Essentialist vs. Social Constructionist Approach

Topics: Gender, Sociology, Social constructionism Pages: 5 (1915 words) Published: October 28, 2012
Essentialist vs. Social Constructionist Approach

In Society, people are classified according to many aspects whether it is by gender, race, or class. People are treated differently depending on these identities in their everyday lives. An Essentialist approach argues that people are born to fulfill these different statuses, that it is a natural order from their genes that classify them into these different groups. On the other hand, a social constructionist would argue that through society and the interaction with other people these statuses are created.

One of the most obvious master statuses is gender. In the article “ Night To His Day: The social construction of gender” the author discusses the difference between sex and gender; sex being the difference between male and female and gender being the difference between man and woman. Sex is an essentialist term because people are born either male or female depending on whether they have a penis or a vagina. As soon as a person is born, the sex is determined; this is when through society gender comes into play. Through the way people are dressed, are they way they act or even by their names, people are constantly doing gender. In society you can tell the difference between a man and a woman by these different characteristics because of the meanings that society has given to them. For example because of society, it is socially okay for a woman to wear a skirt oppose to a man wearing one because society says so. An Essentialist will argue that because that woman is born a female that it is okay for her to wear that skirt but a Social Constructionist would argue that because of society and the meaning it has giving to that skirt that it is okay for the woman to wear the skirt. It’s not just because of that woman’s reproductive organ that it’s acceptable for her to wear that skirt, but because of the social construction of the word “female” that society has created. In the documentary “The Mother hood Manifesto”, it talks about the struggles that women in today’s society have to go through when they become mothers. The documentary touches points such as insufficient maternity leave, insufficient pay for single mothers and the fact that it is legal for women to not get hired a job simply because she has children.

In the article “ If Men Could Menstruate” the author uses humor to show how in society women are treated so unequally from men and the fact that if men performed an act like menstruation, the idea of power would be added to it simply because men could do it and women couldn’t.

Throughout time gender roles have change even though the sexes are still the same. In older times, men were seen as the one in the household to have the job and to bring in all of the revenue for the rest of the family. Now in society woman are getting jobs that once only men could get, and it’s now socially acceptable for a man to decide that he wants to stay home with the children if necessary or desired. From birth, people start acting how society says girls and boys should act. Little girls play with dolls and like the color pink and little boys are told that pink is for girls and when they pick up a doll, it is taking away from them because “dollies are for girls and not boys”. The social construction of gender is in our everyday life and it’s so apart of our lives that some people don’t even notice when they are doing it. The first thing people notice about someone is whether they are male or female or in today’s society someone can be a “transvestite” or a “Transsexual”(Lorber).

In the video “Tough Guise” it focuses on how media gives a helping hand to the social construction of masculinity in today’s society. Most people get how the ideas on how they act from what they see on the television or what they hear in music. The video discusses that through the media, men are related to violence, that in order to be a real man, you have to be tough and strong and well respected by...
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