Gender Roles: Yet another Social Construct

Social constructs are ever-present in today’s society. Unfortunately, many of the social constructs that are present in today’s society mislead, misinform, or even constrict people in their everyday lives. “Gender roles” are examples of the types of social constructs that constrict people because they are socialized to think that they must behave a certain way in order to adhere to what society deems “typical” for their gender/sex. People often adjust their dressing patterns, hobbies, physical appearances and in some cases even their career plans because of the pressures associated with gender roles.

It is clear that Judith Butler believed that gender roles are social constructs. In her writings she says “Gendering is a kind of impersonation and approximation” (Butler). This means that one’s gender is more malleable and subject to change than sex. After reading Butler’s work I also come to the conclusion that Swift also believes that gender and gender roles are social constructs. In “The Lady’s Dressing Room”, Swift uses satire in his poems to portray a man who is utterly grossed out by the images he sees in a woman’s dressing room to further emphasize the socially constructed gender roles that were present during the time that he wrote these poems. For example, he says:

The Stockings, why shou’d I expose,
Stain’d with the Marks of stinking Toes;
Or greasy Coifs and Pinners reeking,
Which Celia slept at least a Week in?
A Pair of Tweezers next he found [55]
To pluck her Brows in Arches round,
Or Hairs that sink the Forehead low,
Or on her Chin like Bristles grow. (Swift)

This satirical approach to common gender roles criticizes the social constructs that are placed upon women. This can still resonate today as we have not yet moved past many of the same gender roles that were present during his time.

As for me, living in a 21st century version of the enlightenment I can say I am much more accepting of people who stray away from their “gender roles”. Even so, I still believe that heterosexuality is the original and our biological sex is the original to homosexuality and “true gender”. As a non-religious person, my belief of this comes solely from the fact that in nature, everything from flowers and trees, to fish and birds, requires a man and a woman to procreate. Even with that said, I believe that in today’s society, we have moved far beyond the stringent gender roles that were present during the Enlightenment however we still have while to go before everyone is accepting and appreciative of peoples uniqueness regardless of their sex.

Sources:

https://engl382fall2013.wordpress.com/readings/00-previous-readings/1024-swift-the-ladys-dressing-room-1732/

https://engl382fall2013.wordpress.com/readings/00-previous-readings/1022-judith-butler-imitation-and-gender-insubordination/

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