Gender Identity Issues
The emancipatory movements that took place in 1970s drew attention to the concept of identity and initiated a new field of study. The most powerful driving force of those emancipatory movements appeared to be feminists. That is why the issues of sex and gender, in the first place, became the object of intense negotiations. Although long time has passed and these questions seem now, according to Lorber (1994), the most common and obvious things, they are very often underestimated and taken for granted. Despite of all the efforts put in order to eliminate bias, inferior behavior, and different kinds of discrimination, our society nowadays still remains gendered.
Gender is perceived as an important part of daily life and defines a number of societal expectations of how men and women are supposed to act. In everyday social interaction one usually places other people in a gender status in accordance with ubiquitous gender signals and signs. One of the most relevant questions in this context is: does such strict gender stratification lead to identity issues?In the core of the current negotiations on the topic lies differentiation between the concepts of sex and gender. The question is thoroughly discussed by an American psychologist Rhoda Unger (1979), who states that while the notion of sex has biological origin, gender is attributed sociocultural characteristics.
Descriptive differences between men and women are mainly connected to biological variable of sex. As rightfully notices Lorber (1994), people are given gender status at the very birth, considering which genitalia they were born with. Parents start “marking” gender of their children with all possible signs, like wear girls in pink colors and boys in blue colors etc., so that others would not confuse their sex. In such a way parents interfere and begin to form their children’s gender identity. While children grow up they are expected to walk, talk and behave the way girls and boys should do in their community, according to general stereotypes in that social group. Since everyone is constantly “doing gender”, meaning makes assumptions about other people based on their sex, gender is to a great extent cultural construct and is formed under the influence of a wide range of cultural patterns (Lorber, 1994). Therefore, such obtrusive gender attributions exclude the possibility of being perceived as an individual, unique person, apart from the stereotype gender role.
This often leads to a number of identity issues.Although gender roles tend to change with even more high speed nowadays, and “fathers are taking care of little children, girls and boys are wearing unisex clothing and getting the same education, women and men are working at the same jobs” (Lorber, 1994, p. 55), a lot of traditional social groups are still very strict about distinct differentiation between genders. Even in highly democratic and flexible societies gendering is made willingly or unwillingly every now and then. Shaping people’s identities on purpose or unintentionally since early childhood influences strongly their personalities. According to Scutti (2013), a …