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Jordyn Stump
Dr. Parker
Feminist Visions of Justice
Lorber Critical Summary
In Night to His Day: The Social Construction of Gender, Judith Lorber discusses the
pivotal yet often unconscious roles that sex, gender, and sexuality play in our daily lives. From
the moment we are born, our sex determines how we are treated, peoples expectations of us, and
what rituals are acceptable for us to perform. Lorber claims that gender is one of the major ways
that human beings organize their lives, with Western culture in particular only organizing
people into two categories: man or woman (34). Lorber describes how different cultures inscribe
gender, including binding girls feet, circumcision, genital cutting, and plastic surgery, among
many other rituals. If gender signs are absent or unclear, people become uncomfortable and
desperately search for any signal that will indicate sex or gender. The norm in society is to
display clear and constant gender signals, which makes daily life for transvestites and transsexual
individuals especially difficult. One of the last points the article makes is that gender is
continually ranked throughout most societies. While gender hierarchies differ among regions, it
is evident that males are still considered superior to females in many cultures.
Lorbers article hit home for me on multiple fronts. In just the past week alone, Ive
encountered deeply engrained gender roles among my own friends and co-workers. At work, we
were offered a new food to try. My male co-worker announced that hed be manly and try one,
even though three girls on staff had already eaten the snack. Offended, I pointed out that trying
new foods isnt manly, but it can be considered brave or adventurous and suggested he use
appropriate adjectives next time. A few days later, my male friend was bragging that his
intramural team outperformed the opponent so badly that they could afford to allow all of the
girls on their team to play. Lorbers following quote reflects both situations perfectly: In a
gender-stratified society, what men do is usually valued more highly than what women do
because men do it, even when their activities are very similar or the same (44). Whether its
eating or playing soccer, there is still an underlying assumption in todays society that actions are
only impressive when being performed by a man. In both instances, I pointed out the sexism
being perpetuated and both men became very defensive and essentially criticized me for
censoring them. Both men felt compelled to share their opinion, but the minute I expressed mine,
I was shut down. A fitting quote from the article notes: Men prefer women to be less informed,
less able, less talkative, and certainly less self-centered than they are themselves (42). An
extreme-double standard concerning how men and women are allowed to behave is still clearly a
polarizing issue in our society.
Another interesting point covered in the article was how quickly a gendered world can be
constructed for children even in the newborn stage. Based on the color of their clothes or how
adults talk to them, they are immediately marked as either feminine or masculine. Even if parents
are intentional about raising their children neutrally, society has made that goal nearly
impossible. In my own family, I witness gendered norms every time we gather together. Aunts
and uncles are quick to compliment my younger girl cousins on how pretty their dresses are or
how cute their hairstyle is. For my 23-year-old sister and me, we are often only asked if we have
boyfriends yet. My sister is an elementary school teacher in downtown Chicago and I am a

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college senior, yet none of our own professional or personal goals and accomplishments are
discussed. This is problematic for many reasons, one being that we have never disclosed our
sexual orientations with our family. Based on our sex and gender, our entire family has just
assumed we are both straight. Although I consider myself a feminist and an outspoken person,
this reading made me realize that my life is still full of sexist constructions and barriers that are
not easily broken.

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Works Cited
Lorber, Judith. Night to His Day: The Social Construction of Gender. Feminist Frontiers.
Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2009. 33-45. Print.