The Social Construction Of Gender Roles University Essay Example

Gender Is a Social Construct: Essay Introduction

Gender is an underlying characteristic of all societies, and the social construction of gender roles, behaviors, and expectations is an important aspect of modern society. Seeking to understand how gender is constructed and how gender expectations influence our lives, this essay will provide an in-depth analysis of how gender is constructed.

Furthermore, we will discuss sex and gender and the role gender plays in modern American society with a focus on the social implications of sexism. Finally, we will conclude with a summation of the research explored here and discuss the ramifications of gender role construction today.

How Is Gender Socially Constructed?

Unlike sex, gender is artificially imposed, and although based upon biological differences between men and women, gender is socially constructed. As a social construct, gender roles, behaviors, attitudes, and expectations are created by society and enforced by social norms.

The funny thing about gender is that we are led to believe that it is innate and something that we are born with. As Aaron Devor so eloquently points out in his ground-breaking and incredibly illuminating essay, “Gender Role, Behavior, and Attitudes,” gender is created, acquired, and constructed by the greater society at large. Sex has a biological basis and is predetermined at birth.

Gender, on the other hand, is a social construction, and gender roles and expectations are unique to each and every society. As social actors, individuals play an important role in the construction and creation of gender roles, attitudes, and expectations and are not simply passive recipients of societal expectations about how men and women are to behave (Devor 458-463).

In his lucid analysis of the construction of gender, Aaron Devor explores the socially constructed nature of gender in modern society and persuasively argues for a reevaluation of traditional gender role expectations in modern society.

Seeking to dispel the myths surrounding sex and gender, this author persuasively argues that a gender hierarchy is embedded within our society and unmasks the argument for the naturalness of gender roles, behaviors, and expectations.

Asserting that gender roles are created and not innate, he argues that the naturalness argument for gender has no biological basis and is a social construction. Our society is organized under a patriarchal gender schema in which men and women, as dichotomous members of the gender hierarchy, are situated on opposite ends of the schema.

While we are taught from a very young age to believe that gender differences are normal and natural, Devor actually asserts that a power imbalance underlies the gender hierarchy so prevalent in our society and informs our beliefs about gender (Devor 458-463).

Patriarchy is defined as a type of social structure in which men are perceived as being superior to women, and it is impossible to understand the construction of gender roles and expectations in modern Western society without first understanding the omnipresent patriarchal nature of our society.

Patriarchy is subconscious and not universal. In fact, matriarchy, a society that is structured with women at the helm, has been found in places as diverse as Latin America, India, and parts of Africa (Amadiume 1997). Despite the global diversity, modern Western culture is characterized by its patriarchal nature, and this has important implications in a variety of social realms.

Social stratification can be explained by the gender hierarchy. Female job ghettos, including teachers, nurses, and librarians, tend to be overpopulated with women and characterized by low wages and prestige. Interestingly, Devor points out that these jobs tend to be based upon the same characteristics which are viewed as innate to women.

Feminine qualities like caring and nurturing are found in job descriptions for employment in the ‘pink collar ghetto’ of daycare workers, elementary school teachers, and nurses. Gender role expectations are also explained through social cues such as body posture and demeanor, speech patterns, and dress style.

The nature of these cues lends credence to the argument that gender is socially constructed, and the way we talk, the way we carry ourselves, and the types of clothes we wear are all determined by social forces. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who says today that women wear dresses because they have a biological need to do so; this would be an example of sex stereotypes and sexism (Devor 460-463).

Accordingly, sexism is a scourge in American society that affects the overall quality of life for women today. Sexism is the belief that one sex is superior to the other and generally implies ideas about superiority and inferiority between sex and gender.

While some societies are characterized as matriarchal, much of Western society is patriarchal, and the United States is no exception. The patriarchal nature of American society is explained by various social and historical factors beyond the scope of this assignment.

Nonetheless, while women in America have made incredible gains in the social, economic, cultural, and political spheres over the past century, sexism remains a prevalent aspect of our society. Sexism is the result of the social construction of gender in society, and while it can be overt, latent, or suppressed, it exists and has a variety of wide social repercussions.

