Constructing & Performing Gender & Sexuality in the U.S.

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    • 00:00

      [MUSIC PLAYING][Constructing & Performing Gender & Sexuality in the US]

    • 00:12

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE: Hello, my name is Dr. Andrew Jolivette.[Andrew Jolivette, PhD] I'm a professor at San FranciscoState University.I earned my doctoral degree from the University of California,Santa Cruz and have taught in the areas of sociology,ethnic studies, gender and sexuality studies,as well as education over the past 15 years.

    • 00:32

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: Today, we're going to be talking about the social constructionof gender and sexuality.So some of our key questions that we'regoing to be discussing are, what is gender and sexualityand sexual orientation?When and where and how do individualsbegin to define their gender and their sexuality?Does it start at childbirth?Does it start when you're a high school student?

    • 00:54

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: These are some of the kinds of questions that we're goingto be talking about today.How are individuals forced to perform socially ascribedgender and sexual identities?In other words, how does society force particular typesof identities onto us?Do we choose identities for ourselvesor do institutions decide these things for us?

    • 01:15

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: When we think about it, say, for example, even bathrooms--at a very early age, we have that choice made for us.There are only male and female bathrooms.So that's what we mean by having an ascribed gendercategory-- that it's something that you don'thave a choice or a say in.Another question we want to deal withis, how have individuals and groups challenged

    • 01:37

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: ascribed gender and sexual identities?So we'll be looking at the ways in which people have pushedback against questions that force people into oneor another gender category-- male and femalebeing the only options, traditionally.And finally, we'll be asking, whatare the benefits of alternative cultural views and practicesof gender and sexuality?

    • 01:58

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: So what do other cultures think outside of the United Statesor groups who existed and lived here in the United Statesprior to colonization?So it's important for us to understand gender and sexualityand it as a social construct-- somethingthat we made up in our society-- because eachof these categories represents significant percentages

    • 02:18

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: of the US population.And so in order to really address issues of inequality,we have to understand how constructing genderidentity and sexual orientation impactswomen and men differently.Sometimes, when we think about gender,we only assume that we're talking about women.When we're talking about gender, we're also talking about men.

    • 02:39

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: When we're talking about sexuality or sexualorientation, we're not just talking about peoplewho identify as LGBT.We're talking about heterosexuals as well.So we have to broaden the ways in which wethink about these identity categories.[What are gender, sexuality, and sexual orientation?]

    • 02:60

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: So what is gender and sexuality, our first question?Gender and sexuality can be described as a set of fluid--meaning they're constantly changing--dynamic, and changeable categories of self-definition.They're based on lived experiences, where we grow up,our interactions with others, and it's alsobased on our beliefs, practices, and behaviors.

    • 03:21

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: So for example, a lot of us think that sexual orientation--it's been argued for many, many decadeswhether it's biological, is it a choice?It's somewhere in the middle.Just like gender identity, sexual identitiesare also somewhere in the middle.They are socially constructed.

    • 03:43

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: Society teaches us these things.And so they're not just purely biological.They are also social and they arevery meaningful in a sociological context.[When, where, and how do individuals begin to definetheir gender and sexuality?]Now, our next question here is, when and where and how

    • 04:03

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: do individuals begin to define their gender and sexuality?Well, gender and sexuality, as well as sexual orientation,begin at birth.Across the span of every individual's life,this is constantly changing and evolving.How one might identify, in terms of their gender,might change from when you're six or seven years old or 18

    • 04:26

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: years old.To further illustrate what I meanby the social construct of gender and sexuality,I often share with my own students,when my grandmother-- she'll be 92 years old.And when she was in her early 20s, and even to this day,women were not supposed to wear pants.

    • 04:47

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: That was a social construct.And so when I ask my students, I say, oh,how many of you-- and I ask them to raise their hands-- howmany of you would let your son-- if he was seven, eight, nine,10 years old-- if he wanted to wear a dress to school,would you let him wear a dress?And some of the students, they say, yes.Some of them say, no.But the majority are still kind of like, oh, Idon't know about that.And that is because I tell them that also

    • 05:08

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: is a social construct.It's based on our ideas about norms and values of today.And just like today, we see women wearing pants everywhere.In the future, I'm sure we will see men wearing dresses.In fact, if we go back and look throughout history,that was something that happened.So we created this idea of what's normaland what's not normal.

    • 05:29

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: And so as I was saying, gender and identity,specifically sexual identity, shiftsand continues to change over the span of our lifetimes.And how we self-identify is basedon these societal constructs and self-ascriptions.These things that are placed onto us by institutions,such as churches, or schools, our own families.

