Sex and gender are known to be two different terms that express different meanings. For sociologists, this is even more important because these meanings control the way in which we communicate with each other from an individual level through social institutions. For the context of this memo, gender will be defined as “a system of social practices [that] creates and maintains gender distinctions and organizes relations of inequality on the basis of these distinctions” (Wharton 7). Such a general and non-specific definition is appropriate because it defines gender from a sociological perspective because it is subject to change and interpretation from different frameworks. These different frameworks are the primary means by which sociologists research and analyze gender; moreover, gender display is a prime example of how this method is utilized.
Using diverse frameworks is a primary means of analyzing gender. By offering the versatility of multiple perspectives and viewpoints, the researcher can draw stronger conclusions about gender. For instance, using diverse frameworks to see the impact on other social institutions is helpful in identifying what is truly critical to the discussion at hand (Wharton 8). These frameworks also help because they help asses which social forces are actually in play. Wharton remarked that it is a fundamental error to rely on personal experience because it neglects the “roles of social structure and context” (Wharton 3). In effect, understanding gender from numerous frameworks is crucial because it defines how we behave towards others (Wharton, pp. 8). Studying gender also requires a systematic approach of using quantitative data to support notions and assertions. It is vital to understand that the role of a sociologist is to “design and conduct systematic studies guided by theoretical frameworks” (Tiemann 3). As such, gender is carefully assessed through different frameworks and perspectives in order to truly find out what role or impact it has with regard to broader social forces like family, school and work life.
The social interaction perspective of gender goes hand in hand with West and Zimmerman’s (1987) concept of gender display because it focuses on the raw effect that perception has. Indeed, the “behavioral aspects of being a woman or a man” tie into how society views you (West and Zimmerman 127). It also dictates social interaction on a personal level as we are taught to look for certain cues from the other individual. Gender display, above all, is reflected from this interaction because of the polarization that we have with associations of being a man or woman. The traits, behavior and appearance play directly into how we categorize others, and then behave towards them. This categorization “is established and sustained by the socially required identificatory displays that proclaim one's membership in one or the other category” (West and Zimmerman 127). Thus, we behave towards others based on the meaning and perception we have of their gender along with how we categorized them.
As we have seen, gender is a complex and socially constructed label that requires further discourse. That is why diverse frameworks and empirical data are widely used to study how other social forces play a role and what the trends are. More notably, gender display shows that we give off cues based on our behavior that lets others categorize us accordingly. The social interaction perspective further supports this because ultimately we behave towards others of a specific gender based on the meanings we have associated with it.
Tiemann, K. (2000). Sociological Perspectives. 1-7.
West, C., & Zimmerman, D. (1987). Doing Gender. Gender and Society, 1(2), 125-151.
Wharton, A. (2005). Introduction to the Sociology of Gender. The Sociology of Gender: An Introduction to Theory and Research (pp. 1-11). Malden, MA.: Blackwell Publishing.