Gender Socialization Essay Research Paper Gender Socialization

Gender Socialization Essay, Research Paper

Gender Socialization

A baby is born and the doctor looks at the proud parents or parent and

says three simple words: Its a boy, or Its a girl! Before a newborn child

even takes his or her first breath of life outside the mothers womb, he or she

is distinguishable and characterized by gender. The baby is brought home

and dressed in clothes that help friends, family and even strangers identify

the sex of the child. Baby boys are dressed in blue and baby girls are

dressed in pink. The baby boy may be dressed in a blue jumpsuit with a

football or a baseball glove on it. The baby girl may wear a bow in their hair

and flowered pajamas. As the boy begins to grow, he is given a miniature

basketball and a hoop to play with. The girl is given dolls an d doll clothes

to dress them up in. Even going further, eventually the boy may play with

Legos and Lincoln Logs and the girl gets a PlaySchool oven and a plastic

tea set with which to play house. Sounds pretty normal right? Why? As

illustrated in the not-so-fictional scenario above, gender socialization begins

very early in life. Society has accepted such stereotypical things as baby

boy blue and baby girl pink to help identify the sex of a child. Heaven forbid

the little Joey looks like a girl or b aby Michelle is mistaken for a boy.

Mothers and fathers make it easy for everyone to distinguish their bundle of

joy by utilizing the socially established gender stereotypes. But where and

how did these stereotypes come from? Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a

definite answer to that question. We seem to accept that blue is for boys

and pink is for girls. Boys generally play with balls, toy trucks and building

blocks whereas girls spend their time with dolls, tea sets and stuffed

animals. But these are the stereotypes that are influenced by the parents. A

baby child isn’t concerned with his or her gender identity. As the child gets

older though, he or she will begin to develop an identity for his or herself

and establish a personality th at reflects their masculinity or femininity. In

Nancy Chodorow’s essay “Family Structure and Feminine Personality” she

examines the development of gender identity and personality. Except for the

stereotypical examples I have given above which again are e stablished by

the parents, Chodorow states that the development of a child is basically the

same for boys and girls until the age of three. During those first three years

the mother is the dominant figure in the child’s life. The father plays a limited

role until the child reaches the so called Oedipal period (beyond age 3). It is

at this stage that children begin to try to separate themselves from the

clutches of their mother and establish their own identity. Chodorow

examines how different this is for boys and girls. KFRC radio disk jockey

Ron Parker recently reported that out of a survey of one hundred fourth

grade boys and one hundred fourth grade girls, the boys receive an average

weekly allowance that is approximately 50% higher than the girls receive.

On the average, the boys receive $4.18 as compared to the $2.67 paid to

the girls. To look even further, the survey reported that the boys only

perform three household chores to earn their weekly allowance whereas the

girls are performing twel ve or more. Why are the girls expected to do four

times as much work around the house than the boys are? Chodorow writes

that a young boy is usually unable to identify with his masculinity through his

father. The father isn?t as readily available to th e boy as the mother.

Without the father to follow example, Chodorow concludes that a boy will

identify masculine characteristics be doing that which is not feminine. This

could be an explanation for the big difference in the number of chores the

girls d o versus the boys. Though you might disagree with the morality of

this statement, you have to admit that it is socially accepted that household

chores are feminine duties. Young boys are bound to realize this and

following Chodorow?s theory, will refuse to perform a lot of chores in an

attempt to become more masculine.GENDER?AND?THE?MEDIA

Another aspect of everyday life that is highly influential in gender

socialization is the media. What we see on television or at the movies, what

we read in the newsp aper or in magazines, what we see on billboards or

hear on the radio are all very significant on how we form a opinion on

gender identity. Media publishers have very successfully learned to ?play?