    • 05:52

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: But it's also based on our own lived experiences and behavior.[How are individuals forced to perform socially ascribedgender and sexual identities?]Sex and gender are not the same.They're often conflated.Sex is a biological construct, somethingthat is supposed to be fixed, whereas genderis something that's changeable.

    • 06:13

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: It is behavioral.And so often this causes us to perform identity.How are we often performing identities?So individuals are often forced to perform identitiesbecause they want to fit into these ascribed or forced genderand sexual identity categories.what do I need to do to prove I'm a real manor real woman, when there is no one real way

    • 06:35

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: to be a man or a woman.This is why it's a social construct.So if we look at the beginning of these issues in the UnitedStates, at birth, society constructs specific rolesfor biological males and females.And we often conflate gender with sex,when sex is biologically determined

    • 06:57

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: and gender, as I was saying, it'sa behavioral factor, a phenomenon.Now, while both sex and gender are not fixed,mainstream US society forces individualsto choose an identity as either male, female, heterosexual,or LGBT.This is based on limited rather than open or vast options.

    • 07:18

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: Why would we not want to, as a society,give individuals and groups more options and more choices?[How have individuals and groups challenged ascribed genderand sexual identities?]How have individuals and groups challengedascribed gender and sexual identities?Ascribed status is the social status

    • 07:40

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: a person is assigned at birth or assumed, involuntarily,later in life.It is a position that is neither earned nor chosen.It is something, basically, that's forced upon us.We have no say so over that identity that was given to us.People have pushed back, though, against these gendercategories, sex categories.So gender, sex, and LGBT rights movements,

    • 08:02

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: from the 1960s to the present, challengethe assumed and unchangeable natureof gender and heterosexuality categories.They do this by challenging the waythat we think about and assume biological malesand females can only choose a male or female identity thatis assigned to them at birth.And they also do this by challenging the ways

    • 08:23

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: that we think that LGBT individuals engagein abnormal or deviant behaviors.The Marriage Equality Movement and the Equal Pay Act,both under President Obama, represent specific challengesto ascribed gender and sexual minority status and stigma.[What are the benefits of alternative cultural viewsand practices?]

    • 08:49

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: What are the benefits of alternative cultural viewsand sexual practices of gender and sexuality?So some of the benefits and some of the waysin which people have pushed back isthat non-mainstream cultures thatare indigenous to the United States, theyhave offered alternative and opposing cultural viewsof gender and sexuality.

    • 09:10

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: American Indians, for example, do notbelieve in the binary construction of genderas either male or female.In many indigenous societies, it ispossible to have third and fourth genderidentities, as well as sexual practices, identities,and behaviors.This one alternative provides benefits

    • 09:30

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: to those seeking a more just, equitable, open,and diverse set of options around gender and sexuality,options that are more open rather than closed.And when I say third and fourth gender identity categories,these were people who held special rolesin American Indian cultures.Men, for example, who are born biologically male

    • 09:54

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: but performed both male and, quote,"female work" were seen as a third gender.Females who maybe dressed or performedtraditional work that was seen as men's workbut also female work were seen as fourth gender.And so that had nothing to do with sexual orientation,but it provided a more open opportunity

    • 10:15

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: to express gender in a multi-faceted manner.[Conclusion]To conclude, we now understand, from a sociological lens,the way that gender, sexuality, and sexual orientationhave been socially constructed.We have also learned how the social construction of gender

    • 10:37

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: and sexuality limit individual choice, legal rights,and sociocultural practices.We have also examine the ways that the binary constructionof gender and sexuality has been challenged and transformedthrough social movements for marriage equality and fair pay.Finally, alternative gender practices

    • 10:58

      ANDREW JOLIVETTE [continued]: among Native Americans demonstratesa more open, flexible, and self-defined methodfor assuming or taking on one's gender or sexual identitiesin US society.For further reading, please see Patricia Hill Collinsand her work, Black Feminist Thought.

Constructing & Performing Gender & Sexuality in the U.S.

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Dr. Andrew Jolivette discusses the social construction of gender and sexuality. He explains how the prevailing idea of binary gender affects choice, legal rights, and sociocultural practices. He also highlights alternative perspectives on gender/sexuality found in American Indian belief systems.

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Constructing & Performing Gender & Sexuality in the U.S.

Dr. Andrew Jolivette discusses the social construction of gender and sexuality. He explains how the prevailing idea of binary gender affects choice, legal rights, and sociocultural practices. He also highlights alternative perspectives on gender/sexuality found in American Indian belief systems.

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