ERIKA DITZMAN | OPINION COLUMNIST
Gender pertains to the differentiation of masculine and feminine characteristics. Traditionally, the male assumes dominance within societal hierarchy, while the female falls to a more submissive position. Often confused with sex, a term describing chromosomal orientation, these characteristics become associated with the biology versus human potential. Furthermore, a third component, that of gender identity, proclaims self-identification despite gender norms, blurring the line between biological sexes. Undeniably, standards of gender are merely social constructs.
In short, the implementation of gender norms tends to restrict freedoms for all sexes, predicting and enforcing the general attributes of both males and females. Due to such limitations, free choice is limited.
Feminist authors explain the effect of gender on privacy and autonomy, in which males traditionally have greater rights, including privacy rights. As a result, women are forced into a more dependent lifestyle, in which the men serve as the family breadwinners. Regardless of their role within varying civilizations, such as gathering while the women hunted or visa versa, men consistently possess significant dominance.
Humans appear to “recognize and reciprocate” those defined expectations that have preceded. No alternative mentality is known, and is normally passed from one generation to the next. This is evident in the comparison of social roles from culture to culture, and therefore cannot be a result of chromosomal biology.
This standard of gender is socially fabricated through the formation of gender stereotypes. Stereotypes are defined by Planned Parenthood as a “widely accepted judgment or bias about a person or group” These gender stereotypes take four forms: personality traits, domestic behaviors, occupations and appearance.
Affecting both male and female standards, each sex demonstrates the two extremes in behavior. In the case of personality traits, the female is perceived as emotional and incapable while the male is aggressive and confident. Case in point, President Trump characterized Hillary Clinton, the 2016 presidential candidate, as “unstable, insane and lacking the equilibrium required to be an effective president” due to these preconceived standards of women.
Domestic behaviors, especially prevalent during the 1950’s, depict females as cookers and cleaners, while men serve as the handymen. In terms of occupations, nurses and teachers are more feminine while doctors and pilots are more masculine. Finally, females must be thin and graceful in appearance. On the other hand, men are required to be tall and muscular.
These significant identifiers still stand in modern society as unconscious mentalities. Taking anorexia nervosa as a prime example, this disorder creates body dysmorphia for both men and women attempting to comply with social norms. Personally, I have encountered this struggle, trying to measure up against this “perfection” and consequently oppressed in my eventual defiance. I am not what society defines as female. I am me.
A level of uncertainty exists in defining gender and sex. Those of the LGBTQIA+ community transgress from the standards of male and female roles due to brain chemistry at the prenatal phase. With research, it has been determined that exposure to increased levels of estrogen for males or testosterone for females often causes an attraction to their identical sex. Portions of the brain either become more feminine or masculine as a result.
As a member of the St. Norbert College Spectrum Alliance, Broderick Lemke ’18 expressed his concern, stating “I hate being a guy. I really do. I’m part of a society that puts down women; I’m supposed to have my life together; and heaven knows I’m not supposed to have a boyfriend. I’m sick of the expectations that people have of me to have a girlfriend, to be part of a frat and to be a good student.”
Different genders and sexualities are an acceptable notion in many indigenous groups. The Zapotec people in southern Mexico recognize a third gender within their culture, known as Muxe nguiiu, who are biologically male and yet attracted to other males. However, this only pertains to the male sex and again represents a male dominance within society.
Times are changing. At St. Norbert College, students are free to study any area they choose, regardless of whether their gender permits it or not. Core classes are required, dabbling in a variety of the liberal arts and allowing equal opportunity for all. With 57% of the campus community being female, women implement their right to a secondary education and push to defy gender norms. Men no longer hold complete dominance, reducing the pressure for their success and making way for equality between the sexes. Defy standards. Ignore judgements. You are the change!