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Race and Gender as Social Constructs Essay

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Updated: Feb 7th, 2022

The issues of race and gender inequality have been topical for centuries, and they caused a large number of conflicts throughout history. These issues were the focus of attention in numerous studies, attempting to determine whether there are scientific grounds for such disputes. The purpose of this paper is to analyze race and gender as social constructs that are not justified by any scientific evidence.

Nowadays, genetics has become a discipline of vital importance for science. Ever since the beginning of DNA research, humanity has hoped to find the answers to fundamental questions. Race and gender identity have been the issues that were at the center of the debate around whether there is a genetic component to it. The views on that matter have shifted significantly across history, as science evolved, and more profound research was conducted.

As recently as two centuries ago, the scientific society was divided into two large groups. According to Tallbear (2013), polygenists believed that each race had a separate origin, while monogenists saw all races as one human species. The first point of view had more support, but the science of that period was entangled with popular stereotypes, which is reflected in the work of Louis Agassiz and Samuel Morton, prominent polygenists. The former described Native Americans as exclusively proud and courageous people, while the latter described people of African origin as submissive (Tallbear, 2013). However, the science at that time was not sufficiently advanced to conduct research that would be profound enough to present evidence for such statements. According to Tallbear (2013), it was a widespread belief at the time that the brains of different species were different, those of Europeans being larger, “without adjusting for age, sex, body size, or nutritional status” (p. 35). The existence of genes was unknown at that time, so blood served as the main symbol of cultural and racial differences. Tallbear (2013) writes that, when the blood types were discovered in 1900, they were first seen as indicative of race, but this theory was quickly debunked, once it was confirmed that all races possessed all three blood types. The research shows that there are no inherent genetic features of a particular race.

Similar to race, gender identity issues have also been researched within the framework of nature-society opposition. It is often claimed that men and women are inherently different. According to evolutionary psychologists, they are driven by different factors when considering a potential marriage. For example, women “place more value than men on good financial prospects” of a future partner (McKinnon & Silverman, 2005, p. 118). McKinnon and Silverman (2005) argue that this tendency comes not from inherent natural factors but from a gendered division of labor, in which, in all societies, men and women are embedded (p. 118). In other words, each gender is assigned a predetermined role from a social tradition, which, in turn, shapes the minds of men and women and their preferences. Therefore, this influence comes from the outside rather than from within.

All in all, the issue of “nature-versus-nurture” has been discussed for centuries. As science became more advanced, the role of the social framework was regarded as more important. At the same time, there has been little to no evidence to support the idea that racial and gender differences are embedded in human DNA. So, race and gender can be considered social constructs to a large extent, meaning that genetics-wise, all humans are the same and equal.

References

McKinnon, S. & Silverman, S. (Eds.). (2005). Complexities. Beyond nature and nurture. The University of Chicago Press.

Tallbear, K. (2013). Native American DNA: Tribal belonging and the false promise of genetic Science. The University of Minnesota Press.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Race and Gender as Social Constructs." February 7, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/race-and-gender-as-social-constructs/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Race and Gender as Social Constructs'. 7 February.

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