Cranky Fat Feminist Speaks

liberal feminist from the south who ran away to college in the mid-west, and quickly retreated back after my four years were up. trying to save the world one picture book at a time; attempting to live healthier to lose weight, but without giving up beer. challenging the idea that “big is beautiful” as well as what I’ve learned and experienced about women, gender, and feminism from my time in college as well as my time in West Africa. pissed about the apathy of the world, ready to create change one mind at a time.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

[feminist] defining gender binaries as a social construct

As requested, I've pulled out one of my women's studies books to bring you a definition of gender.

First, we have to acknowledge that the term "sex" refers to biology, and your sexual organs. You are born a girl, a boy, or intersex. Therefore, the term "gender" refers to culture and society-- often phrased "social construction of gender." What does it mean to be a man, or to be a woman? What adjectives have you been called recently?
  • weak, pretty, timid, demure (dowdy/frumpy, matronly, brazen, coy, slut, whore)
  • strong, handsome, burly, macho, stocky, strong (effeminate, queer, weak, timid)
Which line do your adjectives fit into? The top line usually describes women, while the second line usually describes men (and the parenthesis are generally insult-words). See any overlap? Comparing men to women is often an insult "you throw like a girl," while for a woman to be compared to a man is usually a complement "strong like your brother."

Quick homework, go to Toys-R-Us (or some equivalent) online, and search for toys for kids under 5... there is an option to sort for "girl toys" and "boy toys." Here's my test-- "girl toys" got this doll in the top 10 results, "boy toys" got this in the top 10 results. Pink baby doll, sports car, socially constructed gender.

You see your friend's young kid for the first time, what do you say? "Jane, your dress is so pretty!" or "Mark, you're so tall!"-- would you ever tell a boy that he was "pretty"?

Right there, you answered no. There is no escape from social constructions of gender. We are all victims of the society we are born into. But, we must all work to end these stereotypes of gender-- the manly man and the girly girl. Girls can do anything boys can do. Boys can do anything girls can do. We should never limit our children to dolls and pretend kitchens, or trucks and cars. We should never tell a little boy "you can't paint your toenails, that's only for girls" or tell a little girl "you can't play with trucks, that's only for boys." Just like we should never tell girls that they couldn't be things like doctors, astronauts, truck drivers, breadwinners, or the president; and how we should never tell boys that they can't cry, become a dancer, or be stay at home parent. Think before you speak and before you buy.


  1. Gender is a social construct - Check out Judith Butler.

  2. Take a look at Kate Bornstein. Ze does a fabulous job of destroying all notions of the social constructs of gender. Artistically, so does photographer Catherine Opie. Matilda, aka Matt Bornstein, has a compilation out called "That's Revolting!" that deals with a lot of Gender 101 type theories