Social Identity: The Ties That Bind
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
It is human nature to want to sort things, to categorize, and make sense out of the chaos. Things are easier to process when they have a place or a label. People are no different. As humans it is easy to see immediate differences when it comes to social constructs such as gender, race, and class. These are essentially surface level constructs that are easily identifiable. With these constructs being so straightforward they are almost impossible to hide from, making them your initial social construct identifiers.
In regard to gender there has been a set of long-standing characteristics used to define each sex. This list had remained unchallenged for hundreds of years. Male characteristics were seen as physically strength, bread winners, analytical thinkers, non-emotional, the hunter, tough, independent, leadership, assertive, etcetera… Female characteristics were seen as physically attractive, nurturing, emotional, sensitive, helpful, understanding, they can cook while males are expected to build things. These characteristics have been passed on generationally and were taught not only in the home but also in schools. Boys being encouraged to take classes in the trades while girls were encouraged to take home economics, reading, and writing.
Throughout history the oppression of one over another has been seen through both race and class status. Again, with beliefs not only being learned in the home, but in school, government, and community. As Sojourner Truth explains in “Ain’t I a Woman”, that the woman’s movement reinforced sexism, classism, and racism by not including the needs of the non-white or poor women. The movement was an upper to middle class white woman event that Truth made sure to include that in her statement. She made sure it was known that the push to support woman was only being seen as rights for woman who were white with affluence in society. She wanted people to understand that the opinions and needs of those of color as well as the impoverished deserved rights and recognition just the same.
Over the last 30 years there has been a more consistent push to change the tolerance, acceptance, and understanding of social identities in regards to gender, race, and class. It has been a long hard road to create change to the long-standing social structure. Many who have risen up against the objective norms were subject to persecution, isolations, and death. But as Audre Lorde explains, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” Meaning change will not come with the old way of thinking. There must be people ready to sacrifice freedom and even their lives to the progress over the old values.
It is hard to overcome old though processes, especially if you do not prove the value of these processes are no longer valid. It takes persistence, dedication, hard work and a vision toward a common goal to create the necessary change for positive growth. You must first make them see the damages of the old ways before they will ever be open to accepting, or even considering the new.