In contemporary society, gender differentiation can be highly controversial. Gender dimorphism is a popular theory that the only genders are male and female based on the male and female bodies (Jacobus 749). Judith Butler questions the validity of this, arguing that gender “is by no means tied to material bodily facts but it is solely and completely a social construction” (Felluga). She believes gender is not only identified on a biological basis, but also by social means. Butler explains that societal norms shape gender development. Society possesses gender-specific normalities with clothing, attitudes, interests, language, and appearance. Although many more gender-related classifications have emerged, those who stray from norms, are socially isolated, fueling the tendency to associate certain characteristics with each gender.
Society has evolved gender classification so that being a “normal” male or female involves following guidelines for clothing., attitudes, interests, language, and appearance. There are various instances supportive of this concept. Dresses and high heels are only considered appropriate for women. Many men have the mindset that “real men do not fuss or scurry” (Jacobus 732). In terms of athletics and hobbies, football and hunting are male-dominant and dance and knitting are female-dominant. Men are more prone to using an explicit vocabulary, and women tend to more often use complimentary words such as ‘adorable, ‘”charming,’ and ‘divine.’ Men are expected to be “bigger than women, and more heavily muscled” (Jacobus 733). Women, on the other hand, typically have a more curvaceous or slender stature. Such characteristics typically distinguish between genders in day’s society.
Butler would be more accepting of modern society, as more individuals demonstrate characteristics from the opposite sex than evident in the time period of her major writings (1990-2004). There are some women who play football, have a more built stature, and have more explicit language usage. There are some men who dance and knit, who have long hair and are more sensitive. However, there are enough norms still existent for Butler to debounce. In Undoing Gender, she asks, “in what world, under what conditions, does not like that type of clothing provide evidence for being the wrong gender?” (Jacobus 754). From such questioning, it can be concluded that she does not believe that such gender distinctions should be prevalent in society. Her strong feelings indicate that she would equally condemn similar norms in the categories of attitudes, interests, language, and appearance.
Although gender norms are common enough in society to be accepted, my opinion coincides with Butler’s opinion that the divergence of an individual from the norms of their biological gender should not be rejected by society. Furthermore, it is immoral for society to accept certain variances from gender norms while being so quick to criticize others. The female who chooses to play football may receive praise, while a male who takes up knittin9 may be harassed. In general, it is more socially acceptable for a female to exhibit male characteristics, than for a male to exhibit female characteristics. For instance, this year Shelby Osborne became college football’s first defensive back. After visiting Campbellsville University, the football team sent her messages of encouragement and commendation. (Trahan). Meanwhile, searching “bullied male dancer” gives thousands of results. The gender standards for clothing, attitudes, interests, language, and appearance are effective in distinction between the two genders. However, as I and many others in my life would agree, it is absurd for such specific criteria to be so prevalent in society.
There are clear markers of gender difference evident in the aforementioned categories. Strict standards have developed so that individuals feel bound within their gen- der’s characteristics. This prevents the diversity and freedom of self-expression Bulter hopes for society to gain. Regardless of the fact that some acceptance of diversity exists, there is insufficient acceptance for any given individual to avoid improper gender classification for even the slightest outstep of the predetermined gender boundaries.
- Felluga, Dino. “Introduction to Judith Butler, Module on Gender and Sex.” Introductory Guide to Critical Theory.
- Perdue U, 31 Jan. 2011. Web. <http://www.cla.purdue.edul englishtheory/genderandsex/modules/butlergendersex.htmls.
- Trahan, Kevin. “Meet Shelby Osborne, College Football’s First Female Defensive Back.” SBNation.com. SB Nation, 10 June 2014. Web.