The central focus of this critical reflection will be on my own experiences with gender and identity. I will aim to critically reflect on how my experience interacts with the following aspects such as religion, class, age, and race. While also drawing on my own experience using theorists such as Butler, Steph Lawler, Bell Hooks. I will be addressing the following point- Feminism in a cultural home.
We must first understand ‘Gender’ and ‘Sexual identities’. With both Gender and Sexual identities, there’s purpose and effects, this comes to play in gender roles, the importance of gender roles allows one to accept themselves while also understanding how to connect with people. The understandings of the term ‘Gender’ is continuously evolving. Gender is a social construction of the definition of men and women, one’s characteristics are thought to distinguish the difference between a man and women, such as roles, norms, and relationships. However, it differs within other societies and can also change. Whilst a majority of the population are either born ‘Man’ or ‘Woman’ they are learned the suitable norms and conducts, this including-how to interact with those of the same or different sex within communities, work, and homes. However, when one does not ‘fit’ the appropriate gender norms they are most likely faced with discrimination, social barring, and shame.
The establishment of Gender identity is a complicated process there are many elements to consider such as, cultural, psychological and biological. Gender identity is one’s inner experience in which names one’s gender. This can fit or change the sex we were given once birthed. Our first understanding of ‘Gender’ for most of us is established in early childhood. Most of us are only familiar with two gender identities ‘Male’ and ‘Female’, due to the lack of information and social norms we are introduced from young, that these two gender identities only exist. And that one must be either male or female ‘Assuming for the moment the stability of binary sex, it does not follow that the construction of ‘men’ will accrue exclusively to the bodies of males or that ‘women’ will interpret only female bodies’ (Butler,2011) – ‘Gender binary’ this disconnects forms of Masculinity and femininity. Also, Gender expression is how we choose to communicate our gender to the world, social gender involves gender roles and beliefs, society uses these to impose traditionalism to present gender norms.
Lawler draws upon the Psychoanalysis theory and what it may offer to the sociological theories of identity. The psychoanalysis theory emphasises as what it perceives as the subconscious elements of identity formation. According to Lawler ‘The social world is messier than this, and part of the messiness, it seems to me, derives from the messiness of the unconscious’ (Lawler, 2015) Lawler suggests that this perspective provides numerous ways of comprehending non-rational, concealed characteristics of identity in other ways would be unreachable.
Furthermore, ‘Gender roles express our respective place or position in the larger society relative to traditional beliefs of masculinity and femininity’ (Miville, 2013), from when we are born, we are taught expectations and rules that differ from both genders. Historically, gender roles have always been established within my household, I come from a very traditional cultural family, and with that comes expectations and rules that I have seen and also abided by. Many generations before me, there were expectations from both genders- Women were expected to be seen as the caretakes of both the family and home, while men were expected to be seen as the main provider for both the family and home. Furthermore, I’ve also had little freedom growing up, while the men in the family were allowed to do as they please because they are ‘Men’. During the Middle ages, the treatment for both genders always differed ‘Some medieval scholars, in fact, regarded girls as the result of weaker or damaged sperm, while boys resulted from sperm produced by men at their most fertile’ (Bardsley. S, 1997) this suggests that, before the birth of their child, distinctions were already established on the basis of their gender. However, I am very familiar with the appreciation that comes from the birth of a boy, they are seen as a ‘Trophy’, According to Bardsley, ‘The system of primogeniture, under which the oldest son inherited his father’s land, meant that boys were often welcomed more warmly than girls’ (Bardsley, 2007) both genders were shown affection in different ways, however, there were more opportunities given to a male than a female and this was on the basis of their gender, males had much more to lose and much more to give once they had inherited their father’s name as well as his land. Traditionally, it is known that a ‘woman’ is not eligible to carry on her father’s name whereas with a ‘Man’ it is very much the opposite and with this come’s many opportunities, this will not likely be reciprocated to women.
Nonetheless, there have been significant changes in regards to gender roles specifically to ‘Women’ in the early 16th century women were given the voice to express their equality issues and anger, later recognised. ‘Feminism aims to end sexist oppression. Importantly it aims not to benefit solely a specific group of women, any particular race or class of women. It does not privilege women over men’ (Hooks, 2000). Feminism was subconsciously introduced in my household, life outside Europe is very hard to come accustomed to, after many years of creating a living in the United Kingdom I have become accustomed to their way of living and thinking. My family, have also changed their mindset on gender roles, as well as mine and my families class status after many years of residing in the UK, When I first migrated to the UK myself and my family were of lower class and brought our traditions with us, this meant that my family were very close-minded and this was also pushed onto myself, However, I do believe from experience that those who are of a higher class are more lenient towards both genders and change their traditional values. ‘The multidimensionality and interconnected nature of race, class and gender hierarchies were especially visible to those who faced oppression along more than one dimension of inequality’ (Landry, 2016) These academics visualized axes of inequality applicable to the class, gender and race that divides with each other. Power relationships in line with race, class, and gender were perceived to be mutually reinforcing and reciprocally defining instead of systematic structures of oppression, this establishing a ‘Matrix of domination’.
- Bardsley, S. (2007). Women’s Roles in the Middle Ages. Westport: Greenwood Press.
- Butler, J. (2011). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. O: Routledge.
- Hooks, B. (2000). Feminism aims to end sexist oppression. Importantly it aims not to benefit solely a specific group of women, any particular race or class of women. It does not privilege women over men. United Kingdom: Pluto Press.
- Landry, B. (2016). The multidimensionality and interconnected nature of race, class and gender hierarchies were especially visible to those who faced oppression along more than one dimension of inequality”. Oxon: Routledge.
- Lawler, S. (2008). Identity: Sociological Perspectives. Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Miville, M. (2013). Multicultural Gender Roles: Applications for Mental Health and Education. New Jersey: Wiley.