Gender refers to the perceived behavioral and psychological roles that are associated with men and women. Preves describes gender from a different perspective, “a child’s gender is inferred from his/her sex. As the child ages, her or his sex is inferred from gender” (524). This implies that, a child’s gender start to be perceived as he/she grows and starts to assume different roles as either a man or a woman.
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The study of racism and its various orientations is crucial to one’s understanding of gender relations. Racism is a belief based on the assumption that one’s race is superior compared to others. This could also emanate from their cultures and on the development status of a given society on which people could base their discrimination.
In the ancient times, trafficking of ladies of South Asian origin to the United Kingdom was rampant, where they could be tested for virginity before they were taken there. In the American societies, Africans and Latinos may be denied access to loans but their white counterparts be allowed just because of the black race that is believed by the whites as that of criminals.
Besides, if a black woman reports of domestic violence, the authorities first question of her immigration status before handling the case. This clearly shows how blacks could be treated if they married the whites or even engaged them in relationships.
“People encounter racism, classism and sexuality differently depending on their social location in the structure of race and class. For instance, people of the one race may experience racism differently depending on their class in society” (Collins 43).
This could be due to their economic positions that they hold such as being owners of the means of production in the society which places them at a higher class despite their race. Also, they may enroll their children in schools of the racists but still the children feel as being part of the group as they would want to behave as other children from the racist society.
In addition, the study of classism shades light on the understanding of gender relations. Classism may be looked at as the discrimination of one person by another based on his/her socioeconomic class. Classism can be based on the school one studies, his/her society, and where he/she stays, among others.
“Class emanates from rules and conventions found in institutions, in unwritten custom and legal practice” (Bowles 106). Classism can be considered at institutional, intergroup and individual levels. At institutional level we look at private ownership where one or a few people own the
means of production (land, labor and capital), placing them at a better position to impose their power and control over those who lack such means.
As a result, employees work for long hours, are mistreated, and work in difficult conditions and at the end of the day they share their produce disproportionately (the rich takes the large share). Besides, the legal system seems to favor the rich more and the trend where the rich become richer and the poor become poorer shall continue.
In African culture, women are considered to be inferior in their societies. This is highly supported in their cultures where they believe that women should be under their men and be submissive to them. As a result, issues of gender inequalities are common in the African continent, where many young girls are married off at school age in exchange for dowry.
Besides, the number of boys accessing schools is higher than that of girls. This predisposes the women to an inferior class where men are considered to be more learned and hence make decisions and also hold leadership positions in their communities.
These African cultures relates with the study conducted by Alia in Canada where she talks of the predicament of the Inuit women. Alia argues that once married, the Inuit woman is supposed to change her last name and replace it with that of the husband’s father (78). This would then be followed by calling her child by the name of the husband’s father because she is not allowed to address her father in-law by his name.
This clearly illustrates the discrimination of women based on their gender roles, something that has spurred concern among the African society that women are now reclaiming their lost position in the society through their campaign for gender equality.
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On the other hand, the study of heterosexism exposes us to the understanding of gender relations and how opposite sex couples are favored over lesbians, gay men and bisexuals.
You find that, couples of the same sex are denied promotions at work place, tax benefits and visitation rights that the opposite sex enjoys. Heterosexists consider other sexual orientations as second class citizens, because of their negligence by the legal system.
“Heterosexism affects the family where in most legal systems same sex marriage is not allowed” (Adams 23). They are denied some rights such as adoption of children, social security benefits and hospital spousal rights. In addition, heterosexism predisposes other sexual orientations to marginalization.
Their acts are seen as those of deviant behaviors that are not acceptable in the society. This has made some of them to hide their sexual orientations from friends for fear of being discriminated.
Both Christians and Muslims recognize heterosexism as the only sexual orientation that is allowed in the society. This is because the sole purpose of two couples uniting is to sire children and bring them up in the family. Christians also believe that as Christ is the head of the church the man should also be the head of the family.
The other sexual orientations are considered to be against the teachings of the Koran and the Bible. It beats logic that lesbians and gay men have to assume both men and women roles in their relationships, but still fail to recognize the importance of heterosexism.
Bem uses the terms “lenses of gender” to describe the hidden assumptions about gender among the Euro-North American society (65). She argues that we should look through three lenses and they include androcentrism, gender polarization, and biological essentialism. The polarization lens is the one responsible for marginalizing the non heterosexists by seeking to determine the man and the woman in society. People use such lenses to classify others as lesbians, gay men or bisexuals in their societies.
It is worth noting that to understand gender relations, the study of anti-Semitism is important. Anti-Semitism is a form of discrimination that is projected against the Jews due to their relation with the Jewish heritage.
Harap argues that anti-Semitism is based on various orientations including religion where the Jews are seen as the Christ killer, economical where they are viewed as money-obsessed, social where they are seen as socially inferior, ideological where they are regarded as subversive or revolutionary and cultural where they are regarded as undermining the structural fiber of civilization (76). Indeed the study of racism, classism, heterosexism and anti-Semitism shades more light toward understanding of gender relations.
Adams, Jones. Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice. Routledge, 2007. Print.
Alia, Valerie. Inuit Women and the Politics of Naming Nunavut. Halifax: Fernwood, 1994. Print.
Bem, Sandra.The Lenses of Gender: Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993. Print.
Bowles, Smith. Understanding Capitalism. New York: Harper-Collins, 1996. Print.
Collins, Henry. Toward a New Vision: Race, Class and Gender as categories of analysis and connection. New York: Harrington Park Press, 1993. Print.
Harap, John. Creative Awakening: the Jewish presence in twentieth century American literature. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1987. Print.
Preves, Sharon. Sexing the Intersexed: An Analysis of Sociocultural responses to Intersexuality. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2002. Print.