“Doing Gender” by West and Zimmerman: A Self-Reflection Essay

It is common for a person to experience gender variances in every social encounter since it is a cultural production. West and Zimmerman discuss the confusion evident in the discourse about sex and gender. While a difference exists between the two terms, sex is biological in nature, and gender is a social and cultural construction; not many understand the clear distinction between the two concepts (West and Zimmerman 126). From a personal perspective, I experienced gender differences during a shopping trip with my mother. I had not thought much about the experience until I took the course and read several materials, including “Doing Gender” by West and Zimmerman. I have realized that social and cultural production informed the whole experience of gender. 

My shopping experience communicates the differentiation between sex and gender. I am a female and should perform feminist gender roles, at least based on social expectations. During my shopping trip, my mother kept informing me about products meant for women. According to her and, by extension, society, a woman is supposed to dress and adorn the body in a particular way. However, I had always ignored the fact that some perfumes were meant for men while others were for women. The trip was my first shopping when I could critically evaluate my choices. Thus, my mother would make sure that I carefully selected every item we bought. My experience supported West and Zimmerman’s idea of gender as a routine accomplishment entrenched into the commonplace interaction within society (126). Therefore, society dictated my buying decisions, and hence, I had to conform to the norm.

I have learned that the differentiation between the two concepts is not essential in itself but a function of the interaction between people within their social environment. Gender is a social production that defines specific behaviors in routine social activities (West and Zimmerman 126). Thus, predictable undertakings such as shopping are informed by social norms created over generations of human interactions. Since I was born as a female, society has already dictated how I should behave, dress, and conduct myself in social interactions. My mother kept reminding me that I needed to appear presentable in society as a woman. In addition, I had to dress in a way that enhanced my beauty. Therefore, I realized that my peers formed a kind of competition for the best-dressed girl in social situations. Hence, as I shopped, I could try to outdo my peers.

Furthermore, as a woman, some particular roles were already set aside as I grew up and interacted with the social environment. I was obligated to appear beautiful, especially when I went out with my friends since it was a social expectation. People become accustomed to a particular behavior, not because they are inherently inclined to act in a specific manner, but due to the social communication of gender differences and expected behaviors. Hence, the “doing” of gender is a product of the people who live according to the formed dictates of gendered roles (West and Zimmerman 126). West and Zimmerman elucidate why members of a particular gender are most likely to behave in a specific manner. Therefore, the construction of gender roles makes people act in a particular way depending on society’s expectations.


Work Cited

West, Candace, and Don H. Zimmerman. “Doing Gender.” Gender and Society, vol. 1, no. 2, 1987, pp.125-151.

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