Gender as a socially constructed phenomenon
This essay will discuss gender as a socially constructed phenomenon which can be constructed and also reconstructed depending on the view of the society. This discussion will investigate the social construction of gender in order to show how women and men are given various attributes and traits that may not or may be limiting to their individual development. Globalization is a major contributor to the international gender order and this essay will discuss how this is possible. This essay will also discuss the idea that the policies of development of any organization or country are gendered.
Gender is a social construct and this applies to norms, beliefs and values that are made up by the principal economic and also powerful groups especially in the American society. Globalization has led to developments in the gender construct and the two genders are heading to develop to be almost the same. The beliefs, norms and values are reinforced and perpetuated by the social institutions which include religion, media, education and the workplace among others. The beliefs, norms and values mainly dictate quick access to upward mobility and the shaping of gender roles, personality and identity. From birth to their growth, infants of both sexes are trained by adult and parental responses to interact, act, think and behave in gender-specific manifestations.
There are various examples of various attributes and traits that females and males are socialized to recognize as their own in the society. The female children are always encouraged to be caring, nurturing, compassionate, delicate, sensitive, innocent and cooperative which are in prior preparation for their future roles as mothers and wives. The male children on the other hand are socialized towards achievement, competition, independence, strength, hard work, intelligence and assertiveness. The male children are also trained to suppress their feelings and emotions especially the ones that relate to vulnerability or tenderness. Our bodies are never naked rather they are ever clothed in meaning (Connell 65). These meanings are reconstructed and constructed depending on the cultural and social context of the time. Steans has also indicated that the people who are born as biological females and males are expected to develop characters that are in accordance to their traits and also that they should behave according to the expectations of their genders (1998: 10). This is because in every society, there is the socially constructed term gender from where the developments of the gender responsibilities begin.
Culture also tends to differentiate the different sexes on gender bases where the members of the different categories share particular personality traits and abilities. Therefore we can conclude that gender is a structural aspect of the society more than it is an inherent feature. The gender traits whether acquired or attributed permeate all interactions among women and men in informal, formal, professional and intimate environments (Steans 1998: 14). Gender does not only refer to women and rather it refers to the behaviors that are learnt socially, idealized expectations, and repeated performances which are linked to and differentiate between the prearranged gender responsibilities of femininity and masculinity (Peterson & Runyan 2010: 2).
This gender differentiation is a big problem because most common values are attributed only to what is linked with femininity and masculinity because many societies place great value to what is linked with masculinity. From the idea that gender is much about power whereas power is generally gendered, we can conclude that male persons are much privileged although there is a big group of men who are subordinated in the so called gender hierarchy because they do not live up to the ideals of being masculine (Jan 2003: 67).
However, the gender constructions can be deconstructed and this can be done through institutions such as agencies. These agencies should challenge and then change the values that are attributed to femininity or masculinity. The specific structures that are known to institution the gender hierarchy should be challenged through affirmative actions. There are neoliberal policies that present themselves as gender neutral and use neutral language of rationality, market, choice and individuals. The specifics of market theory have the interests and attributes of male entrepreneur. The gender segregation of the labor markets has concentrated the duties carried out by women in specific areas (Rai 2002: 99). The export-oriented expansion state policies have revealed great increase in employment of women.
Markets are also social constructs in that they are made by masculine gender for the men. This is because men are positioned better in reaping the benefits from the international markets. This is due to factors such as the men earn higher incomes that the women in that women earn between 20% to 50% less than men, the men have higher participation in labor, men are also better trained and educated, there is unequal property ownership where women own only 1 percent of the property in the entire world and men have greater right of entry to institutional power (Kevin 2008: 56).
The movement of capital is viewed to be indicative of globalization of products production. The production locations of both final assembly and intermediate inputs have increasingly become mobile. Therefore, since labor and capital work together, the relocation and re-organization of the production capital must always have corresponding repercussions for labor, which includes various groups of people. These people may include women of which some are illiterate, others better educated, others skilled and others who are poor. A major perspective of gender begins by examining how globalization the duties performed by various groups of men and women in the developing countries.
