Gender is a social construction.

Even if you take the most extreme biological determinist stance (which a lot of the “gender isn’t a social construction” crowd take), you cannot deny the following:

  • What it means to be a “woman” or “man” changes over time (often within the timeframe of a generation — ask your grandparents if you don’t believe me).
  • Further, right now, the traits associated with each of those roles are different in different parts of the world (watch a sitcom from another country if you don’t believe me).

If our understanding of gender changes faster than our biology could possibly evolve, and currently exists in many forms around the world reflecting cultural differences, it’s socially constructed. End of argument. That’s what those two words, combined, mean.

And gender is real.

Just because something’s a social construction doesn’t mean it’s not real (despite many fellow “social construction” folks saying so).

The famous example: money. Nobody would argue that there is any inherent value in the paper; we instead buy into the idea that it’s valuable. Money is a social construction, and it’s very, very real. It’s life-or-death real (try living without it if you don’t believe me). Ditto for gender.

Gender is one of the few ways we still allow (actually, encourage) systemic, identity-based discrimination and segregation. It’s one of the fundamental ways we’re taught to see the world, and the world is taught to see us. It’s infused in our names and how we talk about others.

Now, is it based in biology? Influenced by? Completely unmoored from? That’s a different argument, and one we can’t get to until we stop conflating it with this one.

It’s like arguing about the gold standard.

My take: gold’s intrinsic value is misconstrued. Read into that whatever you’d like. 😉

  • Yes, gender is a social construction. No, that doesn’t mean it’s not real.