This is coming off an offblog conversation, but let's just say someone was trying to figure out what the hell people meant by "gender is a construct" or "race is a construct," looked up definitions like this,
The central concept of Berger and Luckmann's Social Construction of Reality was that actors interacting together form, over time, typifications or mental representations of each other's actions, and that these typifications eventually become habitualised into reciprocal roles played by the actors in relation to each other. When these reciprocal roles become routinized, the typified reciprocal interactions are said to be institutionalised. In the process of this institutionalisation, meaning is embedded and institutionalised into individuals and society - knowledge and people's conception of (and therefore belief regarding) what reality 'is' becomes embedded into the institutional fabric and structure of society, and social reality is therefore said to be socially constructed.
...and went, *blink* *blink* "...right, I'm gonna go have a beer and then maybe it'll make more sense."
Basically, to me, it's like this:
The problem is that people have this idea that either something is "real" or it's not. And "construct" seems to suggest that it's not. It's in our heads; we made it up; therefore, it doesn't exist! Poof! What the hell are we talking about, then?
All "construct" means that it's not fixed and fated and outside human control in the way that say your eventual death is, but that doesn't make it any less "real" for a that and a that.
I mean, look at it this way: a building is a "construct." Humans created it. If no person had had the idea for a large rectangular thingie, if no group of people had drawn up plans and built it, it wouldn't exist. Does that mean it doesn't actually exist?
The key point here is that it's a -social- construction: race, gender, whatever. That means, "large group of people of which you are only one member has collectively designed and built this thing out of whatever materials were already lying around." You can have -input- on the construct, sure, same as anyone else (give or take some influence). That awning's got to go; maybe with some effort you and some likeminded pals can pull it down. Maybe add some shutters instead. Or, you can talk about trying to blow the whole edifice to kingdom come, I suppose. Many have tried. It's big, the edifice, see, and pretty solid. Also it's not really clear what would go there instead, if anything. Nature abhors a vacuum; society abhors vacant lots. Something like that.
So, anyway, back to "reality:" sometimes, you'll get an individual who declares something like, "Hey! This is only a construct! Just because a bunch of other people painted it this particular color and call it "fuschia" doesn't mean I have to BELIEVE in it! I SEE NO COLOR!"
Which is all very well, or could be, depending on where you're situated.
On the other hand, well, now say you're in a (human-made, hence not real) car, headed toward the nonexistent nongendered colorless construct at 70 miles an hour.
And now you know why, in certain kinds of discussions that take a particular turn, you get that "screeeeee SPLAT" effect.