Human nature versus social constructs

3 min read


The term "social construct" refers to the idea that certain concepts or entities, which may appear to be natural or inherent to human nature or the world, are actually created and defined by human societies and cultures. Both Butler and Foucault have used the concept of social construct in their work to argue that many of the ways in which we understand gender, sexuality, and other aspects of identity are not fixed or natural, but are instead shaped by social and cultural forces. For example, Butler argues that gender is a social construct that is performatively created through repeated actions and behaviors, rather than something that is innate or essential. Similarly, Foucault has argued that concepts such as madness and criminality are social constructs that are created and defined by the power relations of society.

All this is still attracting a lot of attention, much more on the internet than in the real world, but let's not talk about concrete practical implementations. The point here is that social constructs do exist. For example, everyone would admit that money is a social construct that influences our society to a significant extent. The fact that a 100 dollar bill as such is not worth 100 dollars - not even the coins compared to their metal value - but that in the end we only agreed that I can exchange it for a commodity value of 100 dollars, all seems to be clear in front of our eyes.

But to what extent can we now claim that other things are also social constructs? Why is a performative act made around the gender of a child at all? I'm talking about so called "gender reveal parties" here, and in doing so I'm surprised that it's often the very people who can only approach the topic with a binary understanding who make am absurd spectacle out of something, while accusing others of dominating the discourse with a minority opinion. Many seem to overlook the fact that the status quo continually generates and spreads "gender ideology."

However, these spectacles regarding the gender of a newborn are a vivid example of what Foucault and Butler were getting at. In her work, Judith Butler argues that gender is performative, meaning that it is something that is enacted or performed by individuals rather than something that is inherent or fixed. This means that gender is not simply a reflection of one's biological sex, but is instead a set of behaviors, attitudes, and characteristics that are seen as appropriate or typical for a particular gender and that are learned and reinforced through socialization.

Butler argues that gender is a "performance" that is repeated and reinforced through a process she calls "citationality," in which individuals internalize and repeat societal norms and expectations for their gender. According to Butler, these performances are not necessarily conscious or intentional, but are instead performed habitually and are often taken for granted.

This observation becomes completely intriguing when it is politically charged, as we see today, because then the power relations are revealed. The concrete power, which in the discourse is probably overwhelmingly on the side of the statists, is opposed to a progressive minority, which struggles for nothing other than social acceptance of themselves.

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