GENDER SOCIALIZATION






A baby is born and the doctor looks at the proud parents 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 distinguished and characterized by gender. The
baby is brought home and dressed in clothes that help others 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 shirt with a football or a baseball glove on it. The baby girl may wear a
bow in her hair and have 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 doll clothes to
dress them up in. When they get a little older, the boy may play with legos and the girl
plays with a plastic tea set with which to play house with. 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 child by utilizing the socially established gender stereotypes. But where
and how did these stereotypes come from? Unfortunately, I donÕ 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 ChodorowÕs essay
ÒFamily Structure and Feminine PersonalityÓ 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 childÕs life. The father plays a limited role until
the child reaches the so called ÒOedipalÓ 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
isnÕt 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 ChodorowÕs theory, will
refuse to perform a lot of chores in an attempt to become more
masculine.GENDERÊANDÊTHEÊMEDIA 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