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Race and gender are both part of a category that combines topics such as inequality, privilege and intersectionality. Though in some ways can be seen as similar, there are differences between the two categories – beginning with race. Race is the obvious, somatic indifference between people, where gender is the way we define and/or separate the way we view people. Beginning with gender an example being how we use the colour pink to define femininity, and blue represents masculinity. Though a boy may like pink, or a girl may like blue, it is represented by gender.
This is how we “do” gender. We create labels for males and females, as well as unrealistic standards and expectations for each, and teach them that they must like and abide by certain standards due to their gender.
According to the journal “Undoing Gender. Gender & Society” it argues that individuals “do” gender is to claim that gender is “an ongoing emergent aspect of social interaction” (Deutsch 2007, 107).
The meaning of this is that gender is constructed, specifically by interacting and engaging in things which once again, are taken as either masculine or feminine. It is also said that we are accountable for our gender-based behaviour. What does this mean? An example of this is when a man engages in something, such as football, or hockey, it directed to men as it is a predominantly male sport. Likewise goes for a woman. If a female does something which is slightly masculine, it is automatically seen as “non-normative” for her sex category, which can lead to conflict within society or social sanctions.
This reinforces the inconsequence between genders.
“Doing Gender” by West and Zimmerman is a 1987 article about gender in society. In this article, West and Zimmerman suggest there is something which connect both gender and inequality, and this is the argument that “the oppressive gender” (2019, 17) stems from both power and also resource differentials that originate from these said differences. “Doing gender” is something that is ridiculed due to the never-ending division between male and female, which ultimately, is constructed to either produce, or reproduce, society’s social system that holds the subordination of women. The subordination of women weaken gender equality though there are evidence of changes (Deutsch, 2007 Risman 2009).
We have discussed how to “do” gender, that it is time to unveil how gender can be “undone.” It all begins with structural change. This is vital in the process of undoing gender because of the status of structural shifts. Structural shifts would be at risk of either falling apart, and/or strengthening bonds between “gender differences, power, and resource differentials”(Chesley, 2011). Though these shifts may not have an immediate or direct affect which reinforced gender difference, they do have the ability to in fact alter the power and resource returns where differences build up in a favourable matter, rather than less gender equality. In other instances, large economic shifts or social movements gold the power to disturb individuals who hold the ability to enact “appropriate” gender displays. When people in a society are unable to act in a way that is known as gender-normative, accountability tends to be directed from persons, to institutions.
Now that we have dissected how to “do” gender, let’s focus on how race is done. As previously stated, race is the obvious, somatic indifference between people, such as the colour of our skin. More often than not, it is argued on whether or not race is a legitimate thing. Those who connect science and racial identity argue on whether or not race is real. The main arguments by these racial experts is that race is a category of human indifferences. To add to this, they also believe intelligence plays a key role in doing race. “Blacks are generally less intelligent than whites and Asians, and this is due to biological and/or genetic differences between the races” (Wise, 2011). Also stated in this article is as followed “Intelligence is measurable using standardized IQ batteries and other mechanisms” (Wise, 2011). According to the journal, Race, Intelligence and the Limits of Science: Reflections on the Moral Absurdity of “Racial Realism” there are many racial extremists, due to these statistics, we, as a society should create a greater “social or economic equity between the races” (Wise, 2011). If this does not occur, it causes rational behaviour – like employers hiring someone who is white compared to someone of colour. It’s argued that racial injustice should be tolerated and seen as a logical choice due to the background science of the indifference in race. These arguments bring up the common points that race is not actually real, but indeed a social construct. It is also said that the differences between racial groups are due to certain elements within the environment, and not genetics.
How can privilege be explained, and tied into race and gender? To begin, let’s define privilege. Privilege is when someone has an advantage over another group of people. A great example of this could be “white privilege” or even white men of power. Both of these examples tie back to doing race and gender. As previously mentioned, a white person may have advantages that people of colour may lack such as job opportunities. In a study done by Sharon S. Oselin and Kristen Barber, interviews were conducted with men which varied from ages 25-51. Seventeen were African American, and two Latinos. Some of these men were involved in the sex industry, to either support them financially, or support a certain kind of lifestyle. Moving forward, the study was made up from white, middle-class men, who ultimately conflicted/contrasted with the men of colour of the lower class. As stated in the article, the men in this study clearly demonstrated creativity in navigating the constraints of their structural oppression. Because these men are limited to such little options, it was found they made choices that allowed their self-worth to shine through with the white privileged masculinity. Prostitution was known as one of the most valuable sources of income for the poor men of colour, which puts them in line for the following tactics evaluating, choosing, and having themselves become desirable to that upper, white class.
During the study, one of the men of colour states the following: “I needed some money, I didn’t have any. I saw that prostitution was kind of an easy thing to do. Even $50-$60 could be enough, if you was hungry. To even get you a room and off the streets for a night. So this is why you need to do” (Oselin 2019 Barber 2019). This quote alone shows the distant difference between the interviewee and the white person of privilege/power. The subject also goes on with the following: “Some people prostitute just for survival . . . when you’re on the streets, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do” (Oselin 2019 Barber 2019). In the journal by Oselin and Barber, a interview was done with a financial insolvency of Juan, a bisexual Latino, was exacerbated by his undocumented citizenship status, which he said made it difficult for him to find lawful employment. “I found myself with no job, no money, and for me being illegal, especially after September 11, everything changed for me,” he said. The shift in society’s political landscape eventually led him to the streets.
“Doing” race and gender most definitely limits the way we understand the two. Due to the simple fact that when doing them both, you ultimately are going against society’s constructive norms. When we do gender, we are continuing with stereotypes such as ‘black people are less educated than white people,’ or ‘a woman can not play professional football’. An alternative do doing gender, or race, could be to undo it by tearing down the walls that more often than not, feel like the norm.
Therefore, there are continuous stereotypes being constructed by society where people are learning from. Although race and gender are different ideas they are both the same where they are both viewed from cultural definitions and how society views the categories of a persons race and gender.
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