Gender socialization - Sociology

Gender Socialization

Education of girls and boys to perform prescribed male and female roles, i.e. gender socialization , covers the entire life of a person, with varying degrees of activity manifested in the beginning, middle and end of the life cycle. It is advisable to consider this phenomenon on two levels: onto - and phylogenetic, which cover the entire human race and each individual person. As well as general, gender socialization has two forms: primary, performed in the family, relatives and peers, and secondary, performed by representatives of formal institutions, in particular teachers. Primary socialization lays the foundations for identification with the sex. Boys play military games, and girls play dolls. Boys are taught to be brave, strong, business, girls - soft, economic, caring. This is the normal way of socialization worked out for thousands of years. It becomes abnormal when boys are taught feminine qualities, and girls are masculine.

Agents of primary socialization, first of all parents, play an unequal role at different stages of gender socialization. As a rule, men prefer to interact with a grown up child, while the role of women is especially strong in infancy. It is the father who teaches the child the most important labor skills: the ability to carpentry, plumbing, hunting skills, farming and fishing. Usually, fathers do not directly care for the newborn, active contact begins when the child turns 1.5 years or more. If the mother's parental love has a biological predisposition, then her father appears with time, in the process of socializing the child.

Throughout the history of mankind, the father as an agent of socialization performed the following roles:

- the breadwinner, i.e. guarantor of the material well-being of the family;

- Discipline;

- the companion;

- domineering figure (power personifier);

- Teacher;

- the standard of behavior.

Children need gender markers , indicating who to play with or to be friends with, why boys and girls are different and what they should not do. Answers to these and similar questions allow to form gender stereotypes - generalized ideas about how men and women really behave.

The key concepts in the theory of gender socialization are:

gender identification - identifying yourself with someone or something, in this case - with a representative of your biological sex;

gender identity - the basic structure of social identity that characterizes a person in terms of his belonging to a particular gender. This is a broader concept than sex role identity, because gender includes not only the role aspect, but also, for example, the image of the person as a whole (from the hairstyle to the features of the toilet).

The terms identity and identification differ in that the former designates the structure and the second the process. Gender identity determines the extent to which each individual identifies himself as a man, a woman, or some combination of the two. Studies show that it is never a complete product of socialization, but, like socialization itself, it is constantly developing. Throughout life, it is filled with different content depending on social and cultural changes, as well as on the individual's own activity. Gender identity determines how an individual experiences his or her gender. It is not given to an individual automatically, at birth, but is produced as a result of the complex interaction of his natural instincts and the corresponding socialization (IS Kon);

gender reward - boys and girls are encouraged when they behave in accordance with their sociocultural role, and are punished when they deviate from it;

gender ideals - they represent a set of ideas about male and female behavior


Creation of gender ideals, but not in their chivalrous, Renaissance or fantastically romantic, and in the modern cultural form is promoted by the media and advertising. They impose on the majority of people certain stereotypical ideals - an idealized advertisement of the idea of ​​the purpose, behavior, feelings of men and women. Advertising imposes an image of the southern, slender, miniature, hairless body, with "weak muscles" Female figure, whose forms are round and smoothly flowing, and the skin is soft and smooth. This body should not testify to either strength, or power, or independence and courage, that is, on power authority;

gender heroization - parents describe only the positive aspects of the sex of the child, trying to awaken in them the desire to follow the ideals. For example, boys are told about what a real man should be: a knight, a gentleman, a defender, etc.

gender imitation - parents and relatives try to show by personal example what real women and real men should be;

gender group pressure - a group of peers puts pressure on those who do not behave according to the "rules" of your gender.

The child's awareness of his gender role/identity includes:

• On the one hand, sex-role

Orientation - the child's representation of how much his or her quality meets the expectations and requirements of a male or female role;

• On the other hand, gender preferences -

what role/identity the child prefers.

The gender aspect of socialization also includes sex education : inoculating boys with masculine, and girls with feminine traits.

One of the important elements in the process of socialization is the so-called social comparison with others, during which the development and maintenance of their identity. For example, boys and girls learn the appropriate sex roles and gradually become masculine and feminine adults.

American psychologists Elinor McCoby and Carol Jacklin list several possible options for explaining how gender socialization is carried out.

