Social Justice Usage
Source: Dye, Kelly. “Gendering.” In: Encyclopedia of Case Study Research, Albert J. Mills, Gabrielle Durepos, and Elden Wiebe (eds.). SAGE, 2010, p. 413.
Gendering is the process of ascribing characteristics of masculinity or femininity, femaleness or maleness to a phenomenon (i.e., a role, position, concept, person, object, organization, or artifact), usually resulting in power and privilege, voice and neglect, or advantage and disadvantage, as drawn along the lines of sex and gender. … The process of gendering serves to create something that is “gendered” — that is, that causes a division based on sex or gender and that privileges one sex or gender, thereby silencing or suppressing the other. For example, the role of nurse is significantly gendered in that it is generally expected that a woman would possess the feminine characteristics thought necessary to carry out the role successfully. It is said that women possess an advantage when it comes to hiring and promotion in this career. The opposite occurs in the gendering of occupations such as engineers and chief executive officers. Studies demonstrate that men are privileged in such occupations, due to the traditionally male characteristics deemed necessary for success within such positions. … Despite the fact that organizations have been identified as being gendered for quite some time, researchers are still trying to better understand the processes responsible for the creation and maintenance of these gendered organizations — that is, the gendering.
New Discourses Commentary
To properly understand this entry, which describes how the word “gender” is used as a verb within radical feminism, gender studies, and intersectionality, it is necessary to understand the rather complex and unusual way that these movements and Critical Social Justice understand gender. If you haven’t, then, please take a few minutes to read that entry first.
In Critical Social Justice, particularly in gender studies and those aspects of Theory and activism that have been influenced by them (see also, queer Theory and intersectionality, esp.), to gender is not only a verb but an important one. In brief, it means to create, impose, justify, perpetuate, or maintain some kind of gender-oriented relevance, in particular ones that impose, justify, etc., systemic power dynamics of injustice, dominance, and oppression that can be Theorized to favor “masculine” (see also, hegemonic masculinity) gender identities over other gender identities (see also, patriarchy, non-binary, gender non-conforming, and transgender). That is, to gender is to make gender, as a social construction, relevant where Theory believes it shouldn’t be. For a rather trivial example, modicums of dress are considered to have been gendered, and this is why men tend not to wear dresses and skirts, for instance, and why those garments are associated with femininity (see also, hegemonic femininity).
Using the past-participle form of “to gender” (gendered) as an adjective is not necessarily unique to Critical Social Justice (and radical feminism preceding it), nor is it completely ridiculous, though it is likely to be broadly attributable to the obsession with gender identity that helped give rise to modern incarnations of Critical Social Justice (nb: earlier feminist Theorists would have said “sexed” in much the same way, as in Luce Irigaray’s infamous proclamation that Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc² is a “sexed equation” because it privileges the speed of light over all other speeds—no, this doesn’t and never did make sense). This usage of the term seems to appear significantly for the first time in the radical activism of the 1960s and is thus likely to be associated strongly with radical feminism, which would have bled out into liberal feminism as well, speaking mostly about gendered occupations (e.g., nursing, caring, cleaning, and school teaching), attitudes, and expectations around the home.
Radical feminists were the first to start to separate sex and gender in the way we usually encounter now and thus the first to use this verbified version of the term. Their goal in separating the ideas was to characterize gender as the socially constructed aspect of the masculine/feminine dynamic that allowed for patriarchal control over women. That is, they believed there was nothing one could do about one’s sex, but gender could be understood as indicative of a set of expectations regarding how one should be given one’s sex, and they wanted to make that distinction clear because the power of patriarchy exists in controlling women by controlling the expectations of the feminine gender (see also, hegemonic femininity). This idea was taken to the modern extreme by gender studies, then queer Theory, and then a more contemporary gender studies that had incorporated much of queer Theory. The verbification of the term “gender” is related to the activist mindset, particularly under social constructivism, which would deduce if something is gendered, then someone or something must be gendering it.
Therefore, the most relevant point to make about the activist use of “gender” as a verb, whether directly (i.e., “that decision genders the topic”), as a gerund (i.e., “this gendering is unjust”), or in past participle (i.e., “ours is a very gendered culture”) is to create the unavoidable sense that the “gendering” is something that is being done, actively. That is, gendering is something powerful (male) interests do in order to maintain their dominance over women and other gender minorities (see also, minoritize).
