Gender: A Biological Construct or A Social Identity?
“Dress in sarees, be girl, Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook, Be a quarreler with servants. Fit in, oh!” These line from poem of Kamala Das show how female acquire social identity.
We create a social system on the basis of biological differences that perpetuates exclusive gender identities by suppressing natural similarities. We create stereotypes and assign to respective gender and reinforce through simple socialization practices. We suppress emotions of love and tenderness in young boys saying ‘boys don’t cry like girls’ and similarly emotions of anger and frustration in young girls are being suppressed by instructing ‘girls don’t quarrel like boys’.
All such stereotypes contribute to a culture of prejudices which is communicated in word and action to young children. It is this early gender bias experience which shape their attitude and beliefs related to development of interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships and stifling their physical and psychological well being.
Therefore we can say that sex is a biological categorization based on physical attributes and reproductive capacities whereas it is the gender which evolved through exaggerating these biological differences and connecting it to social prejudices which are completely irrelevant.
Why does society need to construct such a social identity?
“By sheer force of a vicious custom, even the most ignorant and worthless men have been enjoying a superiority over woman which they do not deserve and ought not to have.” Gandhi
It is patriarchy through which men appropriate all prejudiced social rules and keep women in subordinate and exploited position.
Our girls are not less than boys:
The example of Phogat Sisters is apt where a father, who is a member of highly patriarchal society negating such social construction, coached his daughters wrestle with male wrestlers and defeating them. It is not just the sports where women have excelled at par with man but all other areas which were earlier associated with manhood including combat role in armed forces.
Strategies for deconstruction of such social identities:
Socialization process at home and early childhood education can be catalyst to such deconstruction of identity. The conscious efforts to foster gender equity should start at a bias-free home where parents use gender neutral language; provide books, toys and movies that feature non-traditional gender roles. When a boy wants to play with doll or a girl wants to shoot with a toy gun, he or she should be reinforced positively. Teachers can encourage cross-gender activities and children must be taught to recognize stereotypes and to develop independent critical thinking.
As per ARTICLE 5 CEDAW Countries must work to change harmful gender stereotypes about women and girls and men and boys that perpetuate discrimination and limit opportunities for women and girls to achieve their full potential.
Simone de Beauvoir claimed that one is not born, but rather becomes a woman. This becoming of a women being must be replaced by remaining a human being where sex identity can be evolved as a neutral phenomenon.