Masculinity And Femininity

998 words | 4 page(s)

A wide range of theories on gender, view the issue of gender difference as a socially constructed idea in which certain roles are regarded as either feminine or masculine. Socially constructed ideals are different from the biological factors that are associated with certain differences between men and women. The socially constructed ideas are supported by cultural and social factors in the society; this tries to define what constitutes an ideal man or woman (Cohen 2004, 239-252). This paper explores the social construction of femininity and masculinity in the division of labor among men and women.

The development of socially constructed ideals can be observed by the notion of manhood in the society. According to Kimmel, “Manhood means different things at different times to different people” (Kimmel 2004, 81-93). This is to mean that each and every society has its own definition of what constitutes manhood, and the definition changes with time to accommodate the factors that constitute an ideal man. The view that masculinity is a socially constructed idea can be observed by the differences exhibited by different men in the American society based on their localities, occupation, and the historical period when they existed. Over the past centuries, manhood has evolved from heroic artisans to Genteel Patriarch and then to the marketplace man; based on their economic occupations and their attitudes towards women and family life in general (Kimmel 2004, 81-93). The fact that masculinity is not statistic but instead changes with environment and time shows that manhood is not primarily based on biological makeup, but it is created by the society and the dominant culture. Likewise, womanhood is not static and develops gradually to fit the dominant culture in a society.

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The dominant culture defines what constitutes an ideal man or woman in the society, and this helps in the social construction of femininity and masculinity. Masculinity and femininity exist as a power of relations in the society in which characters are classified as aggressive, emotional and competitive among other qualities. It becomes easy for the society to define a person based on the qualities associated with their gender, and the individuals in the society strive to achieve the ideal qualities associated with either masculinity or femininity. The notions of qualities of masculinity and femininity play in the labor market in the division of work based on the desired qualities. In this case, most of the work in the labor market and even at homes is gendered as either feminine or masculine, and the society expects individuals to maintain that order in their daily activities (Cohen 2004, 239-252). Jobs that are classified as belonging to men include firefighters, security personnel, and machine operators while certain jobs including secretaries, nurses and teachers are largely associated with women.

The view that masculinity and femininity is a social construction can be demonstrated by the differences in the division of labor in different societies. For instance, the profession of electricians in Denmark is dominated by men while the same profession in Romania is dominated by both genders (Bloksgaard 2011, 5-21). This scenario can be observed in many other societies in which each society has its own expectations of the ideal jobs for either men or women. The existence of gendered occupations has enhanced the idea of masculinity and femininity in the society. Young individuals grow in an environment where they are used to seeing either males or females occupying a certain career and thus associate the career with the gender in the development of their own identity. This then translates to the choices made by individuals in education and careers in the future. For instance, a young man is likely to choose education courses that reflect his identity as a man based on the previous experience on masculine and feminine jobs.

The divisions in the labor market between men and women are based on conceptions of what constitutes a “real man” or a “real woman” in the society (Bloksgaard 2011, 5-21). The choices made by individuals in their career helps in strengthening their personal gender identity, and those who fail to conform to the existing arrangement create a challenge both to their own sex as well as the opposite gender. I this case, the perceptions in the society serve as the main source of hindrance to individuals who would like to pursue jobs that are not associated with their gender. People who tend to go against the cultural ideals on job division are usually faced with uncertainties about whether they will be able to meet all the requirements of either masculinity or femininity in performing a certain role. Gender constructs can also be observed in the domestic roles played by men and women. The division of work at home has been found to relate to how the husband and wife predict the performance of their emotions towards certain roles such as childcare (Erickson 2005, 337–351). The society constructions on emotional work play the major factor in the division of labor at home and not the sexual orientation of the partners.

In conclusion, masculinity and femininity are socially constructed ideas since the social ideas associated with a man or woman are not static. Masculinity and femininity can be observed in the division of labor in the job market where roles are associated with either men or women. The cultural perception of what constitutes an ideal man or women helps in strengthening and maintaining the social constructions of masculinity and femininity.

  • Bloksgaard, L 2011. Masculinities, Femininities and Work – The Horizontal Gender Segregation in the Danish Labor Market. Nordic journal of working life studies, 1(2), pp. 5-21.
  • Cohen, P 2004. The Gender Division of Labor: “Keeping House” and Occupational Segregation in the United States. Gender & Society, 18(2), pp. 239-252.
  • Erickson, R 2005. Why Emotion Work Matters: Sex, Gender, and the Division of Household Labor. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67 (May 2005), pp. 337–351.
  • Kimmel, MS 2004. Masculinity as homophobia: Fear, shame, and silence in the construction of gender identity. Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study. Ed. Paula S. Rothenberg. New York: Worth, 81-93.

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