Defining Gender?

How do we determine gender? Gender has the ability to be performed in a variety of ways, but is continuously reflected as the typical “girl” versus “boy” associations. Gender performativity, a very broad term, describes the way in which one portrays their gender identity, either fitting the norms of male or female or defining new norms. The idea, formed by Judith Butler is made on account that gender is not something someone is initially born with. Gender is assigned according to sex, males from the time of birth are expected to perform masculine characteristics while females portray feminine characteristic. We need to be able to look at gender as more than the performance of gender roles and see gender as a continuously changing subject that cannot be set as soley two different ideals.

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The big question is why is gender only separated into two categories of male and female, through portraying masculine and feminine behaviours? Is it possible for gender to not only be a reflection of sex?

Today we look at gender as two set concepts of male and female. In many cases these norms are bent to form new gender formations. Through encouragement for diversity of Canadian and other Western societies, it is surprising that we still see the lack of acceptance towards those willing to bend the gender norms and portray their true selves. An article titled, Understanding Gender, describes this as gender expansion, when  individualism is created through the stretching of the set gender definitions (Understanding Gender).

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Fixed genders are not a fair description of today’s societal roles. Non-binary roles, in which  someone does not portray particularly female nor male gender roles are seen today. This concept of non-binary gender roles is important to consider as we can see gender simply as a concept rather than a set rule. “Their Story: ‘I want to be somewhere between two fixed gender points'” is an example of adolescents who do not portray a simplistic standardized gender. When looking at a young adolescent Mx. Gilmer-Osborne, they describe their gender situation as merely a transition period in which one can keep an open mind towards opportunities within life (Their Story).

Taking away the gender specific concepts as portrayed through the eyes of Mx. Gilmer-Osborne, one provides themselves with a new light to look at the world. This allows one to live with no restrictions in which society has created based on gender norms. This is not a battle specifically of gender, this is a battle of individualism. There needs to be a focus on what and how an individual wants to be portrayed.

There are many activists supporting individualism rather than focussing on defining factors. Tyler Ford and iO Tillet Wright, as examples, actively engage in the rights not only of gender performativity but the importance of one feeling comfortable in their own skin while being the person who they want to be, receiving the rights they deserve. iO shows that rather than being placed into one of few ‘boxes’ created by society of who you should be, one should be an individual performing who they are not based on their gender but how they feel. iO shows the importance of forgetting these gender norms as well as sexuality as a defining factor and focusing on who one wants to be specifically as an individual.

Gender needs to be conveyed as a form of expression rather than a set definition. Taking away the negative connotations towards gender expansion and non-binary genders will

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allow for societies to focus on individualism. Gender should not be seen as a set definition but rather a form of expression that can be displayed in a variety of ways. The focus of male versus female retracts individualism from those who are bending the social norms due to the lack of social support. Expansion of gender identity, not as a definition, but as a form of expression takes away the set rules of gender associated with sex at birth, allowing for one to focus on life open to change. Although this will benefit individualism according to gender within society, how can we change the negative connotations embedded into societies minds?




3 thoughts on “Defining Gender?

  1. I really enjoyed reading your blog, I think this topic is very interesting and agree with your point of view. I think something you touched on very briefly, gender performativity, pretty much sums up a way in which we can change the negative connotations embedded in societies minds. If people were taught that gender is not set in stone, it is always changing, gender is fluid there would be less negative connotation associated with it. It is important for people to understand that the sex you are born as, for example a male does not mean that the individual will want to identify as such. As you stated, gender performativity is the idea that gender is created based on the actions one does this in itself creates individualism. If society could adopt this view of gender performativity, gender stereotypes would slowly be forgotten and actions would eventually just become “your own”. Individuals would not be labeled as female because they wear lipstick, rather it would be a sense of individualism, an action they perform because they want to. I believe a way of establishing this belief is through the education system, it is a crucial aspect in changing societal views and creating new norms, such as the ones you touch upon throughout the blog.


  2. You really got me thinking about how gender as a continuously changing subject and not just two separate ideals. Gender roles of males and females have drastically changed so much over the years, and yet we still have not achieved gender equality. What does this say about our society? I completely agree with you in that we are not in a battle specifically of gender but of individualism. The focus should most definitely be on the individual and how they want to be viewed and portrayed and NOT on how society views them and thinks of them.


  3. Gender and the constructions that come along with this term are very complex. Regardless of what society you are a part of whether it be a Westernized society or a third world country I believe a great majority still believe in ‘male’ and ‘female’ as a sex. To express emotions or characteristics of the opposite ‘sex’ is deemed abnormal in society. As mentioned in the video you added Tyler Ford stated that we as the human race should begin as a blank slate and learn how to grow as a person not ‘girl’ or ‘boy’. This truly caught my attention as I am a strong advocator that individuals should not be told how to act, if they are comfortable with whatever gender they identify themselves with then that is acceptable at all measures. To grow up strictly concentrating on making sure a girl acts feminine and a boy acts masculine puts a restriction on teaching the important aspects of life and how to be a functioning member of society in all means. Posing the question in how to change the negative connotations embedded in societies mind, I believe that will be hard to go about. This is for the reason that many individuals have not understood gender in any other way except traditionally male and female. However, when you keep advertising and promoting the positives with videos like you showed or social media it will increase the natural acceptance of everyone’s identity.


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