[ON THE REAL] Challenging gender norms

Today on the On The Real, Sibusisiwe Maphumulo, Andile Jiyane and Denmark Vee talked about sex and gender roles and how people can challenge gender norms.

Keeping in mind that gender is not just the binary of male and female based on one’s biological sex. Many persons are non-gender conforming people.

Jiyane said there’s a lot more to being male, female, or any gender identity assigned at birth to one.

‘’Your biological or assigned sex does not always tell you that complete story about your gender,” said Jiyane.

In general terms, “sex” refers to the biological differences between males and females, such as the genitalia and genetic differences.

Maphumulo said most of the time the words sex and gender are used interchangeably.

“People assume that they mean the same thing but they do not,” she said.

Sex is a label — male or female — that you are identified as by a doctor at birth based on the genitals you’re born with and the chromosomes you have. It goes on your birth certificate.

According to Maphumulo, gender is much more complex: It’s one’s social and legal status, and a set of expectations from society, about behaviors, characteristics, and thoughts that one should have and perform, depending on whether one is male or female. Each culture has standards about the way that people should behave based on their gender.

Jiyane also said gender is also generally about male or female-sexual identity. But instead of being about body parts only, it’s more about how you’re expected to act, because of your sex. Gender identity is how you feel inside and how you express your gender through clothing, behavior, and personal appearance. It’s something that begins very early in life.

Rather than being purely assigned by genetics, as sex differences generally are, people often develop their gender roles in response to their environment, including family interactions, the media, peers, and education.

Maphumulo said the degree of decision-making and financial responsibility expected of each gender and the time that women or men are expected to spend on homemaking and rearing children varies between cultures. Within the wider culture, families too have their norms.

Gender roles are not set in stone. In many societies, men are increasingly taking on roles traditionally seen as belonging to women, and women are playing the parts previously assigned mostly to men. Gender roles and gender stereotypes are highly fluid and can shift substantially over time.

Maphumulo said, “Exactly. The norms are forever changing – we are now finding female taxi drivers, and men who are comfortable being stay at home dads. As the trends evolve, so does society’s views towards things.”

Challenging issues caused by gender norms, Jiyane said the media must show more relatable, positive portrayals of people who do not follow traditional gender roles, such as a transgender or transsexual teenager who is going to school like any other teenager, or a football player who dresses or behaves in a feminine way.

“And for the older generations who are not open to adapting to see that times have change. Gone are the days of: boys laze around while girls work like slaves – it’s no longer male and female norms anymore”

Listen to the Clip below for more information:

Listen to On The Real on the AM2PM with Denmark Vee, Andile and Sibusisiwe every Wednesdays from 12 midday.

By Mndaba Lindelani


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