Gender





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 mother’’s womb, he or she is distinguishable and characterized by gender. The baby is brought home and dressed in clothes that help friends, family, and even strangers 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 jumpsuit with a football or a baseball glove on it. The baby girl may wear a bow in her hair and 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 and doll clothing to dress them up in. Even going further, eventually the boy may play with Legos and Lincoln Logs while the girl gets a Play School oven and a plastic tea set with which to play house. Sounds pretty normal, right? The question is: why is this normal? Sociologists have developed a theory which describes the way in which individuals represent themselves to society. This theory is called the social construction of self. By self, we mean the capacity to represent oneself what one wished to communicate to others. The theory is says that the self is produced or constructed through interactions with other people over a lifetime (Kornblum, 128). When relating this theory to gender roles, people act in a certain way to give an impression to society. For example, girls wear pink to let society know that they are female. This is the gender that they wish to communicate to society because that is what is deemed to be correct. There are many agents of socialization that influence the socialization of gender. These agents include family, schools, community, peer groups and the mass media (Kornblum 136). As discussed earlier, from the moment a baby is born, their parents dress them in gender related colors and styles of clothing. This is where the family has an influence on gender roles. In school, boys usually play sports during recess while girls play on the monkey bars or sit and talk. Teachers try to preserve the societal idea of correct gender roles by emphasizing what is right for girls and for boys. As far as the community, I think that this involves the family, schools, peer groups and the media. Peer groups are also highly influential to gender socialization. If a six year old girls wants to be on the baseball team, she is considered a tom boy. This is not necessarily a negative connotation, but is considered so by the peer group. Likewise, if a boy wishes to play with dolls, he may be shunned by his peer group and teased for acting like a girl. Another aspect of everyday life that is highly influential in gender socialization is the media. What we see on television or in the movies, what we read in the papers or in magazines, what we see on billboards or hear on the radio are all very significant to how we form an opinion on gender identity. Media publishers have successfully learned to play to an audience and are extremely successful in communication with the audience they wish to reach. Advertisers are the biggest example of this concept. Society is very apt in recognizing images seen in commercials and printed ads and viewing them as socially accepted behavior. It is easier for society to accept images presented by the media and not take the time to analyze their bias and untrue nature. It is this societal ignorance that clouds the mind and allows the images to continue to influence what we believe to be socially acceptable. When society is presented with something or someone out of the ordinary which does not follow what we deem to be correct, we rebel and try to modify it to our socially acceptable standards. Imagine a baby born with no visible sex organs. Now imagine after some tests that there are no internal or external sex organs whatsoever. Is this possible? Surprisingly, it is possible. It is