By Upali Bhattacharya

The term gender denotes a hierarchical division between women and men embedded in both social institutions and social practices. Gender can be seen as a social construct, which is created by us. It is determined after knowing the sex of the infant. One’s biological sex is directly tied to specific social roles and expectations. Judith Butler considers the concept of being a woman to have more challenges, owing not only to society’s viewing women as a social category but also as a felt sense of self, a culturally conditioned or constructed subjective identity.

The society labels every individual as man or woman and expects everyone to conform to the norms and rules which will indeed make them feminine or masculine, and any deviation from the normal is regarded as abnormal and those people are not considered to be human. These people are associated with the third gender who are biologically men but feel like women and vice versa. Gender is all around us. It is actually taught to us, from the moment we are born. Expectations and messages bombard us constantly. Upbringing, culture, peers, community, media, and religion, are some of the many influences that shape our understanding of this core aspect of identity. How you learned and interacted with gender as a young child directly influences how you view the world today. Gendered interaction between parent and child begin as soon as the sex of the baby is known. In short, gender is a socially constructed concept.

Like other social constructs, gender is closely monitored by society. Practically everything in society is assigned a gender—toys, colours, clothes and behaviours are some of the more obvious examples. Through a combination of social conditioning and personal preference, by age three most children prefer activities and exhibit behaviours typically associated with their sex. Accepted social gender roles and expectations are so entrenched in our culture that most people cannot imagine any other way. As a result, individuals fitting neatly into these expectations rarely if ever question what gender really means. They have never had to, because the system has worked for them. Hence, the term gender is about being normative, but we need to look outside this closed framework of only two existing genders and expand our horizon by exploring into the realm of the third gender and treat them equally as well.

The author is a first year college student, pursuing sociology honors in Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University. She is a pass out from Mount Carmel School, Anand Niketan as the topper of humanities. She is an avid reader, mostly fiction. She also likes debating and has been part of various MUN sessions. Issues like politics, religion, culture, society etc are her areas of interest. Apart from reading, she also writes abstract verses, listens to music, and also likes watching Television series. Issues of terrorism, religion, feminism and gender also lie in her interests of reading and writing.

Posted by The Indian Economist | For the Curious Mind