to and learn
gender role behaviors appropriate to their statuses” (Devor 35). Gender seeks to provide order to
who goes to which activities, practices, and social events. I do not understand why we have
given so much power to these inclinations. It is like signing a contract obligating you to follow
all of these restrictions and rules dictated by society immediately after birth. Today however,
more individuals seem to exercise their choice when it comes to gender roles as an expectation
rather than an obligation, we simply do what feels right. Everything we do that was set by
society has a reward but when we want to do our own thing, we reap the consequences. In my
case, something as simple as playing softball was a double edged sword. Although I gained
approval from my father, some of the women in my family did not believe I should be playing in
such a hands on sport. The negative feedback I received was focused around me coming off as a
tomboy and lacking in femininity. After quitting three years later, it felt like my father lost his
reason for taking pride in me while others, lacking empathy, commended me. Because of his
love for the game, it was if he took more pride in me following in his footsteps at the expense of
my unhappiness while others saw it as an opportunity for me to spend more time studying and
working around the house.
Someone can feel the pressure to fulfill or act according to these roles from anyone, not
just their parents or family. While we are young and even as we continue to age/mature, parents,
friends, and teachers influence almost everything we come to learn. These influences spread
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further than what or why we learn what we do, but also how we learn. “People develop concepts
of themselves as reflected in the eyes of others” (Devor 37). I can remember feeling inclined to
wear certain clothes and start wearing makeup because I wanted to keep up with trends my
female friends were following. Even when no one has to force you to act and behave a certain
way, you can still pick up on those subtle hints and underlying suggestions they want you to do
so you can feel like you fit in.
It is seen as important for people apart of their community to act according to their
gender behaviors in order to make the identifying process easier. After reading the second and
third paragraph in Judith Lorber’s article, it became clear that when people could not identify
someone as a boy or girl, whether it is a young child or an adult, it leaves most people confused
and uncomfortable. (Lorber 28), “As a process, gender creates the social differences that define
“woman” and “man.” Most of society thinks that having someone know their gender identity is
important because they can then start to feel and behave differently. Most importantly they start
to get treated according to their gender status and expectations.
The nation has shamed change so much and for so long that many parents are less willing
to let their children stray away from their socially anticipated gender roles nor are they
comfortable with seeing other people changing between their own gender obligations. Today
women are still fighting to be treated and paid the same that men while they are employed
because some still expect women to stay home. It is about having a specific place amongst
everyone. Because we were divided into specific groups throughout the course of our lives, the
world has decided that you have to fit into one. Without this, that said person would be deemed
an outsider, and because they did not feel acquainted with either groups, they decided to form
and become their own unique category. The balance between the two gender roles of masculine
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and feminine are then thrown off as a result of being uncooperative and not adjusting the scale to
accommodate everyone and their different wants, needs, and personalities.
Nonetheless, society has not affected everyone’s upbringing. For example, I was raised
by a single parent, my father, and though I am considered a “tomboy”, I did not just grow up
learning only masculine or feminine ways. I grew up knowing the male and female aspects of
life. I still played with Barbie’s and nail polish but also monster trucks and sports equipment. I
was not limited due of my father’s masculinity but he also did not push me to be a feminine
either. Some parents now expect their children to play with gender neutral toys because they
recognize that everyone needs to be aware of certain skills not one way or the other. Gendered
roles change, although most social groups stick to the more traditional views, others are
becoming more lenient (Lorber 21). Society tends to think in black and white but it does not have
to always be masculine or feminine. There are people that can relate to either parties or none at
all.
How someone else identifies themselves has never bothered me because their decision to
be who they want to be has never affected me but when I am forced to think about the topic as a
whole, it frustrates me. This is an important topic for everyone to cover but for now I think
society, including those making these decisions to change, are taking it too far. It should not
bother so many people that others want to be different and frankly, I do not think that those other
people should seek acceptance from everyone around because not everyone is going to agree
anyways. As a society, we need to just learn to roll with the punches and adjust to all these
different preferences instead of arguing about it. We should start to think about how we refer to
gender variant, transgender people or other in public, or more importantly, in the doctor’s office
and how we need to change labeled public restrooms. It is too late to criticize what has already
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been done and to argue with someone about their feelings and how they want to live. I believe it
is going to be a slow and uncomfortable process for most people but honestly we can get through
this and come to a common understanding.
Gender roles have replaced sex roles. Gender was socially constructed and could always
change while sex represented only the physical features someone was born with. Though it did
not affect everyone, it did have a huge impact on the way most children grew up. People think
that others that choose to be different are making things more complex but I think that once we
learn to accept all of these differences things will become simpler.

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Work Cited
Acker, Joan. "From sex roles to gendered institutions." Contemporary Sociology: A
Journal of Reviews (1992): 565-569.
Alesina, Alberto F., Paola Giuliano, and Nathan Nunn. On the origins of gender roles:
Women and the plough. No. w17098. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2011.
Armstrong, Thomas. The Human Odyssey: Navigating the Twelve Stages of Life. New York:
Sterling, 2007. Print.

Hubbard, Ruth. "Rethinking Women's Biology." Composing Gender: A Bedford Spotlight
Reader. By Rachel Groner and John F. O'Hara. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2014. 4652.
Print.

Kiecolt, K. Jill, and Alan C. Acock. "The long-term effects of family structure on gender role
attitudes." Journal of Marriage and the Family (1988): 709-717.
Lorber, Judith. ""Night to His Day": The Social Construction of Gender." Composing Gender: A
Spotlight Reader. By Rachel Groner and John F. O'Hara. Boston: Bedford/St.
Martin's, 2014. 19-34. Print.

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