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Gender Gender Socialization Theories

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Young People
Wordcount: 1716 words Published: 8th Jun 2017

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According to many sociologists, there exists difference between sex and gender. Sex is the biological classification and gender is the outcome of social construction of separate roles of males and females.

According to Lorber (2005), masculinity and femininity is not inborn that is children are taught these traits. As soon as a child is identified as being a male or female then everybody start treating him or her as such. Children learn to move in gendered ways through the support of his environment. They are taught the gendered roles projected someone who is female or male. As the child grows up, he develops his identity, know how to interact with others and learn the role to play in the society. Lorber, Judith. 2005. “Night to His Day: The Social Construction of Gender.” In The Spirit of Sociology: A Reader, ed. R. Matson, 292-305.New York: Penguin.

There are many drivers involved in the socialization process which transmits the traditional gender role to the children and henceforth leading to occupational segregation later on.

One set of gender socialization occur between parents and offspring. Parents are considered to be the primary agency in the process of socialization. They are inclined to interact with boys and girls in discrete styles. For example, a one year old baby is considered to have no sex difference, and however, parents are likely to act with boys and girls in dissimilar ways. They react to boys, when they seek interest by being aggressive and girls when they use gestures. Such interaction have long term effect on girls and boys communication styles, leading boys to more assertive styles and girls with more emotive styles.

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Ann Oakley and Ruth Hartley (1974), studies point out four main ways in which socialization into gender roles occur. Firstly, applying diverse physical and verbal manipulations to the child, for example, dressing a girl in feminine clothes. Secondly, drawing the child attention towards gender-identified toys. This is known as canalization whereby, boys and girls are given certain toys, clothing, sports equipment, and other objects are often culturally identified more with one gender than the other. Boys’ toys tend to encourage physical activity, whereas girls’ toys tend to stress physical proximity and mother-child talk.

According to Oakley (1974), the socialization process aid to the maintenance of male dominance and female subservience. The roles learn through the above process shape adult behaviour and hence, contribute to the reproduction of differences in behavior of males and females.

Thirdly, Applies Different Verbal Descriptions to the Same Behavior: Even years later,

working in professional careers, women might find that they have to deal with different standards for the same behavior, being called “pushy,” for example, for behavior at work that in men is admired for being “aggressive.” The same thing happens in childhood: A boy is encouraged for being “active,” where as a girl is rebuked for being “too rough.” Or a girl is complimented for being”gentle,” but a boy is criticized for not being “competitive enough.”

Encourages or Discourages Certain Stereotypical Gender-Identified Activities:

As a boy, were you asked to help mother with sewing, cooking, ironing, and the like? As a girl, were you made to help dad do yard work, shovel snow, takeout the trash, and so on? For most children, it’s often the reverse. Note thatthe identification of girls with indoor domestic chores and boys with outdoorchores becomes training for stereotypical gender roles (McHale et al. 1990;Blair 1992; Leaper 2002; Shellenbarger 2006).

The education system is also considered to be a major part of the gender socialisation process. The hidden curriculum is known for reinforcing the traditional model of how girls and boys look and act through the use of course material. For example, teachers reinforces gender roles by encouraging boys and girls to develop different skills. According to Thorne (1993), children also divide themselves along gender lines in the lunch room, claiming different spaces of the playground, and often sanction individuals who violate gender roles.

