Arguably one of the most pressing cultural discrepancies lies within the constitution of gender and its placement in society—but what does gender really mean? To the individual, gender is personally conceptualized and entirely subjective; yet the social community that absorbs us often suffocates this freedom of self-identity and constrains our expressive liberties, formatting “gender” to fit a definition that is concrete and universal. We operate within the confinements of a calculated societal format.
It is critical to understand the clear distinction between the sex of an individual and the various gender roles that exist in American culture. Sex refers to biology; gender refers to identity. That being said, gender is simply a performance—the gender roles that humans claim are circumstantial, situational, and conceptual. However, to use the word “performance” does not imply that it is fake, but it is a behavior highly dependent on context. Genders are nothing more than custom behaviors, carrying no validity or certainty to actual sexual orientation or the physical mechanics of the being.
The meaning of gender, consequently, is subjective.
Essentially, an individual’s inhabited “gender” performed each day and in different variations (due to its situational dependence) is a choice, yes—but it may also be a subconsciously shaped requirement. We tend to claim a gender that society provides and perform it to meet the standards of our personal preference. Thus, a single gender looks different on everyone. Depending on the context of various circumstances, humans adjust their gender performances—such as their level of femininity or masculinity—behaving with keen awareness of what is acceptable and appropriate behavior.
Gender, arguably, is a conceptualized means for societies to function with a generally comprehensive structure; it is a universal measure of conformity to make our raw emotions, actions, and appearances be collectively understood and accepted. Weaning in and out of different shades of normality, humans create these forms as an adaptive and alternating identity.
The gender roles that are performed in different settings are a manipulation of society—“Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind” (Eugenides, Middlesex).
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