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Saul Tajonar
Professor Jon Beadle
English 115
9 September 2015

The Ambiguity of Gender


Gender has become a controversial topic that has always been around, it creates interesting
discussions and ideas that spark up great conversations amongst individuals. Composing Gender:
A Bedford Spotlight Reader expresses a vast amount of gender related ideas and points of view
from a variety of authors. Two particular readings, From Women, Men , And Society by
Renzetti & Curran and The Social Meanings of Gender by Aaron Devor, both share the
common idea that gender is created by society because society relies on gender to function
effectively. They write about this idea to demonstrate the effect that gender roles have had in our
society. There are many instances in my life where gender roles have played a part in making me
who I am today and I now understand the reason for that.
Both articles acknowledge that gender and gender roles are created for the benefit of society.
Gender is socially constructed and is not something humans are born with. According to these
articles, gender is constructed at a very young age, from the moment a baby is born. Parents start
molding their children to fit societys needs and expectations. The main idea discussed in both of
these articles is that gender is in fact needed by society; therefore it is constructed at this very
young age. Society demands division and some sort of identification for its people. Gender
Identities act as cognitive filtering devices guiding people to attend to and learn gender role
behaviors ... (Devor 35). Gender filters out people into two separate categories, male and

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female. These two categories make it easier for society to identify people. This form of
identification is needed to assign different jobs, responsibilities, and characteristics a person
should have. That is why parents put in so much effort in ensuring that others identify their
childs sex correctly (Renzetti & Curran 77). This ultimately leads to the division of labor that
gender roles are created for. These roles impose certain characteristics on people which prepare
them to fulfill their roles as members of society. One example would be that feminine
characteristics are thought to be intrinsic to the female facility for childbirth and breastfeeding
(Devor 40). Therefore women are prepared socially for the care of children. Likewise, society
shapes men to be ready to provide for women and their children. This common idea is not only
shared in these two articles but many more found in the book. The dependency that society has
on gender is huge and is an idea many of these authors share.
The ideas that the three of these authors presented have a deeper meaning to what gender is,
and why it matters to society. One very important reason for the authors to be writing these
articles is to demonstrate that sex is not the same thing as gender. The misconception that they
are the same thing is something these authors want to get rid of. Biologically, men are different
than women, but ultimately both sexes can choose what characteristics and behavior they want to
display. Society demands certain expectations and wants to assign gender based on sex, but in
the end humans have the free will to be who they want to be and arent bound to societys
expectations. Another reason for these articles is to demonstrate how gender roles are performed
not just created. This leads me to bring up the concept of Masculinity vs. Femininity. People use
femininity or masculinity to claim and communicate their assigned, or chosen, sex or gender
(Devor 38). Although males and females can perform many of the same tasks, there are

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distinct behaviors each gender has to follow. A male must carry traits like toughness,
independence, stability, and confidence while females must portray tenderness, love, empathy,
and patience. Not only does society expect this distinction, but they also enforce it. Parents
develop this bias toward their children and socially prepare them for their role in society.
Parents do have different expectations of their babies and treat them differently, simply on the
basis of sex. (Renzetti & Curran 76).
Although some people claim that gender is not socially constructed and is merely based on
biological differences, they are very wrong. It is proven in these articles by these credible authors
that society creates gender; it is not something an individual is born with. Not only is it created
by society but it is also encouraged all around the world. Parenting, dress codes, behavior all
play a big role in shaping our gender. This claim that gender is defined by our genitals is a
common misconception confusing gender with sex. Gender focuses on behavior in society, like
implementing traits that are masculine and feminine. The point the authors are trying to make by
this idea is that an individual isnt born with a path to follow, the path is created by external
factors and also the free will of what the individual wants to categorize themselves as.
Growing up with a sister has given me great insight on how gender is imposed in our society.
I can honestly say that I see parallels with the ideas presented in these articles and my own
personal life. Living in a Hispanic household can be very conservative, and that was the case for
me and my sister. As a male I was expected to assist my father in duties like fixing the car,
moving heavy furniture around, and sometimes he would even ask me to go to work with him.
On the contrary, my sister helped my mom by doing the dishes, helping her cook, and helping

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my mom keep the house nice and clean. I can already see how the ideas in these articles relate to
my personal life. These roles were applied to me and my sister because we both had to meet
certain standards that our parents had for us. My mom would never ask me to help her cook, and
likewise my dad never bothered to ask my sister to help him fix the car. Due to our different
genders, my sister and I were expected to accomplish different tasks. This ties back to the idea
that gender is used for the division of labor. Labor was clearly separated in my household, and
that is due to the connection that gender has with the different jobs one is expected to do. There
wasnt a single complaint nor did we ever question why things were like this. I believe the
explanation for this is found in the childhood experiences my sister and I had. Our parents
encouraged us to play with toys deemed acceptable for our gender. I owned a huge collection
of wrestling and super hero action figures when I was a kid. Obviously wrestlers are big and
strong, they also fight for a living. These are traits that have a connotation with masculinity and
that I was expected to have as well. My sister grew up playing with princesses. Princesses tend to
be kind, humble, and often depend on a prince charming to come and save them. This relates
to the real world because men are expected to provide for women just like a prince charming
would provide for a princess. Consequently I would dress up as Spiderman for Halloween while
my sister dressed as Snow White. We grew up admiring different traits and understanding what is
expected of us. This is a concept expressed in both of these articles which obviously has some
truth to it.
Where would this society be without gender? It is almost impossible to imagine what life
would be like if gender did not separate the labor of society. Society relies so much on gender to
function as a whole which is why gender was created in the first place. Devor, Curran, and

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Renzetti bring up excellent points in their articles supporting these ideas. I have experienced
first-hand what it is like growing up with the opposing gender, and how gender roles have shaped
not only our behavior, but our beliefs as well. Gender continues to be a trending topic all over the
world and something so crucial to our society today. The more it is studied, the more ambiguous
it becomes. One thing is for sure, without gender the world would be such a strange place indeed.