The globalized movements of capital are known to cause restructuring and adjustments in both destination and originating localities, national and region’s economies. In the host locations, the altering sectoral composition of the demand of labor, the altering economic relations between various regions coupled with increased urbanization, are direct outcomes of the inflow of capital. These results of economic restructuring due to globalization cannot be separated easily from the rest of the other economic restructuring that are induced by economic contraction as an example of the national trends that are ongoing. This is where we conclude that we cannot separate the outcomes of globalization of production on the population especially women from policy-driven outcomes or domestic economic outcomes (Tim, Bob & John 2002: 67).
There is increased employment of individuals especially women in the manufacturing industries which are solely caused by globalization receiving capital inflows of the foreign capital. Globalization also leads to significant changes in the employment services. This leads to creation of new jobs in the industries that are information-based where there is much usage of telecommunications infrastructure in an attempt to access educated, cheap labor for operations which include data processing. There is also the improvement and expansion of global physical transportation sector which has facilitated the expansion of the production capacity in electronics and clothing. This is an expansion of the female-intensive employment into the service operations which shows that female gender is developing and women are allowed to work (Connell 2005: 89).
There is also the expansion of exports of vegetables, flowers and fruits which uses most female labor. The expansion of the service sector was because the developing countries had gender biases in the provision of education where the women were more concentrated in the humanities and arts subjects and also in the professional areas like law. These biases lend support to the improvement of the services that were trade-related so that they could provide new sources of well-paid employment opportunities for the women. This is wholly as a result of globalization.
Globalization therefore is known to contribute heavily on the international gender order. The international gender order refers to the structure of the relationships which interlink the gender regimes of gender order of the local societies and institutions, on the global scale (Connell 2005: 72). This is possible by way of globalization which is defined as the prevailing pattern of globe integration through international markets, electronic media, and transnational corporations under the political hegemony in the United States. The multinational corporations also known as transnational corporations are becoming increasingly powerful and also highly gendered. They represent the transnational business masculinity where the women have minimum access on the terms of women. On the other hand, the global media which include music and films among others contain arrangements of gender which communicate various gender meanings (Paul 2006: 90).
The policies of development are gendered. This is because WID was able to draw on liberal egalitarianism of the second wave Northern feminism that occurred in the early 1970s. GAD on the other hand responded quickly to the increasing post-colonial feminist movements of the early 1980s. There were numerous criticisms of GAD and WID but these did not change the mission of these two organizations because they succeeded in changing the multifaceted intellectual critiques into becoming effective and efficient arguments for challenging the prevailing values and practices of the donor agencies. The two organizations contributed positively into bringing women into the discourse of development and also shaped the global norms. However, GAD and WID were limited because of the ever-changing international context where the overseas assistance policies were changed throughout the mid 80s and the neoliberal agenda became widespread (Sarah 2000: 34).
The neoliberal economic policies mostly ignore gender to be a sensitive issue because the people are viewed as autonomous, rational individuals who are able to make choices of who to interact with and the individuals work in an attempt to increase their choices in life. This is gendered because this view was by a hegemonic male who was a white entrepreneur. The labor of women is informal and domestic work which is thus ignored or also deemed deficient and requires development. The policies of today are however trying to incorporate women in the market economy of paid employment especially through micro-credit. Economics has also taken the precedence in development and therefore it rarely takes into consideration the lives of people and also issues of gender, class, culture, and race (Jan 2001: 56).
Globalization has led to developments in the gender constructs as we have described above. The institutions and policies that have been brought about by fighting against gendering of the markets have been successful and they are still in the process of winning the gender battle. Equal opportunities in the education systems in the recent past are one of the characteristics of overcoming the gender construct. This is largely due to globalization which has brought in new ideas and numerous funding of both male and female thereby overcoming the social constructs which had been there in the past. This is in respect to classification of roles and responsibilities among men and women.
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