Gender Theorists (and many feminists) are particularly concerned about how gendering happens through media, particularly advertising (see also, media studies). That is, they see media and advertising as a way that socialization is projected to the masses, made particularly influential, and effectively brainwashes the population. This is a trait it likely picked up both from Neo-Marxism, which is very concerned with media representation and propaganda and their roles in producing and enforcing hegemony, and from postmodernism, which is extremely concerned with the production of images and the role that plays in establishing a culture, not to mention feminism, which has made media one of its favorite hobbyhorses for as long as it has existed (not wholly for bad reasons). If an advertisement depicts women doing certain tasks or men doing others, and those align with prevailing masculine and feminine stereotypes, that advertisement very reliably will be accused of “gendering” the tasks, which effectively means brainwashing people into believing that there’s a right masculine or feminine way to be.
To clarify, “This is a gendered occupation” could serve as a purely descriptive statement in which “gendered” can be understood merely as an adjective, but this is not the activist intention with having verbified the noun “gender.” The radical intention is to expand the understanding of this idea to make the gendering an action that is done by dominant power and dominant discourses in order to create and maintain unjust structural dynamics. That is, it is a consequence of the critical mindset that sees power and privilege being applied by socialization through hegemony (maintaining rule by means of ideology) in everything and works to make that perspective more prominent and visible (see also, consciousness raising, critical consciousness, and wokeness). This shift in understanding from a state of affairs to something that is actively being done by the systemic sexist, transsexist, transphobic, etc., forces of society and people as agents who have taken these on creates both an imperative for activism and a target for that activism (see also, misogyny, transmisogyny, internalized dominance, internalized misogyny, internalized oppression, internalized sexism, and internalized transphobia).
Alternatively, “gendering” or “to gender” is sometimes used in the academic and activist literature in Critical Social Justice to mean to “bring gender Theory into.” For example, a Theorist might discuss “gendering critical race theory” or “gendering orientalism.” This is consistent with a broadly intersectional rubric that insists that it is impossible to analyze any form of oppression or injustice without considering all others and thus means making the issue more intersectional if it’s a topic that doesn’t inherently focus upon gender. This kind of me-studying is very typical of intersectionality.
Reminder: This term also has a specialized usage as a noun, “gender,” in Critical Social Justice. To understand how gender is Theorized in Critical Social Justice, see gender studies.
Consciousness raising; Critical; Critical consciousness; Critical race Theory; Discourses; Dominance; Feminism; Gender (n.); Gender identity; Gender non-conforming; Gender studies; Hegemonic femininity; Hegemonic masculinity; Hegemony; Ideology; Injustice; Internalized dominance; Internalized misogyny; Internalized oppression; Internalized sexism; Internalized transphobia; Intersectionality; Liberal; Man; Media studies; Minoritize; Misogyny; Neo-Marxism; Non-binary; Oppression; Orientalism; Patriarchy; Postmodernism; Privilege; Queer Theory; Radical; Radical feminism; Representation; Sex; Sexism (systemic); Social construction; Social constructivism; Social Justice; Socialization; Structural; Systemic power; Theory; Transgender; Transmisogyny; Transphobia; Transsexism; Woke/Wokeness; Woman
Source: Sensoy, Ozlem, and Robin DiAngelo. Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education, first edition. Teacher’s College Press: New York, 2012, pp. 86–87.
Virtually everything in advertising is gendered, furthering the strict division between men and women and their roles in society and shaping our seemingly neutral and personal consumer “choices.” Food is a cogent example of gender divisions reinforced through marketing. According to advertisers, women drink iced tea and eat yogurt, salads, chocolate, and cake, while men drink beer and eat pizza, hamburgers, bacon, and other red meat. Even smell is gendered. While there is no biological difference in hair between women and men, we cannot use the same shampoo. What makes a shampoo masculine or feminine? Smell. The smell of fruit or flowers is for women, while smells associated with the “rugged outdoors,” such as pine and musk, are for men.
Alcohol and cigarettes are another example of gendering in advertising. Marlboro, Winston, and Camel cigarettes are top-selling brands. Their iconic ad campaigns are heavily geared toward men, often depicting very tough and masculine men riding horses or driving pickup trucks. Yet women as well as men smoke these brands. On the other hand, Virginia Slims are heavily marketed to women. Because of this, men will not typically smoke them. Remember that a cigarette is a cigarette. It is its association with women that prevents men from consuming the product.
This association and its impact on our behavior indicate the direction of power. The minoritized group can emulate the dominant group because in doing so they are emulating the higher status group and thus gain status; but the dominant group does not emulate the minoritized group because they are emulating the lower status group and thus lose status. This is why women wear pants as well as dresses, but men do not wear dresses as well as pants (there has been a small resurgence of kilts for men in alternative subculture, but these kilts are acceptable because they are masculinized by their association with ancestry and battle). Men who order cosmopolitans and other “fruity” drinks risk ridicule (because fruit is gendered female). This is an illustration of how powerful gender roles, unequal power, and marketing are in shaping our everyday “choices.”
Revision date: 4/2/20