Gender Norms Definition

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Gender norms
In everyday interactions, whether our gender may or may not be questioned, people still “do” gender by subscribing and conforming to the gender roles, identities and attributes of the gender binary (West & Zimmerman, 1987). When people do not conform to the gender binary, as some queer activists and some transgender people may not, gender still affects individuals. In Western societies, a key aspect of masculine and feminine identities (a “proper man” and “proper woman”), is to align with the gender norms and express desires for or have relations only with people of the opposite sex (heterosexuality). However, in some cases, such as nonheterosexual men who are not sexually attracted to women may feel they have “failed” at their
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In Undoing Gender, Judith Butler extended the concept of “doing” and argued that homosexuality and heterosexuality are not fixed categories, in which a person is merely in a condition of “doing straightness” or “doing queerness”. (Butler, 2004: 1). This is the notion where meanings attached to gender and sexuality are constantly negotiated, and by doing so, gender is performed. Similar to gender, sexuality itself is a performance that we can “do” and “undo” in order to break normative gender stereotypes (Butler, 2004). However, because people’s conception of themselves as sexual beings is always challenged by others, Butler suggests that sexuality is something that others can prescribe to people (Butler, 2004). While individuals do have some agency of their sexual identities, the fact that there are patterns in relationships between men and women, means that people are essentially constrained to some fixed identity. As a result, bisexuals and “third sexes” are contested when performing or “doing” their gender and sexuality, as their performances are seen as a transgression, because it differs from the socio-cultural norms of gender and perceptions of intimacy between bodies (Butler, …show more content…
However, Weeks asserts that the three aspects of sexuality; sexual practices, sexual desire and sexual identities, may not always correspond to one another (Weeks, 1986). Sexual practice refers to the acts that take place when individuals have sex, sexual desire is the source of erotic attraction, and sexual identities refers to how individuals think of themselves as sexual beings (Weeks, 1986; McLennan et al, 2010). During the HIV/AIDS epidemic, medical researchers and health care professionals exclusively targeted homosexual men to inform safer sex practices (Weeks, 1986). As a result, a proportion of the population of men whose public sexual identities were heterosexual, however, had homosexual desires and engaged in private homosexual practices were left out. These men were subsequently labelled as ‘men who have sex with men’ (MSM) by people working in HIV/AIDS (Ilkkaracan & Jolly, 2007). Majority of MSM worldwide are still reluctant to access HIV/AIDS information services and STIs treatment with the fear of facing stigma, discrimination, hostility and rejection (Ilkkaracan & Jolly, 2007). While gender norms and taboos around sexuality can oppress individuals, it can also endanger the lives of themselves and other people. The relation between gender and sexuality is evidently not that straightforward, and as Weeks suggested, although for most; sexuality and

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