Gender socialization is the ways in which society sets children onto different courses in life because they are male or female. Children are born with a biological difference i.e. given by nature, but gender differences are inculcated through nurturance. It is the socialization process that lays the foundation of contrasting orientations to life that carries over from childhood into adulthood.
Children gradually internalize the social norms and expectations corresponding to their being a male or a female. As children become conscious of their self-identity, they also become gender conscious, which usually takes place when they are around 3 years in age.
Internalization of norms and expectations are highly effective, for most men and women act, think, and feel according to the guidelines laid down by their culture as appropriate for their sex. How do people learn that certain activities are “masculine” and others “feminine”, and on that basis proper for them or not? Origins of such gender differences in behavior can be traced back to socialization where individuals learn how to play various roles in accordance to their cultural prescriptions.
Gender ordering generates a variety of masculinities and femininities. Also the same gender order acts as a framework within which gender differences emerge and are reproduced or challenged.
Masculinities refer to various socially constructed collections of assumptions, expectations and ways of behaving that serve as standards for forms of male behavior. Femininities include various socially constructed collections of assumptions, expectations and ways of behaving that serve as standards for female behavior.
Masculinity and femininity are subject to change not only across cultures, but also over time.
Role of family:
The first question people usually ask about a newborn – Is it a boy or girl? In fact, gender is at work even before the birth of child, since most parents in the world hope to have a boy than a girl. Soon after birth, family members usher infants into the “pink world” of girls or the “blue world” of boys. Parents even convey gender messages unconsciously in the way they handle daughters and sons, and thereby inculcate relevant traits by sex.
Role of peer groups:
Peer groups further socialize their members in accordance with the normative conceptions of gender. Games differ by gender. Male games are usually competitive. Male peer activities reinforce masculine traits of aggression and control. Competitiveness for boys and cooperativeness for girls is the usual motto.
Role of schooling:
School curricula encourage children to embrace appropriate gender patterns. Girls: Secretarial skills, home-centered know-how. Boys: Woodworking, auto-mechanics. Colleges continue with the same pattern. Humanities for girls and hard subjects for boys. Gender images in textbooks.
Role of Mass Media:
The number of male characters is much higher than female characters. Also women are not featured in prominent roles.
Men generally play the brilliant detectives, fearless explorers, and skilled surgeons. Women by contrast, play the less capable characters, and are often important primarily, by their sexual attractiveness. Historically, ads have presented women in home, happily using cleaning products, serving food, trying out appliances, and modeling clothes. Magazine and newspapers: Pictures, activities, gestures.
Advertising perpetuates “beauty myth”. Cosmetics and diet industry target women. The concept of “Beauty” is a social construct.
Society teaches women to measure themselves in terms of physical appearance: to be beautiful for whom and to attract whom, and how? Men want to possess the beauties as objects.
Gender stratification refers to society’s unequal distribution of wealth, power, and privilege between men and women.
For many years research on stratification was ‘gender blind’ – it was written as though women did not exist, or as though, for purposes of analyzing division of power, wealth and prestige women were unimportant and uninteresting. Yet gender itself is one of the profound examples of stratification. There are no societies in which men do not, in some aspect of social life, have more wealth, status, and influence than women.
How far we can understand gender inequalities in modern times mainly in terms of class divisions? Inequalities of gender are more deep rooted historically than class systems; men have superior standing to women even in hunting and gathering societies, where there are no classes. Class divisions in modern societies are so marked that there is no doubt that they ‘overlap’ substantially with gender inequalities. The material position of most women tends to reflect that of their fathers or husbands; hence it can be argued that we have to explain gender inequalities mainly in class terms.
Determining women’s class position
The view that class inequalities largely govern gender stratification was often an unstated assumption until quite recently. The ‘conventional position’ in class analysis was that the paid work of women is relatively insignificant compared to that of men, and that therefore women can be regarded as being in the same class as their husbands. Since majority of women have traditionally been in a position of economic dependence on their husbands, it follows that their class position is most often governed by the husband’s class situation.
This position has been criticized in many ways. First, in many households the income of women is essential to maintaining the family’s economic position and mode of life. In these circumstances women’s paid employment in some part determines the class position of the family as a whole. Second, a wife’s occupation may sometimes set the standard of the family as a whole. Even if the woman earns less than her husband, her working situation may still be the ‘lead’ factor in influencing the class of her husband.
Third, where ‘cross-class’ households exist – in which the work of the husband is in a different class category from that of the wife – there may be some purposes for which it is more realistic to treat men and women, even within the same households, as being in different class positions.
Fourth, the proportion of households in which women are sole breadwinners is increasing. The growing number of lone mothers and childless workingwomen are testament to this fact. Such women are by definition the determining influence on the class position of their own households.
One suggestion is that the class position of person be determined without reference to the position of one’s household. Social class of a person may be assessed on the basis of one’s occupation. This approach ignores those women who work as housewives and many who are retired people and unemployed.