Accordingly, women in America earn less than their male counterparts, and the employment mobility of women is often hindered by preconceived ideas about sexuality and the economic roles that women can play in the modern world. Anthropologists and cultural theorists have written for years about a “pink ghetto” in which women are regulated to a sector of the labor market which is poorly remunerated and oftentimes unrewarding.

Ideas about “women’s work” force women into so-called female ghettos in which women predominate, and their upward social mobility is hindered by preconceived notions of what women can (and should) do. Accordingly, there is also an invisible “glass ceiling” which limits the future job prospects of women in American society and their future earning power.

Looking at the medical sector again, a profession formerly limited to men, the New England Journal of Medicine reports that as in “young male physicians earned 41% more per year than young female physicians” (Baker, 960). Is this the result of sexism, either latent or overt? Although it is difficult to say, it is important to remember that these disparities do, in fact, exist and have real-world implications.

Gender Is a Social Construct: Essay Conclusion

Aaron Devor’s arguments in “Gender Role, Behavior, and Attitudes” persuasively argue that gender is socially constructed and culturally specific. Accordingly, gender role expectations are largely a product of social forces and are the result of systemic power imbalances in our society. These expectations and attitudes serve to reinforce discrimination based on gender and are socially constructed.

The social construction of gender influences behaviors, roles, attitudes, and expectations, and because of the hierarchical nature of gender in our society, masculinity becomes superior, and femininity is deemed to be inferior. Because of a socially enforced gender code, our engrained ideas about gender are incredibly difficult to change.

We are all products of our own individual societies, and we subconsciously impart the ideas and beliefs which make up our cultures. Ideas about gender roles are subsequently often unquestioned since they are perceived to be so integral to our understanding of how the world works. Understanding that gender is a construction is perhaps the first step in breaking free from the bonds of gender.


Amadiume, I. (1997). Re-inventing Africa: Matriarchy, Religion, and Culture. London: Zed Books.

Baker, L C. (1996). Differences in Earnings between Male and Female Physicians. New England Journal of Medicine. 334.15: 960-964.

Devor, A. (1993). “Gender Role, Behavior and Attitudes”. Annual Review of Sex Research, 7, 44-89.

Devor, A. (1997). “Toward a Taxonomy of Gendered Sexuality.” Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 6(1), 23-55.

hooks, bell. 1981. Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism. Boston: South End Press.


Linguistics: Contrast Of English And Chinese

Language variations between speakers of two different languages have existed for quite a long time. The variations between Chinese and English are seen in their expressions of politeness, formality, solidarity, and discourse, and genre type often cause misunderstanding between the communicating parties.

For example, when a native English speaker says “Hello!”, “How are you?” practically it is a polite way of greeting among English speakers, but a Chinese speaker may interpret it to mean a lack of concern due to its generality. Similarly, a Chinese will approach greetings with such statements as “Have you completed the work?”, “where did you go to?” “What are you doing now?” etc. to express politeness and concern to the other person.

In reality, the two speakers place a lot of value on politeness in any statement or speech. However, an English speaker may easily be persuaded to believe that the Chinese way of greeting is offensive and even unacceptable.

In the study of sociolinguistics in 1971, Labov as cited in Bonvillain (1997) described basic sociolinguistic question as one posed by the need to understand “why anyone says anything” rather than a critical analysis of the specific form of grammar used for the ease of social connections between the two different speakers (p.29).

It is thus more important to seek a functional explanation in the study of sociolinguistics, where the explanation is meant to help foster the social relationship between the two speakers.


As a Chinese, Working with a native English speaker can be quite complex in many aspects. The variations between Chinese and English are seen in their expressions of politeness, formality, solidarity, and discourse. It may be tricky if the social purpose of communication between two speakers of different languages is not achieved.

In the study of sociolinguistics in 1971, Labov, as cited in Bonvillain (1997), described basic sociolinguistic questions as one posed by the need to understand “why anyone says anything” rather than a critical analysis of the specific form of grammar used (p.29).

