The Social Nature of Gender

For many people, the idea that gender is a changing social construct goes against what they believe about how men and women should look and act. But if we consider the idea of static genders critically, it’s not hard to see the gender binary start to unravel.

It helps to look at the ways many of our modern understandings of gender have been shaped over the last couple centuries.

  • High-heeled shoes were created for aristocratic men in France to show off their legs.
  • Women were considered to have higher libido than men until the nineteenth-century Protestant church changed the script.
  • Babies and toddlers wore dresses and skirts until the 1930s, regardless of birth sex.
  • In the 1940s, computer programming was considered a woman’s job.

Take a look at this quote from a magazine article printed in 1928:

The generally accepted rule is pink for boys, and blue for girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for girls.

                                              –Earnshaw’s Infants’ Development

That’s right, pink used to be the Man Color. Who knew? The color switch aside, this quote is a god reminder that our ideas about gender shift over time and across cultures. The idea that there has always been one way to be female or male is just a myth. Today’s “universal gender characteristics” were almost all created in the past one hundred years. 

From “Welcoming and Affirming: A Guide to Supporting and Working with LGBTQ+ Christian Youth” by Leigh Finke – Broadleaf Books