Gender Socialization: Is Family Or Society More To Blame?

809 words - 4 pages

Gender may be a universal concept, but the meaning of gender differs between societies. The way humans behave, speak, experience, think, and view the world is the final product of socialization. From the moment the sex of a fetus is known, humans are being molded into the person society wants them to be. Different parts of society have different functions in the gender-socialization process. The familial relationships and interactions one has with their immediate surroundings—peers, school, religion, and neighborhood—are the most influential aspects of gender development. Loosely connected societal influences like mass media, politics, and culture are influential as well. Throughout childhood, one’s family and interactions with their immediate surroundings teach and reinforce gender, while the rest of society acts as a reinforcer. During adolescence, the broader society begins to take on a minor instructor role in relation to the family in the further development of gender. Essentially, family always acts as the main gender instructor and reinforcer, while society acts as the secondary gender instructor and reinforcer.
What is gender? Gender is present everywhere in society. However, people do not consciously choose to do gender. Gender is intentionally and unintentionally taught and reinforced by family and society similar to how language is learned. Gender is not innate, but it is universally recognized, which is why people think that gender is a natural, essential, and biological behavior. Associated with gender are gender roles and gender characteristics that each gender is expected to perform in order to be considered normal in the eyes of society, who function as the reinforcing gender police. If a behavior that all humans do across cultures is not natural, biological, or essential to life, then why do they continue to do it? This question can be applied to almost any recurring behavior humans performed in the past that are perpetuated in modern society, such as speaking a language, thinking, perceiving, and cleaning oneself. Similar to how humans acquire language early during development, humans learn gender, which is “the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex” (Merriam-Webster, 2014). Doing gender is creating differences between sexes that are not natural, biological, or essential (West & Zimmerman, 1987). The most common way to do gender is to have a dichotomy: male and female. This makes the most sense because men and women, the two sexes, are associated with masculine and feminine traits, respectively. Men are...

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