Gender Socialization


A baby is born and the doctor looks at the parents and says three simple words: It's a boy or It's a girl! Before a newborn child even takes his or her first breath of life outside the mother's womb, he or she is 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 their 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 clothes to dress them up in. Sounds pretty normal right? Why? As illustrated in the scenario above, gender socialization begins very early in life. Society has accepted such stereotype.

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 that reflects their masculinity or femininity.


During early stages of a child's life the mother is the dominant figure in the child's life. The father plays a limited role until the child reaches later part of his childhood. It is at this stage that children begin to try to separate themselves from the clutches of their mother and establish their own identity. I remember when I was in secondary school, I found out that my brother received much higher allowance as compared to me when I am at his age. I think it is unfair to me because I help my mother to do housework while my brother never contribute anything and yet he is receiving a higher allowance. Why are the girls expected to do four times as much work around the house than the boys are? I did ask my mother that question. She says that it is a women's duty to do housework and not a man's. Though I might disagree with the morality of this statement, I have to admit that it is socially accepted that household chores are feminine duties.


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 newspaper or in magazines, what we see on billboards or hear on the radio are all very significant on how we form a opinion on gender identity. Advertisers are the biggest example of this concept. Society is very fast in recognizing images seen in commercials and printed ads and viewing them as socially acceptable behavior. For example, beer companies will target the twenty to thirty year old male audience and include scantily clad women enjoying their favorite beers. Ironically, popular women's magazines also use beautiful women to promote cosmetics and beauty products. How often do you think people question the activities they see portrayed in advertising and question them as to there validity? Probably not very often. It is much easier for society to just accept the images and not bother to take the time to analyze their bias and untrue nature.


I once watched a show on television that tells a story of a human being that has no female or male sex organs. This person, known as Toby, is neither male nor female and prefers to live life in the androgynous state. Toby is the only known human being in the world like this. Since Toby was born, Toby hasn't been able to live a normal life. Throughout childhood, Toby was constantly pressured to make a decision to either become male or female. Doctors, teachers, friends and family all thought that Toby would be much happier if Toby could be classified as either a man or a woman. Toby made