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Identifying and Naming Gender

Polly's picture

Until class on Thursday, I had never been asked what gender I identify as. I had never thought about gender as something that comes from within myself. I thought of the gender binary as a social construct that was passed down to children from the moment they are born. Once a sex is assigned, parents dress their baby in "appropriate" clothes and colors, and give them gendered toys, like dolls or trucks.

I automatically answered "female" but then wondered if that was even the right word. "Female" and "male" sound more like sexes than genders.I didn't know what language to use for gender. "Woman" and "girl" both have strong connotations for me, and I don't feel like either is appropriate. When I hear "woman," I always think of a specific image, a female older than me. She is wearing a dress. "Girl," on the other hand, is too young. My age is suspended between the two, perhaps because I am in the inbetween age, the teenager still discovering herself. 


Elizabeth's picture

Gender: Aged to Perfection?

When I was talking about my gender identity in class, I was also caught up by the difference in "girl" and "woman," and how I'm "suspended," as you succinctly put it, between the two. Instead, I offered up "lady" as my identity (which is, actually, a pretty accurate depiction of how I perform gender). I think that the signifiers that "girl" and "woman" and other age-related binaries carry point out a conflation between identities' legitimacy and age, which has a much broader effect than my problem of finding a spot on the binary that simply relates to my age. A woman and men are supposed to be mature and and adult. So, when we're young, we're supposed to "grow into" being a woman or a man (Bornstein, 89). That delegitmizing all other gender identities, both those connected with age and those that aren't because of quite a lot of reasons, one of them being that they're not "adult" and "mature" enough.