Gender construction and identity

Originally, the term gender was introduced to distinguish the socially constructed aspects of sex from the biological ones. However, this differentiation maintains the assumption of a binary ‘nature-culture’ opposition. The biological sex proves to be as socially constructed as gender since it is an epistemological ascription. Gender is not pre-given, but the result of historical and cultural factors embedded in relationships of privilege and power. Judith Butler introduces the term ‘performativity’ of gender, which points out that the practice of expressing gender is producing it meanwhile concealing that a gender at core does not exist: “Gender identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results” (Butler 1990: 25). Therefore, gender identity is a process, not a fixed outcome. Rather than being settled, it is in a state of being and become. Gender(ed) identities are fluid.

     Nonetheless, gender relations are inscribed in gendered bodies in form of power relations. Gendered binaries produce hierarchies, in which the male or masculine is constructed as the norm in opposition to the female or feminine as the ‘other’. These meanings are further perpetuated through representations in language, science, and art. Western cultural production has a long tradition of representing gender difference while placing the power in the masculine. Since these representations contributed to the consolidation of gendered power relations, cultural production was dominated by those constituted as powerful in this hierarchy. Dealing critically with this matter of facts defines a central concern of works on gender and identity.