Back to: Gender, School and Society- Unit 1
Gender is one of the most common ways of organizing the social life of human beings. Parents assume boys and girls to be different ever since infancy. In the 1970s, the feminists viewed can the notion of gender as a ‘construct’. Hence, Gender can be regarded as a socially constructed concept used to differentiate men and women and assign them different roles and responsibilities, and so on. Sylvia Walby (1990) categorized gendered subjectivity into three broad approaches – socialization theory, neo-Freudian psychoanalytic theory, and discourse analysis. The Socialization theory argues that masculine and feminine identities result from a process of socialization that begins in childhood. In Walby’s opinion,
“This approach is severely limited by its inability to realize that gendered culture does not inhabit the specialized places of media, family or education, but is rather constructed in all areas of social life.”
The Psychoanalytic theory argues that unseen processes are entrenched in the psyche of individuals passed from one generation to another. This is what leads to gendered identities. Walby adds that gendered subjectivity exists everywhere.
Difference Between Gender Socialization and Gender Role
Gender socialization refers to the development of the socialization of boys and girls differently while gender role refers to the development of a set of beliefs, attitudes, and characteristics of individuals based on their gender.
In gender socialization, boys are expected to be more extroverts and girls are more introverted so boys ask more questions in the classroom. In gender roles, males are expected to take on challenging tasks rather than girls.
In gender socialization, females are seen to be more patient than boys and in gender roles, females are often seen to be fit for nursing while men are seen to be fit for engineering or being a doctor.
In gender socialization, girls are assumed to play with dolls and kitchen sets while boys with toy guns and cars. In gender roles, this difference in activities prepares them for the role they need to take in the future.
In gender socialization, girls are assumed to like pink, and boys are assumed to like blue. In gender roles, girls need to wear pink but if boys wear pink, they are labeled as feminine, and hence, they are expected to wear blue.
From toys to activities, levels of boisterousness to language, television programs to reading material, everything is selected carefully and monitored by the individuals according to their gender. The media reinforces these ideas and agenda through its portrayal of women as attractive and glamorous and while men are portrayed as individuals who are successful and powerful.