1. Parents treat different-sexed children in such a way as to adapt their behavior to the normative expectations accepted in society. Boys are encouraged for energy and competition, girls - for obedience and diligence. Behavior that does not meet the gender expectations, in both cases leads to negative sanctions.

2. Because of the inherent gender differences that are manifested already in early childhood, boys and girls differently "stimulate" their parents and thereby achieve different attitudes. In addition, as a result of the same congenital differences, the same parental behavior can cause a different reaction in boys and girls. In other words, the child "forms" parents are even more than they educate him, and the real style of education is formed in the course of their concrete interaction, and the child's requirements, and the effectiveness of the parental impact are initially different for both sexes.

3. Parents treat the child based on their ideas about what a child of this gender should be. Adaptation of the child to the normative representations of parents can occur in different ways:

• Parents tend to teach the child to overcome what they consider to be his natural weaknesses. For example, if parents think that boys are inherently more aggressive than girls, they can spend more effort to control or counteract the aggressive behavior of their sons, and daughters, on the contrary, help overcome the alleged natural shyness;

• Parents consider behavior, natural for a given sex, inevitable and do not try to change it, so boys get away with pranks for which girls are punished;

• Parents perceive the behavior of boys and girls differently, noticing and reacting primarily to such acts of the child that they find unusual for their sex (for example, if the boy is timid and the girl is aggressive).

4. Parental attitude to the child to some extent depends on whether the sex of the child coincides with the sex of the parent. There are three possible options:

a) Each parent wants to be a model for the child of his/her gender. He is especially interested in teaching the child the secrets and "magic" own sex. That's why fathers pay more attention to sons, and mothers to daughters;

b) Each parent shows in communication with the child certain traits that he is accustomed to show in relation to adults of the same sex as the child. For example, a relationship with a child of the opposite sex may contain an element of coquetry and flirting, and with a child of his own sex, elements of rivalry. The habitual stereotypes of domination-subordination are also often carried over to children. A woman who is accustomed to feel dependent on her husband and, in general, from adult men, will show such an attitude rather to her son than to her daughter. This is especially true in relations with older children;

c) Parents identify themselves more strongly with their children than the opposite sex. In this case, the parent notices more similarities between himself and the child and is more sensitive to his emotional states. This largely depends on the parent's self-awareness.

The circumstances of gender socialization, the circle of agents of upbringing, the nature, styles and strategy of socialization are determined by a specific social environment. In the process of upbringing, the family (in the person of parents and relatives), the education system (in the person of teachers of children's institutions and teachers), culture as a whole (through books and mass media) introduce gender norms into the children's consciousness, form certain rules of behavior and create ideas about whoever is real man and what should be the "real woman". Subsequently, these gender norms are supported through various social (eg, law) and cultural mechanisms (for example, stereotypes imposed by the media). By incorporating gender-related expectations in their actions, individuals support gender differences in society.

Primary gender socialization begins with the birth of the child and ends with the coming of age (18 years). The awareness of their gender is formed in the child already by a year and a half. The two-year-old knows his gender, but still can not justify this attribution. In three or four years the child distinguishes the sex of the surrounding people, but often associates it with purely external signs (for example, with clothes) and allows for a fundamental reversibility, the possibility of changing the sex. In six to seven years the child is finally aware of the irreversibility of sex. At seven or ten years he already knows the basic rules of decency, and his behavior is qualitatively different from the behavior of a child of three to five years of age. Interest in sexual life does not disappear, but only changes. In the 14-17 years of the problem of gender socialization and sexual education become the theme of school life. In this period, and sometimes at an earlier age, adolescents experience the first love. The theme of school disputes are questions about how to distinguish love from passion; whether it is possible to love simultaneously three, etc.

Observations show that fathers, in comparison with mothers, exert stronger pressure on children, making them behave according to their sex. Teaching sons, fathers set higher standards for them, paid attention to them on the cognitive elements of tasks and gave more importance to achievements. Teaching daughters, fathers paid more attention to interpersonal aspects of the learning situation: encouragement, support, jokes, games and protection. In general, mothers and fathers with sons act more instrumental, task-oriented and emphasize their superiority in ways, and with daughters - more expressive, less demand-oriented, reinforcing dependencies in ways.

