Welcome to Module 8: Gender (Nov 7-13). In this section, we will read Chapter 5: Gender, p. 148-185.
The chapter beings with an overview of some key concepts that distinguish a spectrum when it comes to understanding sex and gender. Be sure you can distinguish and define:
- gender identity
- sexual identity
- gender expression
- symbolic interaction
- gender socialization
For the purposes of sociologists, we focus more on the socialized aspect of gender performance, rather than the chromosomal background of individuals. Men and women are more alike than different, but our culture emphasizes differences, and individuals behave in ways that reinforce gender differences. Why? How are people both socially encouraged to behave in this way and socially sanctioned when they do not?
Feminism is the social movement and ideology that advances the social and political (etc.) rights for women to be equal to that of men. Equality, not supremacy. From this premise, feminism goes on to analyze all aspects of our culture and pays particular attention to inequality, especially in relation to gender, but not exclusively so. Most importantly, we must think of power once again, and how power manifests itself in gender dynamics. Patriarchy is a social system which has privileged the roles of men in society, and handed this down through sons. For those use to being in privileged positions socially, equally can feel like oppression.
Recently in gender studies, masculinity and its social roles has been the center of much research. This research points out the ways that men are socialized into a very narrow parameter of acceptable gender behavior, compared to that of women. The video Tough Guise demonstrates the way in which media frames masculinity, and how this impacts real men and boys, as well as women and girls.
Interactive Circles of Socialization
The author, Philip Cohen, talks about the various circles of socialization that direct us to proper gender behavior from the day we are born, if not earlier. Think of all the pink and blue gender defined toys in the story, and how parents color the rooms of children. How do siblings reinforce gender norms in the household? How does age factor in? Once a child leaves the closed parameters of family life, social institutions influence the individual: schools, peers, religion, activities, neighborhoods, television, video games, and so on. How would you describe the specific ways in which all of these institutions and groups socialize younger members? What are examples of someone being socially sanctioned out of behavior deemed inappropriate? Has that happened to you? Have you been one of the socializing agents in this process?
Gender at Work
Because of these socialized divides and stereotype along the lines of gender; how does this create real outcomes in the economy and the world of work? How does this position men and women differently in relation to their property ownership, wealth, income, and inequality? What percentage of the earth’s property do women own? Which jobs are the most gender segregated and how is that maintained socially, if gender discrimination is illegal? What are female dominated professions? What are the different outcomes when a woman enters a male-dominated field, compared against a man that enters a female-dominated field? What are the salary outcomes for men and women? What percentage of wages do women earn, compared with men in comparable fields? How does this impact status?
What does it mean when people say that raising children is the most important job in the world, yet it remains unpaid, and when it is paid, it is low level service work?
In the comments section below, write an optional response about your observations of gender socialization in the daily world around you? Answer one of the review questions listed on page 185, as they will appear in some form on the exams and discussion board.