Social Construction of Identity

Social Construction of Identity

Our society and culture significantly shape our identity in different ways. Through the customs, culture, and institutions, it provided individuals the labels to use while categorizing the people they encounter. The labels incorporate ethnicity, race, gender, religion, economic class, and sexual orientation (Wright 45). These aspects provide an understanding of who individuals are, their past labels, and find common ground. Societal and cultural structures influence people’s beliefs concerning what is true, their values regarding what is wrong and right, and their attitudes, including their dislikes and likes. Societal and cultural influences allow me to self-identify myself as an individual from a particular race and gender. My identity defines me factually and visually on a fundamental level while society accepts the labels I give myself and offers others in conversation. When asking what shapes our identity, for some of us, it is our skin tone, sexuality, age, city of residence. For some of us – and this is crucial – our identity is pretty much defined by our job, our kids, our partner, or our football team. Gender and race are among the significant identities shaped by cultural and societal influences within equality and inequality contexts.

Multiple factors influence identity, and culture and society can influence identity. Sociology and anthropology are two of the academic disciplines which aim to understand this. Numerous theoretical concepts explain this phenomenon. For example, acculturation theory suggests that society has four ways to shape identity. Multiculturalism is one of the strategies which values embracing diversity. The melting pot is another strategy that attempts to mix all different cultures to create a new culture. Exclusion is another strategy that devalues diversity, and segregation values individual culture but still maintains division among diverse cultures. Depending on the type of society a person is in, the identity of people will be different (Galliher, McLean, and Syed 2011). Acculturation is just one of the theories that explain identity development, and this particular idea supports the role of society on identity development.

The society maintains gender identity through an almost inevitable cycle. My parents taught me what they were taught as children, including the fact that boys play sports, are rougher, and more courageous while girls are quieter and sensitive. Because we are taught these things so early on, they become so embedded in our conscience that for many, it is almost impossible to change their way of thinking. Gender has been maintained in society by gender socialization (Wright 47). It uses a reward and punishment system to enforce itself. When it comes to gender identity, the only way gender socialization can maintain this is by convincing us that we cannot be anything other than our gender assigned at birth. If we try and step outside of the box, religion is there to condemn us and force us back into submission. It even threatens individuals with eternal damnation. With further improvements in technology and communication, we became even more efficient. In modern society, people generally live comfortable lives compared to the past, and now we can start enjoying our time luxuriously (Galliher, McLean, and Syed 2011). There is a larger crossover area between the identities of genders compared to the past.

I think gender identity is primarily sculpted and reshaped by our needs and means of survival. Although there are many societies in the world, some attributes genuinely are universal and sadly are believed by almost everyone in the universe when in fact, it was just created by society. The issue with traditional gender identity is that it leaves absolutely no room for individuality and preferences for anything (Gaither 443). The most common gender identity theory for men is that men have to be “men.” The issue is not that men are not those things or that women are not those things; it is that it generalizes and makes it an absolute rule that men and women must be that way only. That leaves no room for different types of people. Humans are much more complex than socially constructed beliefs. It is okay if a woman fits the traditional gender identity and the same for men, but people can also be a combination of the two.

Societal and cultural influences have also significantly shaped my racial identity. I have lived in the United States all my life. Throughout my childhood, I never, not once, thought of my race. ‘Race’ just was not part of the conversation nor a concept I could apply to my day-to-day life. It simply had no place outside of the ‘special episodes’ from the United States television shows dealing with racism (Galliher, McLean, and Syed 2011). Through my teens, many things concerning me, including my appearance, my looks, my friends but race, once did not come into play. In college, I started interacting more with people from outside of the United States. I became aware of different stereotypes, including “white people things” or the “latino experience.” People were asking about my race, which in turn lead to me wonder about my identity. What I am in terms of race never played an essential part in my identity. I always got comments about being pale, but I was never bothered by it. I was just pale, and some of my friends were dark, in the same way, I was short while some of my friends were tall. It was after I started interacting with people from countries where racial identity is a big deal that I started wondering where I would fit in that scenario. Thus societal and cultural influences shape an individual’s racial identity, among other aspects.





Works Cited

Gaither, Sarah E. “The multiplicity of belonging: Pushing identity research beyond binary thinking.” Self and Identity, vol. 17, no. 4, 2018, pp 443-454.

Galliher, Renee V., Kate C. McLean, and Moin Syed. “An integrated developmental model for studying identity content in context.” Developmental Psychology, vol. 53, no. 11, 2017, 2011.

Wright, Michelle M. “Racism, technology, and the limits of western knowledge.” Domain Errors, vol. 1, no. 1, 2002, pp 45-61.

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