So in the study of sociolinguistics, one could interpret this to mean that the actual goal of the theory of uttering a word or making a statement is to expose why the statement was made or for what purpose was it made in order to achieve the social goal interaction and sharing. In short, it is more important to seek a functional explanation in the study of sociolinguistics.

This paper seeks to establish a comparison between English and Chinese languages in use in the context of choices and conventions that exist in relation to such dimensions as politeness, solidarity, and discourse. It also investigates the available explanations in the literary world together with specific instructions on how to manage such choices in each of the two languages.

Further, it also explores how adequately such texts reflect how the choices are typically employed in our speech communities, and finally relating the findings to the larger role of sociolinguistics in building linguistic competence and social cohesion.

In every society, there are rules governing communication. One such rule is the expression of politeness in the spoken word or statement made. In different languages, it is important to note how a greeting, for example, is expressed in the speech as a sign of politeness.

According to Brown and Levinson, cited in Zang (1993), greetings occur in all languages and that they provide the basis on which to start a new conversation in an appropriate manner and at the same time, for the establishment and maintain social relationships.

In an interview with one of the Chinese negotiators, Lai Lam, in Chinese- American contract to build roads in China, he expressed disappointment with the way Americans show lack of commitment in the negotiation process right from the moment of introduction, highlighting some introductory greetings like “Hello!” to be too brief and show little concern (Singleton 2000, p.9).

Similarly, a Chinese will approach greetings with such statements as “Have you completed the work?”, “where did you go to?” “What are you doing now?” etc. to express politeness and concern to the other person. In reality, the two speakers place a lot of value on politeness in any statement or speech.

However, when I interviewed one of my schoolmates, who is an English speaker, he is easily persuaded to believe that the Chinese way of greeting, as highlighted above are offensive and even unacceptable.

Under normal circumstances, a native Chinese will find it normal to greet a long-time friend who he or she had not seen for say a decade as, “there is no change in you, you still look young just like you were ten years ago, why?” realistically, a native English speaker will be offended by that and will definitely interpret the statement to mean that there is no progress in his or her life as expressed by my interviewee.

Xu Langguang, cited in Lihua (2001, p.90), calls this variance “individual-centered versus Situation- centered.” That native speaker of English is from a culture which advocates for individual-centered approach, where only needs, feelings, and privacy of individual take center stage in all levels of communications.

On the other hand, the culture of the Chinese influences them to be situation-centered and in essence, emphasizes the group’s needs as well as concerns rather than privacy.

In expressing formality, the degree of variations exists between native and non-native speakers. For instance, when I asked approached one of my friends, Jose, with the question, “When will you finish this job?”, “It’s taking you too long to finish the work, yet I want to see you this afternoon?”, as an English speaker, he considered this to be more of an abrupt command than a sincerely polite request.

Luzhu (2000), however, explains that a native Chinese speaker, due to their limited linguistic resources, would find it easier to shorten and simplify pre-sequence structures and just make a more direct request, which sounds abrupt to the native speaker.

He further elaborates that most Chinese do overuse pre-sequences in rather informal situations when talking about trivial issues, and when the social distance is short, a situation that is likely to create misunderstanding with a native speaker of English (Luzhu, 2000). As a native Chinese speaker, I will, in a formal situation, ask questions like “What?” when asking a colleague to repeat something he or she said or uttered.

To an English speaker, this sounds rather rude, and in actual sense, the English will feel offended. In normal informal situations, a native English speaker will not be asking a person he or she has just met his or her age, marital status, income, level of education, type of job, as shown by my interviewee.

He considered these information formal issues and a taboo in the informal situation. A Chinese instead does not differentiate the formality or informality and hence can apply it anywhere. Xuezeng (1999) explains that there are many differences in the area of taboos that exist between the Chinese and the western culture and that one problem of communication in this area is usually found in the way the two groups treat privacy issues.

Singh (1996, p.212) says that there are specific communication rules, which they refer to as “a principle or regulation that govern conduct and procedure. In communication, the rule acts as a system of expected behavior patterns that organize interactions between individuals”.

