The person we are is a complicated mixture of how we look, behave and think. As people we are constantly changing, influenced by our surroundings. It is my belief that most people in modern society believe that the person they have become is a direct consequence of the decisions that they have made during their life. What most people don?t realise is that a great deal of decisions which have affected the course of their life were made before they were even born. In most cases, these decisions will have been made by their parents. Where you live, what you are called, who you spend your time with as a young child, what social class you belong to and even which teams you are likely to support, are all things over which you have no control. Would you have made all the same choices as the ones which were made for you? It is unlikely that you would have, and so it becomes clear that who we are is not just a result of the decisions we have made by ourselves during our life. The choices we do make ourselves could perhaps be considered as fine tuning of the life we have been born into, as by the time we are old enough to make life affecting decisions by ourselves, it could be argued that the boundaries of who we can become are significantly smaller.
A big part of who we are is our physical self. The physical body is separated into different sexes which are biologically defined. Society however, recognises genders, the number and definitions of which vary throughout different cultures. Western society recognises two socially constructed genders, male and female. There are obvious physical differences between these two genders over which we have no control, facial hair and breasts are good examples. However, the definitions of behaviour for these two genders are a creation of society and are based on how society expects men and women to act. Anne Fausto Sterling is a biologist who wrote a book entitled Myths of Gender(1985). She studied gender and biology in great depth, in all cases finding little or no connection between biology and human behaviour. This supports the theory that men and women act the way they do because of social causes rather than biological ones. In order to conform and fit into western society, you must fit into the socially constructed definition of one of these genders. This removes a big element of freedom in terms of who we want to be, directing us from the day we are born towards a predetermined template for our particular gender.
Our childhood is a massive factor of how we become who we are. Children under five years old have no notion of gender. They will wear what they are dressed in and will not distinguish between toys regarded by society as masculine or feminine. Hence the process of gendering is undertaken by the parents, although everyone who comes into contact with the child will contribute to the gendering through their behaviour and language whilst interacting with them. Thanks to the socially constructed concept that colours can be masculine or feminine, the importance of colour is enormous just after a baby is born and for the early stages of childhood. The gendering process begins straight after birth with parents in western society commonly dressing their new baby in blue for a boy or pink for a girl. This concept of assigning genders to colours is so important because it will affect how people act towards the child, and thus contribute to the person that child will become.
By the age of five, our gender identity is fixed. By this point we are aware of what gender we are, what this means and what is expected by the people around us. We have also learnt how to perform socially accepted gender characteristics. Hence children are now able to define which toys are deemed suitable for their gender, and will generally steer well clear from those which aren?t so as not to appear abnormal, or be called by the opposite gender. This is the period of time when boys and girls of the same age tend...
Bibliography: Anne Fausto Sterling - The Myths of Gender : Biological theories about men and women (1985) Andrew Tolson - The Limits of Masculinity (1977) Macionis and Plummer : Sociology, A Global Introduction (2002) 2nd edition Carl Backman and Murray Adams - Self Perceived Physical Attractiveness, self asteem, race and gender - Sociological focus vol. 24 (1991)
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