-

The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.

-

viewpoint

Everything is a social construct

| Thursday, December 2, 2021

I was in a meeting with my senior comprehensive advisor not too long ago when she pointed out a sticker I have on my laptop: “Everything is a social construct.” When she read it, she couldn’t stop laughing. Then, she proceeded to ask why I would have a sticker that said this. My answer was because when I was a first-year at Saint Mary’s, I was placed into a 300-level anthropology class about how other cultures view and describe gender. The conclusion that we came to in every class was that everything is a social construct.

Now, some might ask, “What even is a social construct?” My answer would be “Everything,” but to be more specific, according to the Webster Dictionary, it is “an idea that has been created and accepted by the people in a society.” For example, it could be everything from how we as a western society view gender to what is the correct way to behave in public. They are all ways of thinking developed by humans and accepted into everyday life.  

One of the biggest things I like to talk about is time. Now, time is a measurement in the world of mathematics. But if you think about it, time doesn’t exist. Instead, humans created it to maintain order and put a label on the movement of the Earth rotating around the sun. When I was in high school, I used to talk about this with my friends and they would get so angry with me. They reasoned that it does exist because they could look at a clock and read numbers. Therefore, since they saw it in a physical form, it had to be authentic. As a rebuttal to this argument, I asked how they thought early humans kept time. But who knows, maybe our ancestors had their way of “telling time.” 

Some would argue that science could be a social construct. We all know that science is factual, but I like to discuss how people interpret science and react to it. The way we receive information and interpret science is a social construct. How we learn new things is a social construct, school is a social construct. Although science is to the point and factual, society constructed the way humans process information through being taught how to process certain things.

As an anthropology major, we talk at length about social constructs in just about every class. It is the way our society functions. We are all heavily influenced by each other. Humans are incredible creatures. I love learning about new cultures and developing different ways of thinking than the western world I grew up in. Studying how other people live has always fascinated me.

The biggest takeaway from my anthropology courses is to have an open mind about everything. Because of social constructs, we are taught to think and feel specific ways about race, gender, sexuality, etcetera. At the end of the day, we are all human. We all have our own experiences in life and it is our job to listen to others and reconstruct social values for future generations to see humans expect all people for who they are. In my opinion, that is the only way for humans to succeed.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Tags: , , ,

About Allison Thornton

Contact Allison