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Transcript of Gender Socialization
“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman…; it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature…which is described as feminine.” –Simone de Beauvoir, 1952
The processes through which we learn the gender norms of our culture and acquire a sense of ourselves as feminine, masculine, or androgynous--or any combination thereof.
How does our culture transmit lessons about gender-appropriate behavior, thoughts, desires, and aspirations?
Boy or Girl?!?
Eliot, a neurologist, examines much of the data showing subtle differences in boy-girl sensory processing, memory and language circuits, brain functioning, and neural speed and efficiency.
She concludes most convincingly that the brain is marvelously plastic and can remodel itself continually to new experiences...
meaning that the child comes into the world with its genetic makeup, but actually growing a boy from those XY cells or a girl from XX cells -- or cells that may be ambiguous -- requires constant interaction with the environment.
Pink or Blue?
What are the processes through which we learn the gender norms of our culture and acquire a sense of ourselves as feminine, masculine?
And what happens if we don't subscribe to binary gender norms?
What if we identify as transgender, gender queer or androgynous?
(cc) image by nuonsolarteam on Flickr
If you've bought a baby gift lately,
you know it's nearly impossible to find something that is not blue or pink...or otherwise gendered to clearly scream "boy" or "girl"!
Gender policing starts early...
While traditionally male-dominated professions such as business, law, and medicine are seeing many more women enter, female-dominated professions such as education, nursing, and social work are not seeing a similar influx of men.
Even though women are entering male-dominated professions, they are often choosing lower-paid and less "powerful" paths.
In the sciences, women account for a majority of graduates in psychology and the biological sciences, but trail in engineering and computer science, around 18% of both majors.
The gender gap among college majors once dominated by men is narrowing, and younger generations of women account for half of science, law, and business graduates.
In the United States, 88% of elementary school teachers are women. The majority of the men teaching in elementary schools are clustered in grades 4 through 6, with less than 3% teaching kindergarten through third grade (National Education Assoc 2006).
Research has shown that men who entered the early education field quickly advanced into positions within the organization that carry more pay and power (Williams 1992). More recent studies show that men enter teacher education with the expectation of moving up to administrative positions or coaching positons--and they do so at rates far faster than their female counterparts (Brown 2008).
Male teachers do not envision themselves as classroom teachers throughout their professional careers
And the same is true for nursing...
Male nurses advance, acquiring top positions, more quickly than their female counterparts (Abrahamson 2002)
Nature or Nurture?
Why are there so few
men who are nurses?
How does something as simple as toys set up for future gender stereotyping?
Disney and masculinity
What are some examples of how we "perform" gender?
What happens when gender norms are transgressed?
In a gender-binary world, a world that is set up based on two distinct genders, if one is perceived to be outside the binary (whether that person actually identifies outside that binary or not), the possibility of gender oppression exists.
Pronouns are hard. We don't have any great ones that move beyond the gender binary.
So, I want to challenge you to grapple with the notion that the whole idea of biological maleness and femaleness as a fixed foundation upon which gender is imposed...the idea most us have been programmed to believe our entire lives...is ultimately a social construction.
In other words, it is impossible to speak of a fixed biological sex category outside of the sense culture makes of that category.
So, if that's true -- the idea that biology is socially constructed, what are the forces that shape gender and how we experience and shape gender?