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"He throws like a girl!" This insult is heard all too often and is harsh to boys because of the perception of girls being weak. We are constantly bombarded with moments emphasizing gender in everyday situations. After training myself to see these differences my eyes have been opened to something I have previously believed "natural" and allowed a new perspective to push through. I see attitudes and behavior now as socially constructed and not usually inherent. In R. W. Connel\'s book Gender, he defines gender as "the structure of social relationship that centers on the reproductive arena, and the set of practices that bring reproductive distinctions between bodies into social processes" (pg 10). I have found that gender is an institution, a pattern that has attained a social state. Gender is unique in that it is meshed with many other institutions, thus changing gender, it would mean changing much of society. I chose to focus my paper on the different institutions gender is a part of, in education throughout development, relationships, religion, and politics. Although I have only touched the surface, I believe that gender is an institution; an order or pattern that has attained a social state or property.
Education is a potent institution used to reinforce gender differences. In our reading we found that children are much more likely to separate themselves at school in gender categories than in their neighborhoods. As Barrie Thorne points out in her book Gender Play, "Apart from age, of all the social categories of the students, gender was the most formally, and informally, highlighted in the course of each school day" (pg 34). I feel that many experiences in elementary school have reinforced my gender outlook. I spent much of my time in elementary school racing the boys and biting my nails to show I wasn\'t scared to "break a nail" and never wearing a dress. Recess was a fight for me half the time. I didn\'t like the connotation of being called a "girl." Now I realize that I was trying to oppose the gender role I was expected to perform, yet eventually I grew out of that "phase" of fighting against the norm and joined the ranks of the girls. I moved from the field, to the bars and jump rope. I see now that the change I went through was just giving in to the reinforcement around me to be feminine. Instead of fighting against the grain, I chose the easy road by conforming to the norms required for proper girlhood.
The second thing I learned from elementary schoolers is that they are vital to passing on societies expected gender roles. Connell explains, "These laws are a part of an enormous social effort to channel people\'s behavior" (pg 4). When I am around children multiple times gender law has been addressed, "girls don\'t play with Lego\'s." There was also a little boy who felt he did something wrong when he quietly admitted to me that this favorite color was purple. The rules that society has set up are very apparent and are heavily policed during childhood.
The third thing I gleaned from this experience is how adults played a role. My parents thought it was cute that I was a "Tom Boy." My little brother (who grew up with five sisters) was caught playing with Barbie\'s on a few occasions, and my parents became nervous about the situation and quickly exchanged his Malibu Barbie for a GI Joe. It\'s more socially accepted for women to cross over to the male side however, it is inappropriate for men to do the same. The idea of what is right and wrong is strongly reinforced by adults.
In middle and high school my femininity was defined. I wanted to be a girl more than ever. In the article Gender and New Institutionalism Katherine Graham states in her personal history a universal situation. A large struggle during adolescence is to figure out how to be appealing to boys (pg 14). We both discovered that we needed to be fake in order to be attractive. I had my first boyfriend and the entire relationship was pre-scripted. It was like everyone else\'s middle school relationship. The boy called first, he asked
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Gender studies, Gender, Intersex, Social constructionism, Sociology of gender, Social construction of gender, Gender neutrality in genderless languages
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