How social identity is shaped by gender

How social identity is shaped by gender

Sham Aziza Examine the ways in which sociologists can contribute to our understanding of how social identity is shaped by gender. The term identity refers to who we are; this is made up of how we see ourselves and how others see us. Gender is the term which describes the cultural expectations attached to a person’s sex. Social identity is based on one’s membership to particular groups in society. This essay will examine the way in which sociologists contribute to our understanding by providing theories and ideas of how social identity is shaped by gender.

Ann Oakley, a feminist sociologist suggested that there are four ways in which gender colonization takes place during primary colonization. These are manipulation, conciliation, verbal appellations, and different activities. Manipulation is when parents encourage behavior that is seen as normal for the child’s sex and discourage the behavior associated with the opposite sex. For example, mothers may encourage girls to pay more attention to their appearance than boys. Conciliation is when children are ‘channeled’ by their parents towards soy and activities seen as appropriate for their sex.

For instance, girls may be given toys such as dolls and miniature kitchen that encourage an interest in being a mother and doing housework. Of course, boys may get these toys as well, but they are more likely to have ‘boy toys’ like trains and cars and so on. Verbal appellations are the ways parents talk to children, this tells them how important at an early age gender is. Examples of such are when they are referred to as, ‘good girl’, ‘naughty boy’ or ‘my brave soldier’. Also, boys and arils are encouraged to get involved in different activities.

Girls are expected to help their mother indoors while boys get greater freedom to roam and play outdoors. Also, children tend to observe gender differences inside the household, such as the mother usually doing most of the housework and cooking whereas the father tends to fulfill the more ‘masculine’ roles such as lifting heavy objects around the house. Consequently, it is shown that children have already picked up gender stereotypes by the time they start school from home, the mass media and peer groups.

Sociologist, Skeleton suggests that gender stereotyped attitudes are reinforced by children’s experiences in school. Her study of Bentwood Primary school supports this theory. For instance, at school assembly the male teachers were the ones who were instructed by the head teacher to move equipment or lead the singing. Also when teachers were unable to recall students names they would refer to boys as ‘you’ or ‘that boy’ whereas they addressed girls as ‘darling’ or ‘sweetheart’.

This could contribute to the children obtaining stereotypical ender attitudes by observing their teachers behavior and lead to them protesting when they see other children behaving out of ‘character. Feminist, Connell claims that boys are often socializes into a type of masculinity which emphasizes toughness, competition, hierarchy and violence. This style of masculinity was labeled as hegemonic (dominant). She also suggests that young men quickly learn to suppress any ‘girl’ signs of sensitiveness, kindness and vulnerability due to the great pressure they are put under to present themselves as strong and independent.

On the other hand, Sue Lees carried out a study of female teenagers in London schools where she established that girls tend to express their feminine identity through their appearance. She found that the girls put great emphasis on looking ‘right’. According to Lees, this is a something girls are forced into in order to prove that they are ‘good girls’ rather than ‘slag’s’. Lee claims that girls are persuaded that their appearance is essential to their identity. They are taught that their body should be disciplined and controlled and that they should behave modestly.

For example, girls should sit with their legs firmly together as opposed to spread out. Many feminists argue that gender divisions in society contribute to the disadvantage of women. This is because they claim that the procedure of gender solicitation usually reinforce the traditional gender roles which encourage and justify male dominance. Overall, it is evident that most societies encourage gender differences through the process of solicitation and help construct ones social identity. Although, both boys and girls take an active role in creating their particular identities.

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