These rules mainly rely on the context to which the language is spoken and thus are as diverse as language itself. Singleton (2000) further explains that intercultural communication can be very complex and difficult because the rules that govern communication is not only fixed within the cultural context but is also bound by the context.

Hatch (1992, p.233) says that what worsens the situation is that people tend to transfer the rules of guiding their own culture of communication to the intercultural communication, which eventually causes the conflict or misunderstanding. I will briefly look at some of the theories put forward by different scholars to explain these concepts the solution.

Leech’s Politeness Theory in English culture

According to Leech, cited in Hatch (1992, p.139), politeness involves some level of maxims. Some of the maxims, which I could consider to be relevant here, are Approbation maxim (minimizes dispraise of others, maximize praise of others), and Modesty maxim (minimizes praise of self, maximize dispraise of self).

The politeness core ingredient is seen in the way Chinese regards the act of valuing and respecting others at their expense. That is, they can afford to minimize self-praise to cultivate the virtue of modesty and politeness, a strategy that may not go down well with the English native speakers.

Lihua (2001, p.90) gives an example that as a native English speaker, you may be tempted to offer a sincere compliment such as “you look pretty today!” and the native Chinese responds negatively as, “no am not pretty” may sound abnormal and unreasonable to the native speaker but to the Chinese, it is purely a sincere and honest way of expressing modesty and politeness.

Brown and Levinson Face theory

Brown & Levinson, cited in Singleton (2000, p.66), front two theories to explain the face aspects. The first is a “negative face,” which represents freedom of action, and the second is the “positive face” that everybody would want to appreciate (p.67).

Simply put, the negative face is the message that you do not want to be disturbed and wants independence while positive one wants to be connected to the others.

Why is this important? It is expected that if someone makes a negative comment in a conversation and the other party expresses disapproval through “negative face,” the person responsible for this response should be ready to act to “save” the face. Likewise, if the face is positive, then it means approval, and it should be acknowledged.

Gu Yueguo’s Theory in Chinese Culture

Gu, cited in Singleton (2000) and Luzhu (2000), says that there are some notions that are the basis of Chinese politeness concept: respect for other which is interpreted as respectfulness, denigration of self which is interpreted as modest, warmth toward other which is described as attitudinal warmth and refinement in language use.

This is important as it explains some of the negative Chinese responses to a genuine compliment and further explains why the native English speaker’s response to some of the greetings from the native Chinese speaker, as highlighted earlier in the paper.

How can these problems be solved? It must be noted that many of the problems and failures that occur between the native and non-native speakers of the language are as a result of the non-native speaker’s failure to acquire the culture of speaking the language.

In other words, they are still under the strong influence of their native language and culture, and this result in the notion that what might be perfectly normal in one culture may actually be completely unacceptable in the other culture of the language.

According to Labov, cited in Singleton (2000), people should learn to accept the fact that people from different language cultural backgrounds express themselves differently when at different situations with different audience i.e., depending on the social setting.

He adds that the problem may be significantly simplified by just focusing on one major aspect of style (Singleton, 2000). For example, in the formality aspect, He observes that at any one moment, everybody communicating across culture will make at least an intuitive distinction between formal and informal manners of expressions.

Even though many scholars and researchers acknowledge that formality’s definition is sometimes ambiguous in itself, Hatch (1992) outlines the underlying assumption that most approaches that form formal languages have some traits of special “attention to form” does not hold much but the most fundamental thing is that one gets to communicate effectively.

Speech Communities

Ordinarily, many people would not see any form of confusion on what kind of language they speak. That is, they would not see any form of offense towards another non-speaker of the language. For instance, the Chinese, Japanese, or Korean speaks Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, respectively, as Coulmas, cited in Wardhaugh (1986, p.27), puts it “language and ethnicity are virtually synonymous.”

A Chinese may find it somewhat surprising that a person who appears Chinese does not speak Chinese, something that may also happen to speakers of Japanese.

According to Hudson & Ferguson, cited in Bonvillain (1997), there are some human speech patterns such as sound, words, and grammatical features that we can uniquely associate with some external factors such as geographical locations or social groups. These variations make the specific community of language known uniquely to a specific group of people known as the speech community.

