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Saul Tajonar
Professor Jon Beadle
English 115
9 September 2015
The Ambiguity of Gender
Gender is 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 this book include: From Women, Men , And
Society by Renzetti & Curran and The Social Meanings of Gender by Aaron Devor, which
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 and our everyday lives as well. 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.
A gender role can be defined as a set of societal norms dictating what types of behaviors
are generally considered acceptable, appropriate or desirable for a person based on their actual or
perceived sex. Both articles acknowledge that gender and gender roles are created for the benefit
of society, and because gender is socially constructed, it 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

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learn gender role behaviors ... (Devor 35). Gender filters out people into two separate
categories, male and female. These two categories make it easier for society to identify people.
But why does society exceed this gender construction? This form of identification is needed to
assign different jobs, responsibilities, and characteristics that 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. An example of this would be the feminine characteristics that 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. Without these gender roles, and the gender performance
of people, a household will not be able to function efficiently. Everyone has specific jobs that
they must do based on their gender identity. This common idea is not only shared in these two
articles but many more found in the book who agree with the dependency that society has on
These 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 many
people have that gender and sexare the same thing is something the 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

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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 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 may 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,
and behavior all play a big role in shaping our gender. The 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

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him.On the contrary, my sister helped my mom by doing the dishes, helping her cook, and
helping my mom keep the house nice and clean. This supports the main ideas of the articles
because it demonstrate the effect that gender expectations have in a family.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 separation is the reason why me and my sister value different
things. Our parents taught us to value different things, and they imposed what tasks were
acceptable and not acceptable according to our distinct genders. 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.

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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
Renzetti bring up excellent points in their articles supporting these ideas. They have provided an
in depth explanation of why gender exists and how it affects everyone around us. 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.

Works Cited

Devor, Aaron. Becoming Members of Society: The Social Meanings of Gender.

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2014. Composing Gender: A Bedford Spotlight Reader. By Rachel Groner and John F.
OHara. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2014. 35-43. Print.
Renzetti & Curran. From Women, Men , And Society 2014. Composing Gender: A Bedford
Spotlight Reader. By Rachel Groner and John F. OHara. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2014.