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Since gender binary is a construct of culture, the ideologies and institutions that are dominant in our society reinforce heteronormative sexuality by operating under the principle that the only genders are man and woman. Anyone who lives their lives in a social gender (not the gender assigned at birth) disrupt cultural expectations (Schilt & Westbrook, 2009). With such beliefs prevailing in our society, the nudge to conform to culturally defined-as-appropriate feminine (nurturing, gentle, meek) and masculine (protective, logical, assertive) traits is significant and can often feel obligatory. From early on, children continue to be marketed to in a heteronormative approach- boys play with trucks and wrestlers while girls play with kitchen items and dolls. Then, evidence of such conditioning exists throughout a lifetime in households, career fields, and “normal” social behavior. In the workplace, women are more likely to hold clerical, educational, and retail positions. Men are dominant in law enforcement, politics, and labor. Even the average household can still be viewed a battleground for equality- women continue to carry the responsibility of a home (chores, child-rearing) despite many of us working the same amount of hours as our male partners.
Dominant notions of masculinity and femininity vary substantially in race, ethnicity, and class throughout the United States. For example, black women have a history of lower level of dependence on men than white women but, at the same time, black women suffer from higher unemployment rates (twice that of white women), experience greater difficulty finding full-time work, and are more likely to be to support families alone (Kane, 2010). This is just one of countless ways that gendered patterns of employment differ among races and how our labor market is shaped by gender and racial inequality. When we fail to acknowledge and account for the unique experiences of race, ethnicity, and orientation within a common sex and/or gender, we will ultimately fail to make progress towards equality for all.
From the beginning of an individual’s life, even before they are born, the question is asked: is it a boy or girl? Binary gender is something an individual is assigned before they are even born. With that gender identity comes a list of expectations of how individuals should behave, dress, and occupy their time. As children, heteronormativity is encouraged through peer socialization, school systems, and the media (Averett 2016). Moving into adulthood, several institutions in the United States consistently maintain heteronormative ideals and gender inequalities. Initially, some examples of binary inequality could be in the workforce, religious centers, political systems, and education systems. It has consistently stated that there are unequal positions available in the workforce based upon one’s gender identity. Further, even though anti-discrimination laws are in place, homosexual individuals, transgender individuals, women, and ethnic minorities are often given different opportunities to climb the corporate ladder. In a study of a homosexual female couple in a high-urgency workplace, findings confirm the hypothesis that workplaces that are not LGBTQ+ friendly promote feelings of anxiety and stress related to their sexuality and job security (Goldberg and Smith 2013). In a study of LGB individuals in British workplaces, many individuals reported harassment, both physical and verbal, and being sexualized due to the nature of their sexuality (Einarsdóttir, Helge, and Lewis 2015).
We can clearly see that most of our political system relies on white heterosexual men to make decisions, making it difficult for ethnic and gender minority voices to be heard. This type of underrepresentation maintains the standard that “straight” is normal and any deviance is unexpected. In various religions, it is against their beliefs to be homosexual. Many religions have strict standards for each of the two perceived genders, such as the women as gentle caretakers and the men as strong providers. Finally, education systems continue the heteronormative ideas by establishing sexist dress codes that restrict gender expression and sexualize women unequally. For schools that have dress codes, those who do not identify with either males or females will be forced to choose one gender identity despite the possibility of them being nonbinary. All of these institutions further continue the narrow gender roles and emphasize binary inequalities.
To be masculine in the stereotypical sense means someone has attributes described as strong, independent, dominant, outspoken, aggressive, and assertive. Someone described as feminine would have attributes such as caring, dainty, agreeable, emotional, soft-spoken, and affectionate. Men would be socialized to take on more physically demanding jobs while women would take on more emotionally demanding or analytical tasks. This comes from the stereotypical gender roles that men are the sole providers for the family and women are expected to be caretakers. In a society that depends on capitalistic behavior, men will continue to be held valuable as laborers. Although there has been progressive action thanks to many feminist movements to further diversify males’ and females’ roles, many institutions unknowingly promote these outdated binary norms.
For many years, the media has sexualized womens’ bodies, maintaining a binary gender norm that women have to be a certain slim size and look a certain way to be attractive. This hypersexualization often omits plus-size women or ethnic women unless they are represented in a token effort to be inclusive. As time goes on, there has been a significant shift from hypersexualization, pornification, and objectification of the female body to sexual objectification, which credits women for being confident and empowered but focuses mainly on young, slim women (Gill 2021). This same sexualization exists for men as well, and it has the ability to make those who do not live up to those physical standards feel out of place, develop self-esteem issues and even depression. One of the main arguments for inequality is the disproportionate distribution of wealth and power in the labor market. Many institutions will only hire women in over to appear inclusive, which can appear to be tokenistic. Hiring women to fill a quota establishes the binary norm that men are more powerful and valuable than women employees. Studying this tokenism in the workplace is used to understand these women’s struggles for positions of power and promoting their progress in male-dominated occupations (Zimmer 1998). Regarding political structures, we hardly ever see women elected into positions of power, defending the binary norm that women are far too “emotional” to hold office or make important decisions for the country.
The definition of masculine and feminine within the U.S is deeply intertwined with the cultural and racial stereotypes that individuals face daily. As previously stated, masculine individuals are more likely to be described as strong or aggressive. In contrast, African Americans would be more likely to be described as violent or criminal, and Asian men are less likely to be interpreted as aggressive in nature, all because of racial, cultural, and gender stereotypes intermixing. Similarly, white women are more likely to be referred to as submissive when compared to African American women, who may be stereotyped as being more outspoken, whereas Asian women may be assumed to be fragile. Because institutions and individuals are so quick to continue the binary norms within this society, this inherent racism is continued along with the sexism that is so clearly plentiful within the U.S.
IN 4-5 LINES, RESPOND TO THIS TWO DISCUSSION BOARD