So what the role of sociolinguistics in building this knowledge? In simple terms, the work of the sociolinguistics is to basically determine if the unique sets of patterns in language do actually exist. It is the work of the sociolinguistic to identify such areas as while some people may be claiming that they speak a particular language, they may not, on most occasions, be fully qualified to as the original speakers of the language.

This is because, as they may be speaking, they may realize that what they said was not actually what they passed as the message to the listener. Likewise, a native speaker of the language will accept the reality that the variations exist, not just merely in grammar but mostly in choices and conventions to accomplish the goal of communication, social cohesion, and understanding.

Reference List

Bonvillain, N. 1997. Language, Culture, and Communication: The Meaning of Message. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Hatch, E. (1992). Discourse and Language Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lihua, W. (2001). Cultural Comparison of using language properly in English and Chinese. Journal of Anshan Teachers College 12, 3(4): 90.

Luzhu, L. (2000). Contrast of English and Chinese and pragmatic failures in the cross-cultural communication. Journal of Liming Vocational University, 28:39.

Singh, R. (1996). Towards a Critical Sociolinguistics. New York: John Benjamin Publishing Company.

Singleton, D. (2000). Language and the lexicon: An introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wardhaugh, R. (1986). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Xuezeng, D. (1999). Comparison of Chinese and English Culture and Customs. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.

Zhang, A.W. 1993. What’s Wrong? Beijing: Huaxia Publishing House.

Economics: Unemployment, Its Causes And Types

This essay sample explores solutions, types, and causes of unemployment. Read it to get ideas for your essay about unemployment.

Unemployment Essay Introduction

Unemployment has become a major problem in almost every society. The challenges posed by unemployment are both social and economical in nature. Under normal circumstances, unemployment leads to despondency since a section of society lacks ways of earning a living.

This affects not only the economic status of the society but also the political and social aspects. It is against this background that a lot of efforts are put in place so as to address the issue of unemployment. Job creation is one sure way of ensuring that unemployment is under control.

This involves concerted efforts to bring about opportunities to work through which income can be generated. However, unemployment is of different types, and a better understanding of the same is crucial in the event of finding a meaningful solution.

Furthermore, unemployment is caused by several factors which are responsible for the whole situation. The aim of this paper is to navigate through the light of unemployment, thoroughly analyzing the causes and types of the same.


Unemployment refers to a situation in which qualified people are seeking employment but remain unemployed. This is primarily due to the scarcity of job opportunities or other different causes. Unemployment, therefore, leads to a lack of a source of income, thus affecting the economic condition of the society. Unemployment takes different forms and shapes (Harris, 2001).

The condition of unemployment differs from society to society, depending on the factors responsible for the situation. This brings out the fact that unemployment does not occur in a uniform manner; it rather takes different forms depending on the various forces in the social, economic, and political arenas.

Unemployment is a major problem that needs to be addressed by all means. However, a better understanding of the causes and types of unemployment is necessary for the event of finding an appropriate solution to the whole situation.

Types of Unemployment

Unemployment occurs in different forms. Under normal circumstances, the type of unemployment is denoted by the nature of factors that have brought about the situation. As a result, unemployment is categorized by forces that play a role in the creation of the situation (Hooks 2003).

Another important factor in the categorization of unemployment is the manner in which the situation occurs and for how long it occurs. In such a situation, certain forms of unemployment tend to be repetitive in nature, while others only take place once.

The seriousness of the unemployment problem also forms a good basis for its categorization. Under normal circumstances, unemployment is categorized in economic terms. Therefore the dynamics of economics play an important role in the whole scenario.

There are several types of unemployment that occur in different forms and are brought about by different situations and circumstances. The following are the types of unemployment;

  • Hidden unemployment
  • Cyclical unemployment
  • Seasonal unemployment
  • Long-term unemployment
  • Underemployment
  • Hardcore unemployment
  • Structural unemployment
  • Frictional unemployment

Hidden unemployment refers to cases of unemployment that are not represented in the official records of unemployment. This happens since many cases of unemployment are unreported, and statistics given by government agencies don’t represent them. Seasonal unemployment, on the other hand, refers to those jobs that are seasonal in nature.

