Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Performance of Gender

In considering gender as a performance, a learned behavior acted out as a facet of identity, I began to think about the cultural relativity of gender and what it means to be specifically masculine or feminine in one culture compared to another. An individual’s identity seems closely tied to ones gender as gender is a means by which people understand how to act with each other and script the roles to be played in society. Gender seems to have rooted itself in peoples’ concept of self, making it hard to challenge the concept of gender. Gender has become an inevitable part of our society perpetuated by binary conceptions.
What astounds me, though, is that an aspect of femininity in one culture can be completely masculine in another. This highlights the fluidity of gender in that gender is not as rigid as we sometimes conceptualize it to be and that it is not a natural part of life, it is socially constructed. An example of gender performance that varies culturally, I think, is shaving. American women, at minimum, generally shave their legs and underarms. Women from other areas of the world are not as concerned with shaving as American women, yet in their own cultures are not seen as masculine or disgusting, they are still viewed as feminine. This emphasizes the malleability of gender and the fact that it isn't an objectively defined thing.

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