to an audience and are extremely successful in communicat ing with the

audience they wish to reach. Advertisers are the biggest example of this

concept. Society is very apt in recognizing images seen in commercials and

printed ads and viewing them as socially acceptable behavior. For example,

beer companies w ill target the twenty to thirty year old male audience and

include scantily clad women enjoying their favorite beers. Ironically, popular

women?s magazines also use beautiful women to promote cosmetics and

beauty products (funny that both my examples sho w the exploitation of

female images in society…more on that later). How often do you think

people question the activities they see portrayed in advertising and question

them as to there validity? Probably not very often. It is much easier for

society to just accept the images and not bother to take the time to analyze

their bias and untrue nature. It is this societal ignorance that clouds the mind

and allows the images to continue to influence what we believe to be

socially acceptable. And when soc iety is presented with something or

someone out of the ordinary which doesn?t follow what we deem to be

correct, we rebel and try to modify it to our socially acceptable

standards.THE?ANDROGYNOUS?SCENARIO Imagine a baby born

with no visible sex organs. N ow imagine after some tests that there are no

internal or external sex organs whatsoever. No ovaries, no testes, no uterus,

no vagina, no penis, no glands that produce estrogen or testosterone, no

semen, no eggs, no anything. Is this possible? Surprisi ngly yes. It is very

possible and in fact probably more so that one thinks. Though rarely

publicized, there are people in this world that are physically indistinguishable

as males or females. Sally Jesse Raphael recently had one of these

androgynous hu man beings on her popular morning talk show. This person,

known as Toby, is neither male nor female and prefers to live life in the

androgynous state. Toby is the only known human being in the world like

this. Medically feasible, yes; but is the androgy nous person socially

acceptable in our everyday lifestyle? Since Toby was born, Toby hasn?t

been able to live a normal life. Throughout childhood, Toby was constantly

pressured to make a decision to either become a full fledged male or

female. Doctors, teachers, friends and family all thought that Toby would be

much happier if Toby could be classified as either a man or a woman. But

Toby didn?t think so. Toby made a decision to stay androgynous and it has

caused some very interesting results. Everyw here Toby goes identity comes

into question. Is Toby male or female? Toby is neither. But that?s not

possible. Yet it is. Think about what you do everyday and how much of it

relies on gender and then think about Toby. What public restroom do you

go in? What kind of clothes do you wear? What store do you buy them in?

What colors do you buy? What letter is after the word sex on your drivers

license? How does Toby answer these questions? That?s not the point.

The point is why does Toby have to a nswer these questions? Because this

is what we have determined to be socially correct. There are two sexes,

male and female and you must be one or the other. How can there be an in

between? Such a person should have no place in our culturally biased s

ociety.FEMALE?EXPLOITATION As I briefly mentioned earlier,

advertisers utilize female images to sell products. Society associates beauty

with the female and we are more inclined to pay attention to a beautiful

woman presented to us on a screen or a page in a magazine. But can this be

more harmful to a society than good. Recently in my woman?s studies class

we were involved in a student panel discussion regarding this topic. The

presenters literally filled a wall with images taken from magazines and ne

wspapers and each of the photographs were of beautiful women endorsing

some product. Everything from lingerie to Coca-Cola utilized a female

image to attract attention to their ad. This doesn?t just stop in advertising

either. A documentary viewed in t he same class entitled ?DreamWorld?,

exposed the demeaning portrayal of women as sex objects in music videos.

Specifically those shown on the popular music video network MTV. The

women in the videos were all sex objects; beautiful, buxom, sexy, promiscu

ous and lacked any moral values whatsoever. Also, the woman in the music

videos all served one main purpose: to satisfy the sexual needs of men. The

documentary helped us to see how we are easily influenced by images when

we do not stop and think what t hey are showing us. Removed from the

context of how they were originally intended to be shown, the images in the

videos were very disturbing to both men and women. But, for those who

only see them as they were produced, which is most of the viewing popu

lation, the videos do indeed portray these woman in a fantasized nature.

This too can lead to what society views as being socially acceptable. In a

perfect world, there would be no gender differentiation, no racial tension

and no ?political incorrectness ?. But we live in an imperfect world that is

currently making a turn towards becoming more ?PC? (politically correct).

Fading away are such terms as fireman, stewardess, boyfriend and

girlfriend, policeman and secretary. Now we are starting to use a mo re

socially acceptable language and replacing such terms with fire fighter, flight

attendant, domestic partner or significant other, police officer and

administrative assistant. We are slowly, and I do mean slowly, moving

towards a non gender separated s ociety. Eventually we may be able to

control what we see and how we see it, but until then we must rely on

ourselves to determine what is reality and what is part of a DreamWorld.


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