These kinds of jobs only operate during certain times and not others (Abbot 2010). During the seasons, when the jobs are not on, the workers are considered unemployed. When there are certain structural changes in the status of the economy, there are kinds of changes that take place, which lead to loss of jobs and a reduction of opportunities for work.

This situation is referred to as structural unemployment. It is brought about by structural changes in the economy. Unemployment caused by personal reasons is called hardcore unemployment.

These reasons might be mental, psychological, or physical in nature. Individuals who engage in two different careers can find themselves unemployed due to the nature of their occupation. This kind of unemployment is called frictional unemployment. It is brought about by the conflict between two different jobs rendering people unemployed.

Causes of Unemployment

Unemployment is caused by several factors, and there is no single factor that is responsible for unemployment. As a result, there are a number of factors that combine to bring about a lack of opportunities and the fact of qualified people remaining unemployed (Symes 1995).

Fundamentally the causes of unemployment are economic in nature. As such, the plight of unemployment is brought about by factors that are inherently economic in nature. Economic forces and activities, to a large extent, determine the nature and cause of most unemployment problems. Also, factors that deal with labor and personnel are responsible for a large number of unemployment cases.

The following are causes of unemployment;

  • Economic growth
  • Technology
  • Seasons
  • Microeconomic policies
  • Constraints in economic growth

The process of economic growth has a lot of relevance to the plight of unemployment. Under normal circumstances, unemployment is an economic problem. The forces that bring about unemployment are economic in nature.

Economic growth, for instance, has a lot of significance to the whole situation of unemployment. The level of economic activity prevailing at any given moment has a lot of significance on the state of unemployment at the time.

During the process of economic growth, there is a trend that follows; this normally involves a decrease in employment opportunities. This automatically leads to a rise in the levels of unemployment. Therefore economic growth has a negative effect on the rate of unemployment in the economy. Technology also leads to high levels of unemployment; this is primarily due to the replacement of humans with machines.

With the increase in the innovation of technology, more tasks are performed by machines making it unnecessary to employ people. This makes people lose their jobs to machines since it becomes cheaper to use machines than employ people. Another factor in the same vein of technology is the use of the capital intensive mechanism. As a result, the jobs that can be performed by people are done by machines (Stretton 1999).

The role played by policies of microeconomic nature in the creation of unemployment in society cannot be underestimated. These policies normally lead to a sudden change in the economic environment making certain adjustments that lead to unemployment.

This happens when new policies are set out in place. During the initial times of implementation, the economic environment responds with fear and panic, thus causing a sudden disappearance of opportunities for career.

Constraints in economic growth lead to uncertainty among various economic players making the chances of unemployment to reduce. There is usually rampant unemployment during times of economic uncertainty. Two reasons, first, most companies won’t employ anyone during the times of economic constraints. Secondly, many companies lay off their staff during times of slackness and low economic activity.

Conclusion for Unemployment Essay

Unemployment is a problem that is economic in nature. Most of the factors that bring about unemployment have an economic connotation. However, the effects of unemployment go beyond the economic arena. There are several types of unemployment that are grouped according to various factors that cause the plight.

Furthermore, unemployment is not caused by one single factor; there are several forces that cause unemployment in different ways. The paper has taken an analytical look at the whole concept of unemployment. Priority has been given to the causes and types of unemployment.

The paper thus found out that unemployment is caused by various forces that are economical, social, and political in nature. At the same time, the paper found out that there is a different categorization of unemployment. This is normally done with the purpose of defining the essence of the unemployment problem in question.


Abbot, L. (2010). Theories of the Labour Market and Employment: A Review. Washington: Industrial Systems Research.

Harris, N. (2001). Business economics: theory and application. London: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Hooks, J. (2003). Economics: fundamentals for financial services providers. Washington: Kogan Page Publishers.

Stretton, H. (1999). Economics: a new introduction. Washington: Pluto Press.

Symes, V. (1995). Unemployment in Europe: problems and policies. New York: Routledge.

error: Content is protected !!