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Maisy Potter
Professor Beadle
English 115
3 October 2016
Gender Identity through Societys Eyes
Society, although not always noticed, has forced its way into everyones lives whether
they like it or not. We as a culture, subconsciously follow the herd of people migrating toward
the premade path that leads to societys image of perfection by consistently being forced to
exist in a box without the ability to explore genders that oppose our biology. The few that feel the
need to stand up for the unheard voices in society attempt to convince their readers to accept
people for who they are and who they want to be, free of judgement and full of curiosity. The
specific individuals that are writing about the issues in society are doing so to not only spread
awareness that what is going on is wrong but to also help those suffering to understand that they
are not alone. In the book, Composing Gender, copious authors debate the same issue as they
explore the socially constructed idea of gender that continually devalues the importance of
people finding their self-identity without the influence of outside factors, such as parents and
peers. The issue of societys influence on peoples search for self-actualization will eventually
lead to the majority of people morphing into one idea of a person if we continue to convert to the
social norm because of the constant need to feel accepted.
The topic of gender is such a normal and adaptable concept that people only take notice
to it if it is disrupted. In Judith Lorbers article Night to His Day: The Social Construction of
Gender, she explains the idea of gender when she states that it is so pervasive that in our
society we assume it is bred into our genes. Most people find it hard to believe that gender is

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constantly created and re-created out of human interaction, out of social life, and is the texture
and order of that social life. Yet gender, like culture, is a human production that depends on
everyone constantly doing gender (19). By comparing the construction of gender to the
construction of culture, Lorber is explaining to the readers that gender is the manifestation of
human interaction, unable to be ignored, just similar to culture because both aspects shape ones
identity. If people begin to refuse to satisfy the flow of gender fluidity, by not constantly doing
gender they will be prosecuted to the extent of having no other choice than to conform to
societys expectations for specific genders. Additionally, Aaron Devor demonstrates societys
viewpoint of gender as an adaptable concept when he declares that as we move through our
lives, society demands different gender performances from us and rewards, tolerates, or punishes
us differently for conformity to, or digression from, social norms (33) in his article Becoming
Members of Society: The Social Meanings of Gender. People are unable to ignore the idea of
gender because one, it controls who we are, how we act and how others view us and two, society
subconsciously peer pressures its people into believing that they are making their own decisions
about gender when in fact society is making their decision for them. Therefore, society
ultimately wins the war of individuality by influencing people to conform to the norm that has
been established in society throughout time. The fact that two people are writing about similar
topics, the severity of societys hold on peoples identity, demonstrates that people are beginning
to take notice to this issue and attempting to stop it.
Throughout the course of life, people rely on copious influencers to help them through
life; as children, we rely on our parents, as prepubescent teens we rely on society and as adults
we rely on friends and family to help us endure life. In college, they say these are the years
where you find yourself, but is it really ourselves if we constantly look to others for approval?

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The 21st century is filled with people attempting to understand how we came to be and who we
will become; in the course of the past century researchers discovered, parents are teaching their
daughters to be more attentive to others feelings and to interpersonal relationships, while they are
teaching boys to be assertive, but unemotional when expressing anger (Renzetti/Curran, 79).
Parents today, just as they always had, treat their sons and daughters differently, and hold
different genders to a separate set of rules and expectations in school, sports and social situations.
For example, growing up with two sisters and a brother, I noticed the contrasting values taught to
sons and daughters. The daughters were taught to have a strong sense of self, not allowing a man
to define us; while the son was taught to be a provider for the family and to respect women in all
factors of life. The parenting of gender identity is a vicious cycle; more than likely parents treat
their kids how they were treated as kids, either focusing on their self-expression or denying any
creativity in the household. In addition, toys play a crucial part in the childrens discovery of
their gender; toys related to clothes and accessories are given to girls, while toys related to
violence and sports are given to boys. Parents award girls for choosing a sport related activity,
but boys are shamed for choosing a Barbie-like doll (Renzetti and Curran). The differences of
these behaviors towards specific genders will inevitably cause a difference in how the children
grow up because they will assume that acting the specific way they were taught is the only
civilized way to act in order to be seen as significant in their parents eyes in addition to societys
eyes. The influence my parents had on my gender identity was a perfect combination of
sensitivity and strength, creating my tom-boyish personality that has the ability to defend myself
from an attacker while also empathizing with said attacker.
Because gender identity is such a controversial topic worldwide, there will always be two
opposing sides, just another thing that splits humankind in two. Although I am on the more

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liberal side of gender identity, I can also understand the conservative viewpoint. Before the wave
of female empowerment overtook the world, society claimed that girls need to devote much
energy to establishing the proper functioning of their ovaries and womb and that if they divert
this energy to their brains by studying, their reproductive organs will shrivel, they will become
sterile, and the race will die out (Hubbard, 47). Similar to the past, society today continues to
assume different behaviors and attitudes from specific genders and pushes that idea until it is
met, creating the perfect looking community. However, through time society has also evolved
and therefore has altered their viewpoints on specific topics such as gender, sexuality and
equality. In Ruth Hubbards article Rethinking Womens Biology, she argues the truth about
womens importance as she explains the descriptions of womens frailty, passivity, and
weakness need to be juxtaposed with the reality of women as providers and workers who in most
societies, including our own, tend to work harder and for longer hours than most men (50).
Today, women are encouraged to make their voice heard, rather than quieted for stating their
opinion. Society has developed into an environment of beauty, allowing the majority of people to
express themselves fully without judgement. Although society continues to play a major part in
individuals gender identity, society is also beginning to spread awareness of the mistreatment of
people based on their differences and spreading the values of love and ratification.
Society today is like an onion, once you peel back one layer and think youve fully
understood how it works, there is another layer that has to be uncovered and revealed. Societys
unspoken pressure toward people to behave a certain way continues to impact the decisions of
the youth, because they are taught to be like everyone else in order to be welcomed into social
cliques, families and society. Similar to scaring someone to stop hiccups, society is scaring
people into complying to the nations standard of human by teaching the intended characteristics

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people must attain in order to exist in a utopia, and damaging those who do not conform to the
norm. Thankfully, people are beginning to realize the truth about society and are starting to
demand acceptance and love rather than isolation and hate. Five people in particular, Judith
Lorber, Claire Renzetti, Daniel Curran, Aaron Devor and Ruth Hubbard, use their writing to
express to the world societys, as well as parents and peers, influence on the social construction
of gender in order to persuade the readers that gender identity should not be influenced by
someones parents, peers or culture but by the individual itself. The world has changed since the
1900s and will continue to change, hopefully in a way that will remain to spread adoration to
those who choose to disregard the rules and expectations society places on different genders.

Works Cited

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Devor, Aaron. "Becoming Members of Society: The Social Meanings of Gender." Composing
Gender. By Rachael Groner and John F. O'Hara. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2014. 3543. Print.
Hubbard, Ruth. "Rethinking Women's Biology." Composing Gender. By Rachael Groner and
John F. O'Hara. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2014. 46-51. Print.
Lorber, Judith. ""Night to His Day": The Social Construction of Gender." Composing Gender.
Edited by Rachael Groner and John F. O'Hara. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2014. 19-30.
Print.
Renzetti, Claire, and Daniel Curran. "From Women, Men, and Society." Composing Gender. By
Rachael Groner and John F. O'Hara. Boston: Bedford/St. Ma, rtin's, 2014. 76-84. Print.