Identity is constructed in and through others. It is closely related to gender which is the social ideological construction of the meaning of the biological sex attributes of an individual. At birth and subsequently however, a baby is subjected to differential treatment by the society in which it is born, depending on the sex. For, to each sex, society gives as a cause, a different meaning and reacts accordingly. As a result, gender imbalances between males and females are nurtured, invariably and mostly to the disadvantage of the females, resulting in diverse gender inequalities throughout the life experiences of an individual. As such, the girl-child develops the notion that masculinity in males can be attributed to congenital factors. They therefore end up performing poorly in masculine tasks (Raymond & Janice, 1980 p.31)
From the earliest age, education about culture which consisted of primarily in the teaching of traditional prejudices, begin to take a toll on the girl-child. These prejudices are such that the early socialization of girls by their parents and brothers as well as the later experience in schools contributes to the development of superiority in boys and inferiority in girls and consequently a feeling of superiority complex in boys and inferiority complex in the girl-child. Nearly all parents in subtle covert ways teach their boys and girls that boys are superior to girls and they alone can show initiative and accept positions of responsibility. This later translates into a stereotypical attitude that ‘difficult activities and exercises are meant for boys’. For instance participation in athletics. (Prince, 1969 p.39)
Early Socialization into gender roles
In western societies for example, girls and boys are given different toys to play with and are encouraged by parents, teachers, and peers to engage in sex appropriate play. Boys’ toys and games tend to emphasize relationships between objects, manipulation of objects in space, and rebuilding objects. On the other hand, girls’ activities are more closely associated with verbal, interpersonal, and fine motor skills. The play activities of boys are therefore more likely to provide practice at spatial visualization tasks, which are useful later in science and mathematics courses.
There is a school of thought in the field of sociology which holds that science has in-built features which inhibit girls and women from studying it. Proponents of this view assert that science is a social construct, whose development, like that of gender, is inextricably linked with social relations between men and women. According to these sociologists, women do not want to participate fully in science which is patriarchal, hierarchical, and authoritarian, one that is used as an instrument of oppression to exploit the mass of the people in the interest of the few.
Colonial and missionary education
Within the African context, Colonial administrators, applying their own notions of appropriate gender roles, made men the preferred recipients of training by western technicians. Boys were sent to school before the girls, or many more boys than girls went to school.
Studies from some quarters have also shown that some schools perpetuate gender inequalities and class differences by regulating access to knowledge and teaching world views that justify the status quo e.g. that men are the creators of technology. According to this point of view, one reason for the differential treatment of girls and boys is that teachers posses a gender bias in their perception of the scientific ability of their students. It therefore communicates to the girl-child a negative image about their masculinity. (Feinberg, 1997 p.45)
As a result, there is masculine control of critical development resources; male domination over females has received a boost. However, with latest pronouncements talking very harshly on emancipation of women in the society, women are increasingly taking up male roles and activities which were earlier viewed as masculine and belonged only the boys. For instance in athletics, women are increasingly engaging in the sport with unparalleled rapidity.
Sex unlike gender is predetermined for an individual. Interestingly, one would imagine that sex is something distinctively outlined: you are either one not the other. (Layton,1996 p.33)
It seems even stranger to argue that Semenya is a male yet we do not know her genetic constitution through complex and rigorous tests.
This also runs contrary to common sense, as determining one's sex is as simple as removing one's underwear and taking a look.
Human beings tend not to appreciate that gender in humans - and many other species, too - is not just a binary affair, a simple case of being male or female.
While majority of people are clearly either a man or a woman, many others are somewhere between the two - often with unknown consequences.
Raymond & Janice, G. (1980) the Transsexual Empire. London: Women's Press.
Prince, V. (1969), Men Who Choose to be Women: Sexology. London: McGraw Hill publishers.
Feinberg, L. (1997) Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman. New York: Beacon Press
Layton, L. (1996). In Defense of Gender Ambiguity. London: OUP