Mothers of girls more often than mothers of boys, assist the child in solving problems, even if their help is not required. Mothers respond to requests for help emanating from girls with more positive emotions than requests from boys, and offer girls faster physical comfort after experiences that caused frustration. Parents, apparently, not only do not give due importance to the independent achievements of their daughters, but, perhaps, also devalue their efforts to achieve.

School yards tend to promote sexual segregation, since boys and girls prefer different types of activity; and duties in the classroom are usually distributed on a sex basis. Games in which boys and girls prefer to play on the playground are also gender-differentiated and have a different form of organization.

Thus, the unequal treatment of children is traced at all levels of the education system: from admission to kindergarten and to the end of college.

In school teachers continue the family's efforts to form a different type of behavior for girls and boys. It is noticed that shouting from the place, minor violations of discipline, committed by girls, cause active rejection of teachers, while boys do the same actions with hands. On the part of teachers and parents, girls are under intense pressure to force them to obey unconditionally all possible norms, rules and traditions. Deviations from the norms of boys are tolerated, thereby stimulating their research activity and imposing a ban on it for girls. Teachers pay more attention to the boys in the class, primarily answer their questions, and classmates do not encourage questions. Young people are more focused on achievements, overcoming difficulties, on a higher level of aspiration. The boy is encouraged to be the first - the smartest, the strongest, the most pugnacious. The number and quality of attention paid by teachers to girls makes them understand that they are on secondaries, that there are more important people in the class. Teachers who know gifted students well, evaluate them more negatively than teachers who do not work with them all the time. The opposite tendency is characteristic of the situation with gifted boys. Prejudiced attitudes toward gifted students continue at the level of university education.

In our society the girl's mother plays a more significant role in her life than the father or other men in the life of the boy. The girl learns what it means to be like a woman in the context of personal identification with herself and her mother other women.

An important role in the gender socialization of boys is played by a peer group . The generalization of ethnographic data on 186 traditional societies, made by Alice Schlegel and Herbert Barry, showed that in the life of boys a group of same-sex peers play a more significant role than in the life of girls. Boys are separated earlier from both the parent family and the adult men's society and have more non-family responsibilities. The boyish groups are distinguished by high intra-group and inter-group competitiveness, have a pronounced hierarchical structure and discipline. In addition, the girls' groups usually function on the basis of the norms and rules adopted in the society, while the youth groups often conflict with them; The boys have a much higher level of deviant behavior, and adults consider this to be normal. With surprising perseverance, informal same-sex groups are recreated by the boys themselves both at school and outside it, thus indicating the vital necessity of such agents of socialization. Even when parents forbid boys to communicate with "bad guys", they reach out to them with even greater force. The upbringing of girls, as was repeatedly noted by the researchers, has always been primarily domestic. Communication with friends does not at all resemble the interaction of boys in street hangouts and courtyard teams.

In the late 1980s - early 1990s. formed the theory of gender subcultures , from the perspective of which the socialization processes were rethought. The gender socialization of the individual was seen as the appropriation of a certain subculture, which is characterized by special speech practices, different in the male and female environment. In childhood and adolescence, people revolve primarily in same-sex groups, forming subcultures and assimilating their own etiquette, which in adulthood leads to misunderstanding and verbal conflicts that equate to intercultural conflicts.

Between the sexes in the process of socialization, adults are laid clearly outlined, or, as in some societies, rigidly tabooed gender boundaries but the principle "boys should not play girls' games or be like them." The complaining boy is teased with a "sneak", indicating that such behavior is inherent only in girls. At the same time, the feminine boy causes in adults and other children much more anxiety and rejection than a man-like girl. 2 to 5% of children are affected by gender identity disorders, but boys are given a doctor several times more often than girls. In particular, social practices such as the extermination of all manifestations of feminine behavior by boys' companies are aimed at strengthening gender boundaries. In boyish companies, "veal tenderness are forbidden, only rough jerks and power fuss are allowed both in communication with each other and with girls.

Loyalty to your group is the most important moral value of boys and boys. Although coeducational education, which prevails today in most countries, has many indisputable advantages from the point of view of education of gender equality and alleviation of boyish aggressiveness, it is doubtful in some educators. It is in same-sex groups of peers that men develop that specific code of honor that they look back to, sometimes adjusting it, in later life.

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