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Understanding Our Gendered Selves

The issue of gender identity has always been topical and was developed not only by sociologists but also by representatives of many other scientific groups. Gender identity is a person’s internal sense of being male, female, some combination of male and female, or neither male nor female (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). The concept of identity was first introduced in detail by Erikson when he proposed an identity to be based on the awareness of the time length of one’s existence (Cote, 2018). His theory involves taking into account the perception of one’s integrity and allowing a person to determine the degree of their similarity with different people while seeing their uniqueness.

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Gender identity is a broader concept than gender role identity since gender includes not only the role aspect, but also, for example, the image of a person as a whole, from hairstyle to clothes, and other distinguishing features. Moreover, the concept of gender identity is not synonymous with the idea of sexual identity, since gender does not consider biological aspects, as much as cultural and social. Sexual identity can be described in terms of the characteristics of self-perception and self-representation of a person in the context of their sexual behavior in the structure of gender identity.

To understand how strongly gender roles dictate our behavior, it is enough to analyze a day in the life of a modern person. Therefore, gender roles can be considered as an external manifestation of certain patterns of behavior, which allows other people to judge whether a person is a male or female (Mack et al., 2005). I am a female. I feel comfortable in my female body, and I like the way I look like a woman. I consider myself to be feminine enough to identify as such, as my routine from morning until night reflects my gender. I wear feminine clothes, such as dresses and skirts, apply makeup, paint my nails, and even spray myself with perfume targeted at women.

Sometimes it feels like I should look perfect, because of the stereotypes that the patriarchal society imposed upon us. I try to eat healthy food, visit hair salons, and take care of my skin. Furthermore, I use specific hygiene products, such as wet wipes for females, shaving creams, and tampons. Since gender is considered to be a social construct, it is mostly based upon social interactions. The way I interact with friends is not that unique and worth describing.

However, I communicate primarily with women, as I tend to relate to them on a personal level and have a secure connection to the problems they deal with. Sometimes, there might even be an occurrence, when male friends do not take female friends seriously and as an equal interlocutors. I am afraid of being solicited by men at night, and I carry a mace spray with me to avert such kind of situations. Sometimes being a girl is frankly unpleasant, for instance, as when discussing a business one way or another, someone inevitably can screw a sexist joke.

Like everyone else, I grew up according to the way that society told me to. My childhood and the way my parents raised me shaped me into a female being in the community and formed my mentality on gender issues. For instance, my mother would never let me play with boys, as I “should” play with dolls and bows. My religion taught me to obey my future husband, follow his commands, and encourage cooking, as it is a “female duty” to provide the family with food. The school forced the girls to follow a dress-code, since girls were deemed provocative in short skirts and tank tops, and at the same time did not allow wearing pants or joggers. Consequently, gender institutions, such as family and school, taught me the most about my gender and inflicted stereotypes.

Over the past decades our lexicons have been replenished with carefully studied concepts of “transgender”, “post-gender”, “intersexuality” and “transhumanism”, but, to be fair, this is not some “new sexuality”, but long-awaited terms for sexuality that was repressed and suppressed. It is enough to read the ancient Indian epics or read the tales of the Indians to find all the above concepts of gender roles. In essence, the fragility of gender and its social representation always existed, but did not receive a scientific language, and therefore was ignored by the majority. However, at the same time, social media and other public platforms show that the discussions on gender may quickly turn into bullying and a stream of hateful and intolerant remarks.

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Since I identify myself as a woman, throughout my entire life I have been encouraged to learn to apply makeup, properly use hygiene products and behave a certain way that is appropriate to women. During my teenage years, I have felt insecure, and to cover up my self-consciousness, I started using makeup. At first, it was to cover up my acne, then bags under my eyes. I started feeling comfortable in my own skin and eventually got used to wearing it.

Gendered institutions have become an ordinary thing in our society. One of the institutions that apply gender roles is school. Since elementary school, we were taught to behave a certain way, wear a specific uniform, for instance, only boys could wear pants, and girls could only wear skirts. At this age, it becomes essential for children to be similar to their peers or peers with the same gender identity, and they try to adhere to existing gender stereotypes. For example, they prefer to play games with representatives of the same gender, as well as use gender-stereotypical toys and play gender-stereotypical games.

And only a few years later, at the age of 7 to 10 years, children begin to feel more relaxed about what behavioral patterns they choose, how much they “correspond” to gender norms. Unfortunately, the flexibility of children’s ideas about gender identity at an early age does not withstand the pressure of rules and stereotypes that are imposed by society and are broadcasted in the family, parents, and close significant adults. However, theoretically, raising a child free from gender schematization in a community where gender is a binary category is possible.

Another social institution that can be labeled as gendered is family. A “traditional” family has mother and father figures, which play different gender roles in their lives. The father goes to work, and the mother stays at home and takes care of the children, being responsible for their health and self-development. In Middle-Eastern countries, for instance, marriages were not concluded with the mutual consent of the participants, but by the will of the parents.

The “traditional” vision of a family can be discriminatory and intolerable, as it criticizes any kinds of deviations. If a woman gets divorced or is in no hurry to marry, there may be a conflict within her family. However, nowadays, the standards are changing rapidly. In the era of self-expression, it has become unnecessary for society to control gender roles. Consequently, the age of marriage has noticeably increased, and the number of children in the family has decreased, the forms of marriage and parenthood have been modified.

References

Cote, J. (2018). The Enduring Usefulness of Erikson’s Concept of the Identity Crisis in the 21st Century: An Analysis of Student Mental Health Concerns. Identity, 18, 1-13. Web.

Mack et al. (2005). “Module Two: Participant Observation,” from Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector’s Field Guide. Family Health International. 13-27.

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Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Gender identity. In Merriam-Webster.dictionary. Web.

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