Gender Socialization Among Children

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In our society, there are norms of what is considered to be feminine and what is to be considered masculine, but how are these norms constructed? Through the use of toys, books, and clothing, children are socialized into their “appropriate” gender. These objects provide influence over behavior and appearance, showing boys and girls what is appropriate for each gender. After some investigation it was found that the toys, books, and clothing that children use not only foster the norms of gender behavior and appearance, but also construct gender roles in their young minds.

Toys play a major role in socializing young kinds into “appropriate” gender roles. The first obvious characteristic that separates toys for boys and toys for girls, is the use of colors. As customers walk into a toy store, they can easily spot the girl section. The girls aisle is the most pink you will ever see in a single area of a store. The aisle is filled with butterflies, unicorns, and dolls; everything any girl can imagine that would make her feel like a little princess. But why and how do these characteristics define femininity? The boys aisle screams masculinity with the bold colors of blue and green, along with the macho action figures that carry little weapons. How and why do these characteristics teach boys to be masculine? Toys get kids at a young age and socialized them into their “appropriate” gender roles by appearance and use of the toys. “Toys and games are an especially influential source of gender information parents provide their children” (Newman 133). The obvious appearance of color separates girl toys from boy toys. Boy toys also appear to be loud, active, and a little scary. These toys teach young boys what it is to be “masculine”. The loud toys makes boys believe that it’s okay for them to be as loud as they want. Dinosaurs were a big motif in toys for younger boys. Aren’t dinosaurs a little scary? I’m sure if anyone saw a real dinosaur in real life that they would be terrified. Dinosaurs are big, strong, and as we already mentioned scary, which all adds to the growing definition of masculinity! Young boys begin to believe that to be macho you need these qualities. The active toys, such as different types of sports balls, fighting swords, and toy guns, promote athleticism and competitiveness. “Little boys appropriate the gender ideal of “efficaciousness,” that is, being able to affect the physical and social environment through the exercise of physical strength or appropriate skills” (Zimmerman 28). Does this send the message that sports and fighting defines masculinity? It seems that the strong influence of sports among boys and the absence of sports among girl toys socializes kids into believing that sports are more of a manly thing. Is this why the idea of an all female football team sounds foolish? When Heather Sue Mercer wanted to be a kicker for Duke’s football team she was denied the chance even though she was able to keep up with the other teammates by never throwing up during conditional drills. If we were not socialized at such a young age to distinguish the rules of males and females, would problems such as these arise? In comparison to the boys’ toys, girls’ toys encourage girls to be delicate, quiet, and vain. One girly toy that exemplifies all three of these qualities is the infamous tea set. Many of these to tea sets were in pink. The tea set itself is delicate and composed of tiny teacups, along with tiny plates. Through the atmosphere of the tea party, little girls learn to be “proper” by sitting up straight and taking little sips of tea with no slurping. Girls learn to be quiet, maybe teaching them to hold their tongue. In comparison to boy toys, girl toys don’t make a lot of racket. Is this how we are socialized to believe that it is being loud and speaking out mind is not ladylike? For tea parties, little girls love to dress up with jewelry, frilly dresses, and even make up....
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