Culture of influence

A couple days ago, a friend and I were discussing our new semester of classes, career aspirations, making a livelihood and leaving a legacy. Somehow, it led to a conversation about the value of money.

He, for the most part, hypothesized a society in which a different value system would replace the monetary system we have in place now, and what that would mean for the economic health of an individual, regional, national and eventually worldwide scale.

I, being the difficult one that I am, challenged that such a world was unrealistic. People would find some kind of tangible object in which to place value, and a new bartering system would develop from this scheme.

I realize that this is a central theme to what my sociology of gender class will cover throughout the semester. Follow me here.

Everything that we see, know, and do as individuals is influenced by the society that we live in. We are products of our culture, and we in turn place value and act within the definitions we have used to organize our world.

This past week or so in class, we’ve laid the foundation of what it means to discuss and define gender. The main takeaway point that I learned from these lectures and readings is to recognize that all the categorizations found in society are shaped by the individuals and their  collective acceptance of an idea. This idea then translates to how we prescribe acceptable appearances and roles to others within our determined classifications.

I’ve read about and watched news specials about people who are intersex (I think Barbara Walters has this corner of the news market covered). Reading West and Zimmerman’s article “Doing Gender” definitely helped to add to my understanding of the issue by addressing the common distinction as sex being something biologically determined and gender being defined by social environment and expectation. Their article specifically challenged this idea that I had in my mind into considering that even our biological standards are set by a cultural standard.

For me, the idea that we use gender as another way to organize the world is something I feel I inherently know, but didn’t stop to question. The readings raised the idea that instead of classifying the world through a false dichotomy of what sex and gender are, that we as a society should develop a cognizance that these two things exist on a spectrum, and not on either side of a clearly black and white scale. While I can totally agree with this idea out of a hope that we as individuals can work to make societies more inclusive environments, I have to be honest and say that taking away this method of organization is a little startling for me. However, it is only one of many ideas that I’m sure will challenge me throughout this course.

While we discussed these issues, I couldn’t help but think about a 2010 magazine cover of James Franco in drag. I think it might be things like this that will lead to discussion about redefining a culture to acknowledge more intersections of people. I’ll end the post with that image because, let’s be honest, I can’t top anything as cool as a prominent actor showing his support for the transgender community. It also makes me wonder if that same kind of acceptance might soon be extended to the lesser-publicized community of intersex individuals (let’s get on it, Babs).


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