Gender Roles: Gender Identity is Determined Socially Gender roles are learned mainly through social interaction instead of biologically. When we are born we have very little concept of our gender and we learn "proper" behavior through society and our relationships with others. Our gender identity is constructed through interaction with the media, our parents, and our peers at school, at work and at home. How we are raised in society reflects how we act as we grow older. Our society changes our attitudes and views on life more than our biological make-up. According to Ana Veciana-Suarez, author of "Thank Heaven for Little Boys", many traits of boys and girls are instinctive and we are born with them.
The genetics we are born with may affect our physical abilities, but children learn to act in certain ways by watching people in society. For example, when young boys watch cartoons or certain male-orientated TV programs, they are influenced to act like the characters they see on TV. The characters on these shows are shown in a more aggressive or violent manner; therefore, the children act that way. The main characters in shows like Batman or Superman are portrayed as strong athletic heroes who influence young boy's everyday actions. In shows such as these, boys are often depicted as aggressive and destructive, therefore this shows boys that they should act competitively. Even as adolescents we are influenced by TV, movies, books, and music.
For example the artist Eminem influence males to be violent, has homosexual references, and condemns women. At this young age, people are not mature enough to make their own decisions and they are easily influenced by society. People emulate what Eminem says in his lyrics about violence. For example in Columbine, the boys that killed innocent students got their ideas through certain movies and TV shows. This shows that teenagers are at a very vulnerable age and can be influence by society to act the way. Adolescents are more likely than adults to be influenced by society to act a certain way because they are easily influenced to mold to the person society projects as an ideal person.
In Veciana-Suarez argument, she claims that she raised her children equally but subconsciously she must have treated her children differently because of the way society influences parents to raise their children. When girls are young they are often given Barbies and baby dolls to play with. The girls are subjected to beautiful but fake looking toys and they become confused about what they should look like. "Since they are only given attractive, clean, and overly perfect toys they assume that they should look like their own dolls.
Research shows that by 3 years old children have already begun to learn the figurative or metaphorical meanings of gender... Children learn an underlying framework for understanding the nature of masculine and feminine that does not depend on the specific models having appeared in their environment" (Sapiro, 83) Typically, girls are less athletically-inclined than boys because of genetics. Therefore, parents often do not treat girls and boys in the same way when it comes to sports. Boys are taught to be more aggressive because it is expected that boys should be more athletic than girls. Girls also are encouraged to express their feelings and to cry openly.
Boys often have feelings such as excitement and anger that are socialized to replace "inferior, feminine" feelings such as distress and fear. (Murnen, 361) Boys are therefore influenced to never cry and to not complain, but to "tough it out", or "be a man". At a young age, children are also influenced to act a certain way by their peers. A child can get made fun of if he or she does things that are considered to be not typical of their gender.
For example, a boy can be teased by his peers if he likes to play in the kitchen or play with dolls. Society influences children only to play with certain toys that are meant for their gender. Advertisements on TV show certain toys for each gender and show only girls or boys playing with them. For example, when I was little all the girls only played house or with dolls, and the boys only played sports or with trucks. It is not socially acceptable for girls to play with boy's toys or boys to play with girl's toys.
Because of this influence of society girls and boys act the way they do. Even in adulthood, especially in the work force, adults are expected to act as society requires them to. Men are still very dominant in high position jobs, because society automatically thinks that men can handle the job more than woman would be able to. Since our society values competition and individuals being successful on their own, women's orientation towards caring for others and / or cooperatively building the community is considered (by the male dominated society) to be of lesser importance. These value differences are reflected in the gender roles established by our culture. (Crespi, 2) There are continual stereotypes projected onto women that they are not capable of what men are because that is the way the majority of people were raised to think.
Therefore, men often get "better" jobs than women and have more opportunities in the work force because of the gender stereotypes they are commonly put into action in today's society. For example, it is not considered socially acceptable often for a female to coach a men's sports team at any level. This is a huge disadvantage because the woman might be a great coach, the players miss out on gaining experience, and she does not get the opportunity to coach and do her job just because she is female. Society judges your capabilities only on what gender you are which is very unfair. Often the "better" jobs offer more money and females are at a larger disadvantage based solely on their unavoidable principle of gender. Even when people begin to date there are certain things expected by each gender because of societies influence.
Men are often expected to pay for the date, drive on the date, ask the girl out, etc. There are also certain roles that woman have to play in the dating game. Even when people get married they are assuming certain roles according to their gender. Often men go to work during the day, and women stay at home to take care of the children.
There is no biological trait that told men and woman to enforce these assumed roles in society. Society influences the couple to act in this way and they think this is what is expected of them. We are born knowing which gender we are, but through further interactions we learn how society expects us to act. There is no way that we could have learned these things through biological influences; society has a much stronger influence on the way people act according to their gender. We are born with some instinct on how to act relative to our gender, but the way we are raised by our parents, how we interact with our peers, and the influences that the media has on us is what influences our gender identity. Crespi, Isabella.
Gender Socialization within the family. web 2003/docs / pdf /papers / crespi. pdf. 2003.12 20 September 2003. Murnen, Sarah K. "Masculine Ideology and Sexual Aggression". Sex Roles a Journal of Research. Plenum: New York, 2002.361.
Sapiro, Virginia. Women in American Society: An Introduction to Women's Studies. 3rd ed. Mountain View: Mayfield, 1994.83.