The Issue of Gender Socialization: Literature Review

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Devor, Messner, Kimmel, Renzetti and Curran all argue that gender is a socially constructed, learned “performance” of behavior. In tandem, they reinforce the idea that society lends significance to our biological sex differences. In Aaron Devor’s essay, he explains how one must immediately create a sense of self or “gender identity” in order to be a properly gendered member within society. He also explains how learning how to “behave correctly” according to your gender grouping is a lifelong process. Throughout one’s life society either rewards us or punishes us for the way we behave, depending on whether or not it tolerated within our grouping.

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In Messner’s essay, he explores the circumstances under which gender boundaries become enforced. Messner attempts to illustrate the gender boundaries within an extremely popular sport, soccer. The team colors, team names, and separation of the boys and the girls, collectively create a contrast between the two genders. The juxtaposition of the teams suggest that the boys have an entitlement to power because of their prime colors and “power names”, while suggesting that girls are soft, sweet and weak. When the girls displayed their empowering Barbie doll at the opening ceremony, the boys superiority felt threatened and they fought back intending to reassert their dominance over the girls. Initially, the parents allow the “boys to be boys” but eventually intervene and take the boys home. This incident illustrates society’s “norms” for gender behaviors.

Kimmel’s “From Manhood in America”, addresses the reassertion of masculine privilege precipitated by an uncertainty in men. This uncertainty creates an anxiety because men are unsure of their masculine identities. Society has portrayed the male’s role as the provider in the family and now that women are becoming their own providers men question what their role will then me without a woman depending on them.

Lastly, Renzetti and Curran’s essay, “From Women, Men and Society” discusses how both clothing and toys play major roles in gender socialization. It also describes how young boys and girls from white, middle-aged, two-parent homes are segregated into unequal social genders. Based on the conclusion on the summaries, it is insistent on culture being the most significant determinant of gender inferring that biology does not pertain to this matter.

Society insists that masculine/feminine is the product of natural biology because it is gender differences that are mostly associated with differences in socialization as opposed to biological distinctions. This is illustrated throughout Renzetti and Curran’s essay when they discuss the difficulty of determining whether a baby is a boy or a girl due to the lack of physical cues. However, clothing provides a general clue for labeling the sex of the baby. Therefore, parents often use clothing and accessories to avoid confusion of their baby’s gender. For example, boys are primarily dressed in more “bold” colors such as red and blue. Their overalls are usually are often covered in trucks or sporting equipment such as baseballs, basketballs and softballs. Girls are predominately dressed in more delicate, soft, pastel colors such as baby pink or light yellow. Here we have an example of gender color association and stereotypes, which is primarily societal rather than biological. Gender role behaviors are huge factors of gender socialization. In American society it is crucial to understand the expected behavior and traits of your gender grouping.

Devor’s essay analyzes all of the expected characteristics and behaviors of masculinity and femininity such as dominance and aggression for males and passivity and submission for females. “Persons who perform the activities considered appropriate for another gender will be expected to perform them poorly”. Here we have yet another gender socialization rather than biological. Football is an example of American pop culture that further supports my position on culture versus biology. Football is viewed as an extremely aggressive sport. The speed and power men submit in the American game are qualities that society tends to believe woman lack. In addition, there isn’t any woman in the NFL (National Football League). This is primarily because most women aren’t big, strong, or fast enough to play the incredibly aggressive game. Studies show that football is the most dangerous sport for the brain. There were 281 concussions reported in 2018, some of these weren’t even acquired during the season; practices required just as much aggressiveness.

Along with the gender socialization displayed in American football, sexual objectification plays a substantial role in as well. Other than the mother’s, wives and daughters in the crowd, you don’t see many women at football games. However if you do, their most likely on the side of the field wearing short shorts and showing a lot of skin. Women are used as objects for men to look at in general but especially on the field.

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