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How often do we need to distinguish our roles in society according to our biological sex and social gender? Several centuries ago people did not determine the notion of gender. However, the roles of women and men were distinguished more strictly than today. The history of the 20th century has begun with the revolutionary movement of feminists for their rights. It was not obviously clear what rights were defended by feminists because many women were not ready to admit new social roles imposed by active feminists.
Nevertheless, our society has learnt the notion of gender as distinguishing masculine and feminine features in social behaviour of men and women which are the results of their biological sex. Gender reveals its social origin with references to a lot of different theories the main idea of which is that social roles depend on gender which can emphasize their inequality.
Today there are many theories which describe and explain the character of gender as a social phenomenon. However, the most controversial questions which are widely discussed by scholars are the relations between gender and biological sex, gender roles and social roles, gender roles and social institutions.
For instance, Barbara Risman has proposed to discuss gender as an absolutely social structure which depends on definite aspects of the social development (Risman). To understand the nature of gender, it is necessary to pay attention to certain visions of the issue. Many scholars agree that the gender theory can be based on the combination of viewpoints on the biological sex and its role in forming the peculiarities of personal behavior according to a definite gender.
Moreover, it is also significant to focus on the social aspects of forming gender as opposite to the vision of the problem as connected with a sex (Renzetti and Curran). The next important detail is the idea of gender inequality in association to gender roles. That is why it is rather difficult to determine a single vision of the issue of gender theory which can be considered as the most objective one.
If we discuss gender as a social structure, we should determine all its peculiarities according to the social theories and viewpoints on the question. The consideration of gender as a definite social structure also can bring it to the same analytic plane as politics and economics in society (Risman).
Thus, Risman makes accents on the social inequality which can be the result of the gender differentiation in our society (Risman). What is the first social structure which children can observe when they do not realize the notion of gender or social roles? It is a family. Families can be considered as the first social institutions with the help of which children become to observe the difference in the roles of women and men which they can play not only in society but also in their families.
Every day a child can examine the inequality of roles of his parents in the family. When this child becomes to act in the society as a schoolboy or schoolgirl or attend different clubs he or she can see the difference of those roles which men and women play in society (Risman).
They are gender roles which are influenced by feminine and masculine qualities. They become to determine certain social roles. However, is it possible to grow the child who has not any social gender? On the one hand, a child can be considered as acquiring definite gender when he or she actively interacts in society.
That is why this child should be isolated from any communication with the other people. On the other hand, each child has a biological sex. When this child grows he or she begins to act according to the behavioral peculiarities common for this or that sex. If this child begins to interact in society and reveal the behavioral peculiarities common for his or her sex, we can speak about the inclination to a definite gender.
Thus, social gender is determined by our biological sex. Nevertheless, should all the social roles be dependent on our gender and, as a consequence, on our sex? Today this question is mainly discussed by those women who state that gender roles and social roles can be thought of as the way to implement the principles of discrimination in society.
Feminists declare that only social transformation can be effective for reducing inequality in our society (Risman). Women should have the right to choose their roles not only according to such characteristics as their sex and gender. However, today we can observe definite transformations in community and can state that the notions of gender and gender roles develop every day.
Different gender theories can be based on various aspects connected with the peculiarities of social and personal development. Some of them accentuate the fact of gender as a social structure for which certain level of inequality is typical. Distinguishing between social roles can be the result of a certain consideration of gender roles and the notion of gender. Moreover, the first institution in which we can observe the differences between genders is our family.
Renzetti, Claire, and Daniel J. Curran. Women, Men, and Society. USA: Pearson, 2002. Print.
Risman, Barbara. “Gender as Social Structure: Theory Wrestling with Activism”. Sociologists for Women in Society 18.4 (2004): 429-450. Print.