Social construction of gender and race is the process where the society creates roles and associates them with individuals of a specific gender or race. The society then dictates the nature of roles an individual performs basing on the gender or race. In addition, the society believes that the roles are appropriate for a certain set of people who belong to a specific gender or race. Proponents of social construction argue that the difference between male and female individuals or races is a social convention (Rubin 25). Social construction has some level of impact on gendered or racial behaviors.
Other proponents assert that behavioral differences in gender or race are due to biological factors that are universal. Normally, social construction of the race takes place when the society creates, transforms, and destroys human categories using features such as physical appearance or historical backgrounds and then believes that certain category is superior or inferior. Presently there are cases of discrimination against black women and men usually known as people of color. The perpetrators use gender and race as the main features of discrimination. Therefore, the essay discusses the social constructions of gender and race as well as their impact on women of color.
Social Construction of Gender
Gender comprises of mental, physical, and behavioral characteristics that differentiate men and women in terms of masculinity and femininity respectively. In other words, gender refers to a person’s sexual identity. Furthermore, gender reflects biological attributes of an individual that define a person as either male or female. However, in defining gender one cannot conclusively use the biological features of an individual to ascertain the gender of a person, as in some unique cases, some individuals have both the attributes of male and female. The individuals who have both attributes are hermaphrodites.
Therefore, gender can also refer to a conglomeration of roles and activities that men and women construct socially. Gender relations usually give unequal powers to men and women. Societal norms and beliefs associate specific responsibilities and roles to men and women. The common roles associated with women are domestic duties such as cooking, taking care of children, washing and performing chores that are indoors or within the perimeters of the compound.
From the societal norms, men are the prime beneficiaries while women are on the losing end. This is because norms and gender constructs consider women as a lesser beings than men. Thus, many societies regard women as inferior compared to men. These societies subject men and women to unequal treatment. According to the constructs, women should perform some roles associated with the feminine gender. On the other hand, these norms require men to engage in a different set of activities that define ideal roles for the masculine gender.
The roles and duties cover all aspects of life from family, work, and education. They dictate how individuals relate and work in a society. The constructs can also extend to the social and religious activities where men get the chance to lead churches, mosques, and other religious places as well as lead social projects in the society. Since the constructs view women as inferior beings, they do not give them an opportunity to participate in these activities.
The norms associate men with the roles of acting as sole breadwinners in the family. According to the social constructs of gender, men must be outdoors and in public places as they have more freedom than women (Lorber 55). This disparity refers to gender inequality and its persistence leads to a state where it inhibits the level of participation of women in the society and reduces the benefits received by women from their participation. Societal norms regard women as lesser beings than men, which creates a state called gender division or classification.
Gender division is evident in workplaces where many organizations are reluctant to hire women in higher positions of management, but prefer hiring men. Some organizations hire women as subordinates to men. For instance, women play secretarial roles, while men are in managerial positions. In some instances, women do not receive equal benefits than their male counterparts, yet they are at the same levels, ranks, or job groups.
Since the society expects women to remain indoors and limits their freedom, then their level of participation and chances of getting well paying jobs is also limited. Furthermore, the belief that women should not take higher positions in the society because they are lesser beings than males reduces their chances of getting good and well paying management jobs in a number of organizations. Moreover, the society holds on to the notion that women are short tempered and emotional; hence, many employers and other organizations discriminate when selecting and hiring individuals. Another factor that limits women’s chances of employment in some companies is the perspective held by their employers. The employers perceive women as liabilities or as an expense to their organizations as they require maternity leave before and after delivery.
Social Construction of Race
Human race refers to a group of individuals who have features that are similar and distinct. Consequently, race is a classification system that employs the process of putting human beings into separate categories using features such as culture, geographic locations, language, history, and ethnic affiliations. The system of classification also uses social and anatomical characteristics of individuals to determine their races. In addition, biologists and researchers use the concept of the race to distinguish human beings. They use characteristics such as population, appearance, and genetics in the classification of people into distinct races. Biologists and anthropologists note that the difference between humans is minimal, and that is why they have the ability to interbreed irrespective of the complexion of their skin or physical appearance.
Human beings have three major races, which include Caucasian, Mongolian, and Negro. Caucasians are also known as white people who live in Europe, North Africa, Horn of Africa, Western, Central, and South Asia (Zack 37). They have long heads, high foreheads, and narrow faces. On the other hand, Mongoloids have epicanthic fold, shovel shaped incisors, and small faces. Mongoloids live in the Asian continent and South America continent. They include Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and individuals from Malaysia, and Tibet as well as Latin Americans. Negroes include Africans, Hottentots, Melanesians, and Australian Aborigines. The Negro is a term used to denote the black and thus, it refers to the human race, which has a black appearance. Negroes live on the African continent, Haiti, and in Australia as aborigines.
The society has socially constructed race to a level where there is a notion that a certain set of people who possess some features and physical appearance are inferior or superior. The constructs require people to treat those individuals deemed as superior with respect and honor. Since the superior people have control, influence, and power, they can give or withhold some resources such as job opportunities, facilities, services, aid, and other social benefits from those they perceive as inferior members who must abide by their requirements. In this case, individuals considered inferior by the constructs receive unfair practices and actions.
