OVERCOMING THE OF NORMATIVE GENDER
Written by Ann
There persists a misunderstanding between ‘sex’
and ‘gender’, which often has a negative impact when shaping and representing gender roles within society. The Oxford Dictionary refers to ‘sex’ as the biological characteristics that define a person based on their reproductive functions. It refers to ‘gender’ more fluidly – with broader reference to social and cultural differences. When these two terms are misunderstood, it can lead to negative gender stereotyping and cause society to conflate a person’s ability with their sex or gender. Kate O’Halloran, a Doctor of Philosophy in Gender Studies, notes that while there are people who don’t conform to gender norms and expectations, we still live in a “heteronormative, patriarchal and conservative world”. This is evident in the “real threat or loss” that some privileged groups have felt, due to marginalised groups demanding more equality.
So, how can we achieve gender equity without allowing it to negatively affect some? While there isn’t a clear answer to this question, O’Halloran explains that by examining gender, we can determine that
masculine norms haven’t actually benefitted a lot of men
In fact, we can link mental health problems in men to the impacts of social norms. O’Halloran notes that realising “how constraining and difficult gender norms are for everybody – not just for women” is an imperative aim of feminism. One such case can be seen through Michael Ray – a single father who overturned a policy that denied fathers the right to access their daughter’s dressing rooms at Parkwood Dance Academy.