When an individual is born, he or she has male or female sexual organs and this determines the sex of that individual and consequently how the society expects that person to behave. Gender is different however, in that it transcends the simple biological explanation of why one is a boy and another is a girl. This paper will focus on what makes one a girl putting aside the fact that one was born one. It will also look at the possibility of an individual being born a girl but changing to become a boy.
How and why this is done is also part of the discussion. Gender is described as “the socially constructed roles, behaviour, activities and attributes that a particular society considers appropriate for men and women” (http://www. who. int). This means that to be masculine or feminine depends on a society and not only on the sexual organs that one is born with. Once an individual is born, the society teaches him or her how to behave according to the expectations that specific society has for an individual belonging to his or her particular sex.
Every society has some roles that are assigned to male and female members of the society and this determines whether one is male or female. The question then becomes whether one is born with his or her gender or this is learned from the society that one grows in. In my own case, attending a girl’s school determined my becoming feminine and thus becoming a girl despite the fact that I was born a girl. In the school, only girls were around and thus were the only role models that I had. This meant that I only had other girls to emulate in my behaviour and my peers were also girls so together we all aspired to be better girls.
The teachers we had were also keen on ensuring that we were trained on how girls should behave in certain occasions and also which aspects were to be admired in a girl and which were abhorrent in a female. This shows that one can be trained to become feminine or masculine but it is important to note that it is not always so. This can be demonstrated by the number of girls who would get into trouble with the teachers for playing truant yet this was supposed to be an undesirable trait for girls and hence was dissuaded.
These girls were given the same training as all their peers yet tended to behave differently causing one to question whether gender is completely determined by the society (Morrow 1991). Despite the question that is posed above, it is clear that girls who are educated in girl’s only schools are usually more feminine than those who attend mixed schools. This is because those in mixed schools are not controlled as much as those in girls only schools. The environment they are reared in leans more towards femininity and thus tends to discourage any behaviour that is seen to be masculine.
The lack of an alternative form of behaviour leads to their feminine behaviour although some will try deviate by doing what they think others are doing elsewhere (Askew & Davey 2005). This then leads to the question whether or not one can change from being a girl into a boy? Apart from the biological way, culture has two different ways of changing an individual’s gender. This can either be done by changing the culture one has been brought up in or by being brought up in an environment that emphasises the behaviour of the opposite sex (Watney 1994).
Since gender is determined by the roles that a society assigns to each sex, ones gender can change depending on the culture one finds him or herself in at a particular time. Roles assigned to the sexes by different cultures differs and are interchanged whereby roles assigned to women in one culture may be assigned to men in another culture. In this way a male in one culture may be seen to be feminine in another thus changing a male into a female or vice versa. Another way that one can change ones gender is by rearing a girl in a male environment.
The girl tends to adopt the masculine behaviours exhibited by her male counter parts as has been witnessed by the women who venture into fields assumed to be the male domain. This is in politics and business where women who succeed in these environments are seen to be more masculine than feminine thus changing their gender to becoming more male than female (Miller, Lewy & Peckham1997). In conclusion, it is correct to say that an individual’s gender is not only determined by his or her sex but also by the culture that they have grown in.
the roles that a culture assigns to an individual are used to determine femininity and masculinity of members of the society. It is possible for ones gender to be changed depending on which community one is in. Roles assigned depending on an individuals sex change according to the society. Furthermore, the environment one is in influences the behaviour one has thus influencing the gender that one belongs to.
1. Askew J. & Davey M. 2005, Sex Acts: Practices of Femininity and Masculinity, Archives of Sexual Behaviour Vol. 34, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks 2. Gender, World health organization retrieved on 13th April 2009 from http://www. who. int/topics/gender/en 3. Miller J. B. , Lewy J. & Peckham E. 1997, Context Effects on Self-Perceptions of Feminine and Masculine Quantities, Sex: A Journal of Research Vol. 37 4. Morrow F. 1991, Unleashing Our Unknown Selves: An Inquiry into the Future of Femininity and Masculinity, Praeger Publishers 5. Watney S. 1994, Aphrodite of the Future, Artforum International Vol. 32
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