Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Doing Gender



"Doing Gender" is a classic sociological concept developed by Candace West and Don Zimmerman. Their article "Doing Gender" was published in Gender & Society (Vol. 1, No. 2, June 1987, pp. 125-151). Here are summary points about doing gender, based on their article.

1. "Doing gender” means that gender is a routine accomplishment in everyday life.

2. We “do gender” every day, all the time. It's an ongoing activity. We can’t avoid doing gender.

3. We do gender in interaction. 

4. Gender is not simply what a person is, it is something that a person does, in interaction with others. It is a product of social interaction. A production. A construction. A social construction.

5. And we do gender knowing that we will be judged by others. In other words, we are accountable for our gender performances. In this video, sociologist C.J. Pascoe brilliantly explains how the boundaries of masculinity are policed in social interaction in high school.

6. If we behave outside the boundaries of normative gender scripts, we risk being judged harshly by others.

7. Keep in mind that, from an early age, we learn about “doing gender.”

8. Little girls are taught to value their appearance more so than little boys.

9. Little boys are taught different things than little girls.

10. “Be a big boy” and “Be a big girl” are different messages that convey different meanings about “appropriate” gender behaviors. This means not only "don't be a baby" but to learn how to "competently" be a boy or girl.

11. In this process, boys and girls begin to monitor their own behavior and the behavior of their peers in terms of whether the gender behavior is “appropriate.” (Appropriate, according to normative gender behaviors). The authors write: "And note, to "do" gender is not always to live up to normative conceptions of femininity or masculinity; it is to engage in behavior at the risk of gender assessment" (p. 136). 

12. Sociologist Tristan Bridges gives an excellent example of how we do gender with wallets and purses.

13. Doing gender can result in social stratification: if, in doing gender, men are being dominant and women are being submissive, this results in power differences and hierarchy!

14. Those who behave outside the lines of gender norms are, in effect, challenging the gender status quo.

The concept "doing gender" came to mind when I saw a wedding party at Erie Basin Marina in Buffalo. The bridesmaids wore bright pink dresses, and the groomsmen wore black tuxedos. I took a picture while walking by a wedding party. If you look closely, you'll notice two brides in the picture. Turns out two wedding parties were at the Marina for photographs. Both brides are wearing traditional white wedding gowns. Think of many weddings you've been to: all eyes are on the bride. It's her day. She's the princess, he's the prince who waits for her to walk down the aisle. Quite often, the bride's father "gives her away" to her new husband. It's all an exercise in normative gender roles. In that context, it's interesting to think about same-sex marriages and to contemplate how same-sex marriages challenge gender norms.

16 comments:

  1. this was very helpful thank you so much

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  2. this was very helpful thank you so much

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  3. Writing about 19th century women travellers... I am interested in your explanations of "doing gender".

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  4. Very helpful. Thank you much.

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  5. This is a great article. Shared on We Are More
    https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?v=timeline&filter=1&id=662075010504802

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    1. Thanks for reading and adding to your Facebook page.

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  6. Came to this site as a part of additional reading in my Sociology 101 class. Very interesting! It looks like this site's been here for awhile. Thank you for the information and insight!

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    1. Thanks for checking out my blog and for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it. -Todd

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  7. We are doing a presentation on how we perform social genders in life. I found it difficult to read the whole passage "Doing Gender", so thank you very much for providing the outline of the article. Appreciate your work very much!

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    1. You're welcome! Thank you for reading. I'm glad you found this post helpful.

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  8. This is helpful, thank you so much for sharing

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  9. Finally I got this, thank you so much. this is helpful, I have presentation on How do we do gender....I found it difficult and didn't know where to start this but you are marvelous. you've showed me the way

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    1. You're welcome! Good luck on your presentation.

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  10. thanks it helped me a lot

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  11. As a sociology student that's nontraditional, this was laid out to where even an elementary kid could understand. Very well stated. Thank you. I have to do a presentation as if I'm teaching high schoolers, this helps a lot!!!!

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  12. Very helpful article. Thank you. Can you tell me... is "doing gender" theory learned through socialization.

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