Do we learn our gender?
This essay will look at the question of whether we learn our gender. It will begin by looking at the sociological meaning and interpretations of gender and how this is important. Following the discussion of how socialization plays a vital role in the argument of if we do learn our gender or not. Further to this it shall look at how gender roles have changed, comparing in particular pre-1960 to the modern day and also what key factors played crucial roles in this change. Throughout this essay the work and views of different sociologists will be relied upon in order to provide a detailed discussion in the analysis of the question. Firstly to understand the question the meaning of gender has to be depicted. The word gender may be perceived by some as a way of classing an individuals sex as male or female, however it actually refers to the sex based characteristics. The following passage is taken from the definition of gender from the American Heritage dictionary of the English language (2000). In discussion of the meaning of gender it states that “Traditionally, gender has been used primarily to refer to the grammatical categories of "masculine," "feminine," and "neuter," but in recent years the word has become well established in its use to refer to sex-based categories… using gender to refer to social or cultural categories.” This is the basic description of how the term gender is approached in terms of this question rather than one referring to the actual sex of a person. This is also stated by Macionis and Plummer (2008, p.367) explaining that: “sex refers to the biological distinction between males and females” it is also states that a “gender role refers to learning and performing the socially accepted characteristics for a given sex.” This clearly defines for us that when discussing whether gender can be learnt we are distinctively talking about the pre conceived social characteristics in which each sex should possess. When looking at this question we must first divulge how this would happen. The process in which this may take place is socialization. This following definition is worth quoting in full: “The emphasis on culture rather than biological instinct as the key to understanding human behaviour implies that learning plays an essential part in creating social beings. In sociology, the term given to the process by which we learn the norms, values and roles approved by our society is ‘socialization’. The survival of children into adulthood and the future of culture itself depend on a society’s successful organisation of this process.” (Marsh et al 2008, p.23). Socialisation first begins in the family; this is the primary phase of socialisation and what can be said as the most vital. It is in this stage that a child will begin to learn the norms and values passed to them through their family, this educates them and socializes them in a way which is specific to them and can be altered and affected due to many different aspects such as race, culture, religion and sex. This distinct process means that a child’s socially accepted characteristics are those traditionally of their parents, being passed down onto them. The process of socialisation is what will introduce a child into society, it is what makes a child’s perception of what is expected of them in later life and what their goals or behavioural attributes should be. This is where you can see many different variances, for example when comparing a child born into a lower class family to that of an upper class, or maybe a child who is born into an Amish Christian family to that of an atheist family. When considering the social characteristics that would be learnt by a child in an Amish family, it would be clear to say that females would be taught the typically traditional female social traits, to be the carers and be prepared for child rearing, their education would also be largely focused around religion, their beliefs are that “Parents...
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