Mass media are one of the most powerful tools of gender socialization because television, magazines, radio, newspapers, video games, movies, and the Internet are ubiquitous in American culture. Like other social institutions, mass media reinforce traditional gender roles. Magazines targeted at girls and women emphasize the importance of physical appearance as well as finding, pleasing, and keeping a man. While boys’ and men’s magazines also focus on the importance of physical appearance, they also stress the importance of financial success, competitive hobbies, and attracting women for sexual encounters (rather than lasting relationships). These supposed ”masculine” and ”feminine” characteristics and behaviors are reinforced across the media system, from video games and movies that show athletic heroes rescuing thin and busty damsels in distress, to television programs that depict women as housewives, nurses, and secretaries and men as lawyers, doctors, and corporate tycoons. Print media also play an important role in socialization. In children’s literature, for example, boys typically are the protagonists, who use strength and intelligence to overcome an obstacle. When girls are included in stories, they are typically passive followers of the male leader or helpers eager to support the male protagonist in his plan. This state of affairs is undergoing change, however. An increasing number of television shows (Zena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, and Veronica Mars), movies(Laura Croft: Tomb Raider and Elektra), and books (Harry Potter) have crafted new visions of masculinity and femininity. It remains to beseen if these images take hold and affect gender socialization processes.

Mass media

They also learn gender roles, the behavior and activities expected of someone who is male or female. These expectations channel male and female energies in different gender- appropriate directions. As children learn to look and behave like boys or girls, most reproduce and perpetuate their society’s version of how the two sexes should be. When children fail to behave in gender-appropriate ways, their character becomes suspect (Lorber 2005)

Lorber, Judith. 2005. “Night to HisDay: The Social Construction ofGender.” In The Spirit of Sociology:A Reader, ed. R. Matson, 292-305.New York: Penguin.

At the minimum people call girls who violate the rules tomboys and boys who do so sissies.

The gender socialization process may be direct or indirect. It is indirect when children learn gender expectations by observing others’ words and behavior, such as the jokes, comments, and stories they hear about men and women or portrayals of men and women they see in magazines, books, and on television(Raag and Rackliff1998). 

Raag, Tarja, and Christine Rackliff.1998. “Preschoolers’ Awarenessof Social Expectations of Gender: Relationships to Toy Choices.”Sex Roles: A Journal of Research38(9-10): 685.

Socialization is direct when significant others intentionally convey the societal expectations to children.

Agents of Socialization

Agents of socialization are the significant people, groups, and institutions that act to shape our gender identity-whether we identify as male, female, or something in between. Agents of socialization include family, classmates, peers, teachers, religious leaders, popular culture, and mass media. Child development specialist Beverly Fagot and her colleagues (1985) observed how preschool teachers shape gender identity. Specifically, the researchers focused on how toddlers, ages 12 and 24 months, in a play group interacted and communicated with one another and how teachers responded to the children’s attempts to communicate.

Fagot, Beverly, Richard Hagan, Mary Driver Leinbach, and Sandra Kronsberg. 1985. “Differential Reactions to Assertive and Communicative Acts of Toddler Boys and Girls.” Child Development 56(6): 1499-1505.

Fagot found no differences in the interaction styles of 12-month-old boys and girls: All of the children communicated by gestures, gentle touches, whining, crying, and screaming.

The teachers, however, interacted with them in gender-specifi c ways. They were more likely to respond to girls who communicated in gentle, “feminine” ways and to boys who communicated in assertive, “masculine” ways. That is, the teachers tended to ignore girl’s assertive acts but respond to boys’ assertive acts. Thus, by the time these toddlers were two, they communicated in very different ways. Fagot’s research was conducted more than 20 years ago. A more recent study found that early childhood teachers are more accepting of girls’ cross-gender behaviors and explorations than they are of boys’. According to this research, teachers believe that boys who behave like “sissies” are at greater risk of growing up to be homosexual and psychologically ill-adjusted than are girls who behave like “tomboys.” This fi nding suggests that while American society has expanded the range of behaviors and appearances deemed acceptable for girls, it has not extended the range for boys in the same way (Cahill and Adams 1997).

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Children’s toys and celebrated images of males and females fi gure prominently in the socialization process, along with the ways in which adults treat children. Barbie dolls, for example, have been marketed since 1959 with the purpose of inspiring little girls “to think about what they wanted to be when they grew up.” The dolls are available in 67 countries. An estimated 95 percent of girls between ages 3 and 11 in the United States have Barbie dolls, which come in several different skin colors and 45 nationalities

(Mattel 2010).


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