Gender Is a Social Construct, Right? Yeaaahhh, I’m Not So Sure.

gender is a construct?

It’s become an accepted truth in queer and progressive circles that gender is a social construct. That we’re shoved into binary boxes that arbitrarily tell us, or attempt to teach us, what’s “appropriate” for boys and girls.

Clothes, interests, behavior, colors, opportunities (or lack thereof). Each gender has its own rules, and those rules are definitely a social construct. We have invented them. And talk about arbitrary – they’ve changed over time. Like essentially reversed over time. You know, except for opportunities. Those have always been reserved for the males among us. The white males among us.

If our gender constructs are so arbitrary, why do they even exist? Well, they probably exist because categorization is human nature. But what isn’t human nature is strict binary categorization. Human nature falls on a broad spectrum for pretty much everything we’ve come to define in a binary way. Many indigenous cultures do not recognize the binary gender boxes we’ve built.

Oh, those boxes also reinforce and perpetuate a defacto ruling gender, in case you haven’t noticed.

Nature doesn’t see sharp, binary definitions for human creatures, but we feel compelled to impose them. I don’t know why, but I blame the puritans who founded America. I blame them for just about everything that’s shitty about our work-every-day-until-you-drop-dead-and-don’t-ask-any-questions culture.

Many of us are out there daily, waging a quiet war on the social construct of gender just by being who we are. And that’s cool. It’s beautiful. I just don’t know if I agree with the whole idea of the social construct. I can boil my disagreement down to a simple question:

If gender is a social construct, how did I know they’d got mine wrong (long before I knew what a social construct was)?

I felt my gender. Everyone who has ever realized that they were expected to be something they weren’t has felt it. Independent of expectations, I felt I belonged with the girls and knew I didn’t fit in with the boys.

Did I feel like I didn’t fit in with the boys because of social constructs of gender? Maybe. Maybe the expectations of how boys were supposed to behave or what they were supposed to be interested in turned me off. I mean, I know they did. But I don’t think that’s what made me feel that I didn’t fit in.

And if you think about it, the boys of the world weren’t all forced into the boy box. Many of them, maybe most of them, felt right at home in there. They would have been what they were without any societally enforced constructs, for the most part.

So yes, we impose gender rules that are based on absolutely nothing (or, more likely, based on someone’s religious beliefs). But if we took away those rules, those of us who were created differently would still be different, and those who naturally fit into the accepted standards would continue to fit into them naturally.

The “social construct” of gender has made the lives of those of us who don’t fit that construct more difficult, that’s for sure. But it hasn’t fundamentally changed us. It hasn’t changed me, I should say. I can only speak for myself.

And who knows, I could be wildly incorrect, and someone much more intelligent than me will point out all the different ways my thinking is flawed. But as things stand today, I always wince a little when I hear someone saying gender is a social construct. That just doesn’t ring true for me.


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