How does gender impact on ‘life chances’ and our everyday life experiences?
Through human culture, we can see how life chances (political theory of the opportunities each individual has to improve his or her quality of life) and the life experiences of a human being are a mere social construction according to their sex, gender identity and role they play in society. This creates inequality between people in society. ‘Sex depends on whether you were born with distinct male or female genitals and a genetic program that released either male or female hormones to stimulate the development of your reproductive system. Gender is your sense of being male or female and your playing masculine and feminine roles in ways defined as appropriate by your culture and society. Gender identity is one’s identification with, or sense of belonging to, a particular sex – biologically, psychologically and socially. And gender roles are widely shared expectations about how males and females are supposed to act’ (Kirkman, Alison 2012, p.354). Knowing this, how does gender affect someone’s life chances and life experiences? Depending on the way individuals present themselves to society!
“Human beings are either male or female, and children learn at an early age to identify themselves as one or the other. At the same time, they also learn to behave in a way that is considered typical of males or females. In short, they learn to adopt a masculine or feminine gender role. When a child is born, the parents, relatives, friends and neighbours first try to find out whether it is a boy or a girl. One look at the baby’s external sex organs normally supplies the answer, and this answer has immediate social consequences” (Haeberle, Erwin J. 1983).
“Adults are more likely to praise baby boys for his strength, in most cultures they are dressed in blue colours, they are presented with different toys and encouraged to play different games. Boys are given different names than girls and their hair is usually cut in different style. In his first months of life they are touched, picked up and held in a different manner, and he may receive different and fewer caresses than a girl. As he grows up, he is told that “big boys don’t cry” and that he should learn to control his emotions. Boys do not find themselves rewarded for a gentle quiet demeanour” (Haeberle, 1983).
“On the other hand, adults praise girls for their pretty face, dress them up in pink colours as it is considered a feminine colour in most cultures. They are presented with different toys, hair cut and encouraged to play different games as well. She is expected to show tenderness and affection and to supress their aggressive impulses” (Haeberle, 1983).
“Under the influence of these adult attitudes, approaches, hints, examples, and expectations, boys and girls gradually develop a concept of themselves as sexual beings. They also learn how the two sexes relate to each other. By the time children begin to have a command of language (between eighteen months and two years of age), the establishment of their gender roles is well under way. In this period, they strongly identify with the parent of their own sex and, after about another two years, their self-identification as male and female is usually irreversible. It should be noted that 4-5-year-old children may still be confused about male and female sex organs, and they may define males and females according to other criteria, such as height, shape, clothing, hairstyle, etcetera. There are cases where children who are clearly male or female adopt an ambiguous, defective, or erroneous gender role that usually leads to transsexualism” (Haeberle, 1983). “Transsexuals are people who have changed, or are in the process of changing, their physical sex to conform to their gender identity” (Kirkman 2012, p.363).
“In all societies the obvious biological difference between men and women is used as a justification for forcing them into different...
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