According to the social construct, inferior individuals do not possess the required intellectual capacities, good personalities, traits, and abilities. Therefore, employers are unwilling to give them a chance in management levels or do not pay them well. Moreover, in the workplace, managers bypass these individuals deemed as inferior during promotions and their counterparts who deemed as superior are considered.
The society has put in place procedures or patterns that cover all aspects of life. Actions, negative attitudes, favors, and other evils associated with discrimination are some of the procedures that society can execute on those members believed to belong to the inferior category basing on the skin color or location, subconsciously or consciously. These procedures bring about and maintain the supremacy, well being, and control of a certain group of individuals believed to be superior to those deemed as inferior. Moreover, the procedures affect the education sector, workplace, associations, housing, and businesses. Since the society imposes the procedures, then there are very few criticisms, and as a result, perpetrators continue to inflict more harm on the victims whom they perceive to belong to the inferior category. This is a form of prejudice known as institutional racial discrimination.
Effect of Social Constructions of Women of Color
Women of color are those women who are the black American or black African women. The term refers to those women whose ancestors originate from African countries during times of slavery. According to Johnson, the society has created constructs that depict black women as inferior beings in every aspect of their lives such as education, business, politics, and family (15). Thus, the society treats women of color with hatred, rudeness, and considers them as ineffective even if they have the required qualification and competence.
In addition, the society believes that black women are irrational and emotional. Therefore, many organizations do not provide women with opportunities in their firms. In the family setup, the society dictates that women of color have to perform a number of household chores and remain indoors most of the time caring for their children and engaging in various domestic chores.
In the workplace, employers treat black women with suspicion, as they believe that they are not efficient. Furthermore, employers do not consider women of color for promotions even if they have the relevant qualifications. Instead, they select their colleagues and consider them for promotions. Additionally, many organizations underpay, delay payments, or overwork black women. Usually, the discrimination of black women has its basis on the appearance and the place of origin. Moreover, women do not access good medical attention, as many workers in the healthcare centers do not handle them with the required concentration. According to Michelle Obama, many women of color die annually from health related problems (Kamali 34). This is because many health professionals do not give them the required medical care.
Discrimination on black women emerges from the social constructs of the society, which have placed women of color in the category of inferior individuals. Societal beliefs of the black women are from the values, norms, and focus groups that make blanket judgments and generalize the effectiveness of women of color using past performance, places of origin, or using their appearance. Additionally, some individuals may demonstrate discrimination through their reluctance or unwillingness to employ, train, promote, or mentor black women. Consequently, employers and supervisors blame women of color seriously for a simple mistake or a minor difference of opinion with a colleague. Tenants and other service providers are usually unwilling to rent houses to black women while service providers such as hoteliers and shop owners may decline to provide their services to women of color.
Since many employers are unwilling to hire black women in high and well paying positions, then many women of color end up working as subordinates and get small earnings. This increases the levels of poverty among the black women and thus, leads to high levels of vulnerability from these women. Additionally, Kamali argues that many black women experience discrimination in shopping malls, bus stations, and other social points. Discrimination may be in the form of arrogance, rudeness, or harassment (78).
Therefore, social constructs subject women of color to actions, beliefs, or practices that make them appear as inferior or less important persons. Women experience prejudice, which happens when one holds negative feelings on them, because their race or gender exposes them to hostile treatment. In some instances, an individual may attribute similar features that may be negative to all women of color and supposes that all members of the group have these features. Thus, a person gives a blanket judgment or generalizes individual attributes and fails to note that some of the group members have different attributes.
Societal constructions that discriminate individuals using gender or race has many negative effects on the victims. The effects take a long time to heal and remain in the memory of the individuals. Cruelty, psychological pain, destruction of union among communities, hatred, and reduced self-esteem, are some of the effects of discrimination. Societies should understand that all individuals have equal capacities irrespective of their skin color, place of origin, or historical background. In addition, all human beings have equal performance and can deliver the best if they get an opportunity and appropriate skills. Furthermore, the society should not consider a certain group of people as superior, inferior, and discriminate based on gender or race.
Many organizations and scholars have come forward with the intention of ending this vice. Among them is the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW). The organization collaborated with the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and organized a meeting of experts to discuss the effects of discrimination on individuals. The meeting took place in Croatia in November 2000 and discussed three topics, which were the intersection of discrimination on individuals based on race and gender, challenges, disadvantages, obstacles, and measures to combat the vice of gender and racial discrimination. It is the hope of the black men and women as well as the other people in the world that gender and racial discrimination will end and that people will treat one another as equal entities.
Johnson, Allan. Gender Knot: Unravelling our Partrial Legacy. New York: Temple University Press, 2005. Print.
Kamali, Masoud. Racial Discrimination: Institutional pattern on politics. Stockholm: Taylor and Francis Publishers, 2008. Print
Lorber, Judith. The Social Construction. New York: Worth Publishers, 2007. Print.
Rubin, Mark., and Stefania Paolini. “Bias against migrants.” A Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 46.5 (2010): 21-28. Print.
Zack, Naomi. American mixed race. The color of micro diversity. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Print.