Why gender matters....surely, we can stop talking about it now?

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Answered by: Nicci, An Expert in the Gender and Culture Category
Why should we think about gender? We are all male or female, men or women, aren't we? Well, yes, this is how we have learned to see ourselves. Our world has been divided up into two genders, which babies are prescribed at birth. Gender (or how a person relates to the world as male or female) is assumed to be connected to anatomy, or the sex (male or female) we are born with. From the very first, babies are gendered. Little boys are dressed in blue, little girls wear pink. We are taught to behave in certain ways, or to prescribe to certain values because of our gender. Women wear make up, for example, and they grow their hair long. Women are presumed to be nurturing, relationship orientated and to have a lot of empathy. Women might also be seen as intuitive. Men have short hair, are presumed to be protective or assertive, and are considered to be work minded, and good at maths and science.

Being gendered links into our everyday actions and behaviors, even though we may not think about it a great deal. We choose public toilets based on gender, and our genders are recorded into our drivers licenses, our university application forms, and the beliefs or roles that we (or other people) prescribe to. This is why gender matters. Gender matters because it may limit women us. A woman who (for example, loves to cook) might be expected to say stay and home and cook for a family. A man who loves to cook is given the role of chef, and goes out to work to provide for his family. A man is expected to provide, to be competitive, and to be reasonable or rational at all times. A woman is expected to be nurturing and to look after others first.

Society places people in gender roles which limit both sexes. A man may often prefer to be caring and nurturing, while a woman may prefer to work outside of her home. People are often mocked or laughed at, however, for performing gender badly. A feminine man is called a sissy, and is often treated with scorn or derision. In many cultures, men are seen to be superior to women, and are held in higher esteem. In the past, many women had to fight for the right to a vote, to go out to work and have control over their own finances, and even for the right to have control over their own bodies.

Asking why gender matters helps us explore the paths which are open to people, and the options they might prefer. It helps to question the social beliefs we have absorbed, so that we can work towards a world where people are free to live lives which feel suitable, where men co - parent their children, and women are free to have careers. Living in a society where we do not place limits on people according to the bodies they are born with enables us to offer value to more people, regardless of how masculine or feminine they might appear to be.

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