"Gender Roles and Fashion " How do clothing fashions aid in the social construction of gender? What does a woman or man say about herself or himself with various pieces of clothing?

Essay by raouldukerUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, April 2004

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Most people feel that the qualities and characteristics we perceive as specific to gender are inherent by nature. In America, physical strength is stereotyped to be masculine, while emotional behavior is stereotyped as feminine. Any straying from these expectations is sufficient grounds for alienation. However, historian Howard Zinn has documented that gender roles are a part of a system constructed by the ruling class during the formation of our nation. The gender role structure in the US was designed in order to maintain a centralized, wealthy ruling class. In order to keep wealthy, white men in control of the economy, women have been constructed as inferior to men -- physically, mentally and emotionally.

In Judith Lorber's article "Night to His Day", Lorber explains that the definition of being a man or woman is comprised of more than apparent genetic information. "Gender" is a socially constructed status, which has the intention of "choosing people for the different tasks of society"(Lorber 55).

Thus, ideas about how one should behave in order to fit into a gender category are learned, not intrinsic. As a society assigns people as "men" or "women", this categorization denotes the accepted and preferred "personality characteristics, feelings, motivations, and ambitions" that create different classes and preferences for people (Lorber, 55). That is, the genderization system produces men and women who tend to have a "natural inclination" toward ideas, behaviors, and careers that help them assimilate to anticipated gender stereotypes. Parents, constantly in fear that people will not be able to distinguish the sex of their new baby, instinctually encourage dress, styles, and behavior that perpetuate the masculine and feminine labels from birth.

The term "woman" itself was created by the masculine conception of what femininity should be. These criteria set up the dominant/subordinate relationship standard because women lacked...