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The Social Construction of Masculinity and Femininity

What does it mean to be masculine or feminine? Are we born this way? How do these definitions limit us? How has society constructed a means for our gender identification?

What exactly is it to be masculine or feminine? Is being masculine what it is to be a man, and being feminine what it is to be a woman? How are these two terms defined and what purpose do they serve? The readings in this critical review attempt to answer these questions.

In Lois Gould’s reading, “X: A Fabulous Child’s Story”, she tells the story of a child raised without being defined by their gender. Gould challenges the notion of what it is to be “male” and what it is to be “female” by refusing to create a division between the two genders. This creates a powerful message about how gender or masculinity and femininity are merely socially constructed and how much society relies on these constructions.

Emily Martin illustrates in her reading, “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles”, that the construction of what it is to be “male” or “female” is implied even at the earliest stage of life; conception.

bell hooks speaks about the feminist movement and its portrayal as being “man-hating” in her reading, “Feminist Masculinity”, and how the feminist movement has failed to include men. hooks explains the unfortunate image that many men not only feel they need to conform to as being “masculine”, but do not know how to identify themselves without it.

To be a man or a woman in our society is not just defined by the biological traits someone possesses, but it is also defined by what is expected that a man or a woman should act like in our society, which has been socially constructed and fed to us beginning at a very young age.

From the beginning of life, we are lead to believe that by being a boy or girl we will have to follow certain unwritten “rules” of what is expected of us based on our sex. This construction of “femininity” or “masculinity” normally begins with the colour of our clothing. Traditionally, pink is for girls, blue is for boys. Growing up, as children we are given toys that reinforce these “rules” of “femininity” or “masculinity” and to reflect what our future role in society will be. Girls are given dolls and play kitchen sets, because one day we are going to be “mommies”, and we will be the one who is doing most of the cooking, for her children and husband. Boys of course and given chemistry sets and G.I. Joe’s, because they will grow up to be smart, successful, strong and powerful.

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  1. al

    On February 10, 2010 at 8:51 pm


    bueno yo no he leido esa obra que se menciona en la lectura pero creo que han errado en esa historia,eso de que el niño no le enseñaron su genero para mi esta mal porque Dios nos creo,un ser queseria el hombre y el otro que seria la mujer. nadie puede quedar entre medio de eso o es o no es. pero algo es no se puede ser neutro en ese aspecto. en la biblia no dice que se creo otro ser humano que no fuera hombre o no fuera mujer.

  2. Gangam

    On October 11, 2012 at 12:02 pm


    opa gangam style eeeh sexy lady o-o

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