Gender Identity, Who’s Choice Is It?
To fit into today’s heteronormative society people must fit into certain molds and groups. People in society today strive for beauty, money, power, and success; if one doesn’t want to fit into at least one of those groups than they are seen as weird or nonconforming, but to fit into one of those groups you have to fit into a particular mold. To fit into that mold one must follow the normal gender roles that society has set. Men and women traditionally have certain roles that they must conform to in order to be viewed as normal in society, but when do we learn these roles? Do these roles just instinctively appear, or does society push these roles on us? I believe that society plays a huge role on how we develop gender roles. In this paper I will discuss when researchers believe children start to form their gender identities and roles, as well as how society has an impact on the development of those roles.
Gender is defined as the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex (dictionary.com). This should not be confused with the definition of sex, either the male or female division of a species, esp. differentiated with reference to the reproductive functions (dictionary.com). A person’s sex is biological and their gender a psychological. Children start to develop their gender identities when they have and image of themselves, either as a boy or a girl, and they realize that they will always biologically be that sex (family.jrank.org, par 4).
Researchers believe that children start to develop their gender identities at a very young age. They have found that children start to identify themselves as boy or girl as young eighteen months (scribd.com, 1). By age five or six the child realizes that they will always be male or female and that is the age where children start to change the types of games they play (scribd.com, 4). For example a boy might start to roughhouse and play more physical sports while a girl might start to play house and play tea party; a child would be seen as abnormal if he chose to dress up and play with dolls. These are behaviors are expected of boys and girls, but the question still remains, what impact does society or other outside sources have on the development of children’s gender identity and the gender roles they take on?
Parents are usually the first role models that children have. From the day that they are born parents usually treat their children differently based on the child’s sex. “Parents also tend to cuddle girls more than they do boys. They are also more likely to allow boys to try new things and activities--such as learning to walk and explore--than they are girls; parents tend to fear more for the safety of girls. (faqs.org, par 8)” The way that parents dress their children also impacts the child’s gender identity. Little boys are dressed in tee shirts and jeans with darker colors which are easier to run around in and do physical activity. Girls are clothed in dresses and skirts and they are expected to sit or play less physical games so they don’t get hurt or dirty. Growing up like this makes children feel like they are bound to those roles so they start to take on the role that were forced on them as their own.
I think that parents play one of the biggest roles in how a child develops their gender identity. A lot of children look up to their parents, they want to imitate what they do, how they act, and how they dress. I remember when I was a child I would dress up in my mothers cloths and walk around in her shoes. I always wanted to please her and make her laugh. Keeping that in mind made me think that children who want to make their parents happy will conform to the gender role that they think their parents want them to have. If a little girl sees that playing physical sports like soccer or basketball will make her father happy then she might prefer playing sports instead of playing with dolls....
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