Monday, February 13, 2017

Gender; A Taken-for-granted example of socialization

As you enter, answer this question in as many ways as you can (brainstorm):

How would your life be different if you were born a different sex?

     Gender is one of the social constructs we learn from an early age and we often take it for granted. Nearly everyone is born biologically with a sex (that is male or female) and a sexuality (that is a sexual attraction such as heterosexual or homosexual). Most researchers who study people such as doctors, biologists, psychologists, sociologists will say that all of the research shows that people are born with their sex and sexuality. These are part of our biological makeup, our nature.

      However, gender is learned. Gender is how you react to your sex and sexuality. Think about how you answered that question at the top of this post.  Most of the ways your life would have been different are examples of treating people different based on their sex (and sexuality).  This constructs a certain way of being.  So, for example, if I am a heterosexual male, how should I act? What colors should I like?  What clothes should I wear?  How should I talk?   What sports should I play?  Is it okay for me to cry?  To be rough?  To like violence?   To be sensitive? And so on...These are all our gender and they are all learned reactions. 

Sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity is all fluid on a continuum:
                                                                                    1       2      3       4       5      6      7      8      9          
Sex (biological; physical body, chemical makeup) Male                      intersex                        Female
Sexual Orientation (attraction)                              Hetero                   Bisexual               Lesbian or Gay
Gender (expectations about how to act)              Masculine          Neutral/Queer/Fluid         Feminine 
Gender Identity
Here is a terrific program about gender from National Geographic.


However, our culture boxes people in to two very narrow ways of being.  It doesn't allow for any expression of sex, sexuality, or gender along the continuum.

Look at the handout called "Socialization of Gender Roles."

Take a moment to think about where you have heard the various phrases on your handout.

Traditional Masculine Traits                                                  Traditional Feminine traits
Independent                                                                               Dependent
Intelligent                                                                                  Unintelligent/spacey
Capable                                                                                     Needy
Assertive                                                                                   Passive
Rational                                                                                    Emotional
Competititve                                                                             Cooperative
Insensitive                                                                                 Perceptive
Ambitious                                                                                 Weak
Brave                                                                                         Timid
Attractive from achievement                                                     Attractive from appearance

Gender notions have changed over time which also highlights the social construct of gender. Checkout this post, called "The Manly Origins of Cheerleading" that shows how gender is a construct and because of that, our perception of gender changes over time.

All of the agents of socialization help to construct gender:

            -begin treating the infant differently from birth, inc. pink and blue.
            - 6 month-olds treated differently; boys=independent & active, girls=dependent & passive
            - by 13 months, each gender acts differently.

peers: see the book from Patricia and Peter Adler on preadolescent peer pressure.
            Girls and boys learn what it means to be a man or woman from friends.
            - Ex. Patricia and Peter Adler; values for popularity as early as 4th grade
                      - in boys; athletics, coolness and toughness, grades=lower popularity.
                      - in girls; family background, physical appearance (esp. clothing and makeup) and ability to attract popular boys, grades=higher popularity.          

school  See this postHere is a post from sociological images that shows Barbie helps to  reinforce lessons learned from teachers.

This post from the Freakonomics blog shows research that high school teachers attitudes about girls and math affects how they grde and teach them.

  -differences in toys; boys=action figures & weapons, girls=jewelry & dolls
           See this essay
See this post from the Society Pages, or this page from the feministgal blog, and this redundant post from the Society Pages And see this post about other products that are pointlessly gendered thus reifying the idea of traditonal gender traits.  And, this post about Barbie shows how the doll creates unrealistic expectations for the female body.

And here is Ellen making fun of Bic pens for women.


For further interest, here is an older test that will rate you on the traditional continuum.  The test is outdated as a useful tool now but it was called The Bem Sex Role Inventory when it was developed in 1971 by Dr. Sandra Lipsitz Bem.  It characterizes your personality as masculine, feminine, androgynous, or undifferentiated. The BSRI is based on gender stereotypes, so what it's actually measuring is how well you fit into your traditional sex role. Thus, your score may say as much about how our cultural expectations have changed over the last 35 years as it does about your personality. What I like about it is that it reveals that gender is a spectrum.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. Since culture and gender roles are so ingrained within society, it's difficult to differentiate between behavior that's biological or assigned by culture.