Gender is a very important part of identity, which recognizes male and female social attributes in particular societies. As opposed to sex which identifies people biologically. This essay will show how gender is important in forming people’s identities. First it will explain the self-categorization theory, secondly it will show gender categories and look at whether people are free to change their identities. Then it will show gender stereotypes. Finally it will compare academic achievement in gender. Self-categorization theory was introduced by Turner and his colleagues.
They believe people could decide to which category they belong. First people see others as members of social categories, than people try to imagine themselves in that category. Finally they can take the identities for particular social categories. People are more likely to compare themselves with categories which are similar to them. (Woodward,2004,p. 47) There are two gender categories, male and female. There are three possible ways to decide which gender category individual belongs to. First is anatomical evidence. This refers to the appearance of people’s bodies and their genitalia.
It can be complicated by clothes which people wear. Second is genetic evidence, this is the individual’s DNA, which contain sex chromosomes. Usually human has two X chromosomes (woman) or one X and one Y (man). But sometimes could happen, than a human has more than two sexual chromosomes, then the person could find themselves to be re-categorized. Third is socially constructed evidence. It is what people have in their birth certificates, which is based on biological evidence. (Woodward, 2004, p. 50) People in the UK are not completely free to change their gender identity.
Person’s legal sex is not possible to be changed in the UK, because individual’s legal sex is defined by the sex on the birth certificate. When a person decides to have a ‘sex change’ operation, it does not have influence on a person’s legal sex. It is same as if an individual change his/her behaviour or clothes, not appropriate for their gender. (Woodward, 2004, p. 51) There are two stories which can tell about what defines gender categories. Essentialist, when having a Y chromosome is essential to be a male and reduces gender to one factor.
The other is when the category is non-essentialist and has more space for diversity. It is when there are many typical men and atypical men, and similarly typical women and atypical women. What is typical and atypical for particular culture is define by stereotype. Stereotype is when people share similar traits and behaviour. Positive stereotypes influence individual identities. There are some things which are typical traits for feminine and typical for masculine. Sandra Bem recognized that the feminine and masculine are not opposites, but they are at different dimension.
Also it is possible to be masculine and feminine at the same time or be neither. (Woodward, 2004, p. 54) Social expectations start at an early age, children are influenced by their parents, who dress them as a boy or girl, and let them play with particular toys. Around 2 years of age, children can recognize which toys are appropriate for their gender. Around 3 years of age children can categorize themselves as a boy or girl. As children grow up, their knowledge of gender grows in complexity. They learn that there are multiple gender identities.
For example, men can do stereotypical women activities same like women can do male activities. In the past, females had less opportunity than males to get an education. Since the beginning of formal education, women subjects were more related to caring subjects, which they could use at home or work. (Woodward, 2004, p. 66) Now the education for boys and girls is more equal. To measure abilities of males and females, cognitive tests are used. It shows that in general males do better on some sorts of tasks and females do better on others.
There is evidence, that the notion of achieving academically is linked with femininity. So it could happen that boys do not want to be seen as high achievers by their friends, as they feel ‘uncool’. (Woodward, 2004, p. 67) Murphy and Elwood suggest that boys and girls arrive at school with gendered behaviour and interests. Boys enjoy constructional activities and girls enjoy creative activities. They also suggest that when children are familiar with activities and topics at school, they have higher interests and confidence in doing them. Woodward, 2004, p. 70) Gender can shape people’s identities in many ways.
Self-categorization, how people see themselves can influence their behaviour. When a person decides to change their gender, it will have an influence on his/her identity. Each culture has different gender stereotypes. All these factors play a part in how different genders identify themselves. The way we are treated due to our gender has a significant role to play in the identities that we take on during our life.