Write an Essay explaining the Process of Gender Socialization in Our Society from either a Conflict or Functionalist Perspective. Highlight at least two agents of Socialization and how they Reinforce Gender roles in a Child’s Life.
Gender socialization is a concept in sociology whereby children are inducted in certain gender roles associated with the sex of the child. The young ones are trained in gender roles that reflect certain behaviors and personalities known to belong to the sexuality of the child. Functionalist holds that the society is comprised of parts each playing a specific function necessary for the harmonious existence of the society. That boys and girls are socialized in distinct ways that lead to balance and harmonious existence within the society. In a given society girls are taught different home chores with boys. While the girls are most of the time taught on how to bake and preparing other types of food boys on the other hand are taught how to clean the garden, cutting grass and ensuring the security at home is taken care of. A closer look at the type of chores done by the girls suggest that girls tend to be trained and assigned on ‘inside home’ chores like cooking while the boys tend to be trained and assigned on ‘outside home’ chores like fencing homestead compound.
Different societies socialize girls and boys differently. While in one society girls aren’t taught how to build a family house others actually have girls as the ones responsible for building the house for the family. The Maasai of Kenya are known to train their girls how to build a Maasai house for the family. In other societies Men or boys are socialized to take up the responsibility of building a house for the family as this is considered manual work which requires a lot of energy.
Some careers tend to be a preserve of one gender as a result of gender socialization. Example is nursing. In a given society when a girl says she wants to study nursing many people men and women alike will encourage her to pursue her dreams. Why? Because nursing is considered feminine as it requires a lot of care, patients and gentleness associated with girls. But when a Boy wants to study nursing it can be almost laughable. Majority part of the society will likely discourage him about pursuing his dreams and will likely ask him to reconsider his thoughts on that particular kind of profession. In the functionalist view since every aspect in the society have its own unique functions and roles the boy who wants to become a nurse will not play those specific functions of being a nurse in the society well for the harmony in the society to prevail. I.e. it will lead to dysfunction in the society. This goes a long way in showing how the society is largely gendered in many aspects. (The Role Of School In Gender Socialization, 2016)
We have two major agents of gender socialization that is family and schoolFamily as an agent of gender socialization in the society
When the child is born he/she is indifferent to the existence of certain characteristics associated with his or her sexuality. Family being the primary agent of gender socialization begins to induct the kid based sexuality. (Ritzer and Stepnisky2013) The girls tend to be trained on being future home maker while the boy is trained to become future bread winner. A good example in this case is when most parents especially mothers teaching their daughters how to prepare food. This aspect is important because it prepares the daughter for the possible role of a future mother. The boys on the other hand are encouraged mostly by the fathers on how to be able to provide for their possible future families. The message they convey is that future mothers need to know how they can prepare food for their likely future young ones and boys need to know they have a future responsibility of providing for their possible future families. These two examples contribute to gender socialization by way of preparing both boys and girls for the perceived future roles. (Redzic, 2014)
When parents decorate their children rooms they further ingrain the gender socialization through the decoration. You’ll find that girls bedrooms for example containing pictures and toys of young children. Boy’s bedroom on the other hand is full of combat pictures car toys and such like items. It is very rear that you’ll find girls room full of car toys and combat pictures the same applies to boys rooms they hardly contain any child toys. These two cases are important in that natures each sex group into future roles that they are likely to face. They contribute to gender socialization by having two distinct roles assigned to the common sex types. The message they convey is that as girls she needs to ensure that when she becomes a mother in future she can be able to take care of the welfare of her child/children. The boy on the hand is informed on his possible future role of providing and securing his family safety.
All these stereotypes that parents consciously or unconsciously teach their children engrain gender socialization.
Education is the secondary agent of socialization. When children reach school going age the primary agent of socialization is joined by another agent of gender socialization which education. What the children learn while at home is sometimes normalized by education. (Chafetz2006). A good example on this is when you find text books and school materials containing gendered information. A text for example of formative classes containing picture of a mother carrying a child, a female nurse attending to patients, a male driver driving a cargo truck or a male welder working on a window pen. These cases in one way or another ingrains gender socialization in a school set up. When the teacher explains to the students about the pictures she/he will further socialize the students along those lines. A picture of mother carrying a baby is important as it teaches the young girls to be responsible future parents. These contribute to gender socialization by consciously or unconsciously placing roles along the gender lines.
Additionally, it serves the latent purpose of ensuring that the existing gender norms are not questioned and these are validated through education. When a child from a home whose girls room is full of child toys and pictures of young children find the same pictures in her school text book and the teachers talk about them as they explain a concept it normalizes what she has seen at home. It validates the gendered themes that the girl-child or a boy-child for that matter has seen at home. It makes them look like unquestionable gendered roles because everyone right from home to school is of the similar idea.
Peer to peer influence in critical in furthering the gender socialization as appropriate social behavior and gender identity tends to develop through these interactions (Harlambos and Holborn 2008). When children meet in school from different background they are likely to share about how their rooms at home look like which toys they have at home and such like points of talk. Usually the girls share their stories with other girls while also the boys do the same. That’s already along gender lines. They will definitely share about how their mothers taught them how to bake a certain type of cake for girls and boys how to drive a car. The peer to peer influences is important to gender socialization as the peers learn from one another by sharing their individual experiences.
In conclusion for a society to experience balance functionalist hold that there has to be different and distinct roles played by boys and girls so that the society can exist without any dysfunction. The two major agents of socialization that is family and school provide avenues at which children are differently taught to perform these specific roles for harmonious existence of the society.
Chafetz, J.S 2006, Handbook of the sociology of gender,New edn, Springer-Verlag, New York Inc, USA.
Crespi,I 2014. Gender socialization within the family: a study on adolescent and their parents in Great Britain, viewed 14 March 2017,<https://www.mariecurie.org/annals/volume3/crespi.pdf>Harlambos, M. and Holborn, M 2008,Sociology Themes and Perspectives (Haralambos and Holborn),7thedn, Collins Education, London, UK
Redzic, S. (2014). Gender socialization and sex affilation. Zbornik radova Filozofskog fakulteta u Pristini, 44(2), pp.193-217.
Ritzer, G and Stepnisky, J 2013, Sociology themes and perspectives, 9thedn, McGraw Hill Publication, New York, USA
The Role Of School In Gender Socialization. (2016). European Journal of Educational Sciences, 3(1).
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