Once a child's gender is evident, others treat those in one gender differently from those in the other, and the children respond to the different treatment by feeling different and behaving differently. Pg. 122 The process of gendering and its outcome are legitimated by religion, law, science and the society’s entire set of values. Pg. 122 As a process, gender creates the social differences that define “woman” and “man.” In social interaction throughout their lives, individuals learn what is expected, see what is expected, act and react in expected ways, and thus simultaneously construct and maintain the gender order pg.
Sex makes up the biological differences; of male or female. Gender is the socially learned behaviors that are attached to the sexes (Henslin, p. 322), which create Gender Roles. Gender roles constitute the attitudes and behaviors that are expected of males and females in a given culture of society. It is these gender roles that give the impact of gender inequality amongst the male and the female sex. Gender roles are not given at birth, as ones biological sex, they are to be learned and taught amongst those surrounding one at an early age, and the society and culture one lives in.
Examine the extent to which social divisions are socially constructed. Use either gender or ethnicity to construct and illustrate your argument. Society is constructed through several social divisions, one of these being divisions being gender. Gender can be defined as a ‘socially determined difference based upon the biological differences between the sexes’ (Marsh et al, 2006: 216). Fulcher & Scott (2011) believe gender to examine the differences between men and women in relation to feeling, thinking and behaving.
Firstly, we must understand the term socially constructed, and how it relates to gender. Gender deals with masculinity and femininity. In sociological terms, it is the hierarchical division between men and women which is embedded in social institutions and social practices. Sex, on the other hand, is assigned at birth; based on external genitalia. “Gender is usually described as socially constructed, and sex as biological.
In every society, both males and females are taught what is acceptable to do in their society through gender socialization. Gender Socialization is the process in which such attitudes and behaviors are learned that are expected of males and females. This is done in several agents of socialization. Because males and females are taught differently, sexism and stereotypes about the opposite gender exist. Sexism is the mistreatment or discrimination of a person because of their gender.
The child responds to the influence of other people but is actively engaged in developing its own concept of its and others genders. Kohlberg argues that there are 3 stages through which children naturally progress as they get older and their cognitive abilities develop. Stages in the construction of gender are thought to be associated with wider stages in cognitive development. Between the ages of 2 and 3 occurs stage one, which Kohlberg named ‘gender labelling’ this is where a child recognises that he or she is a girl or boy. This is purely based on appearances; if the appearance was to change then the child would happily change the label too.
Social learning theory (SLT) suggests that behaviour is learnt through observation and imitation of “models”. SLT explains gender role by saying children learn their gender role primarily through vicarious reinforcement. Children are positively reinforced for behaving in gender-appropriate ways (i.e. a girl playing with a doll) and are punished for behaving in gender-inappropriate ways (i.e. a boy playing with a doll).
The major difference between the two is that the gender consistency theory proposes that children’s understanding of gender develops with age, whilst the gender schema theory suggests that early childhood gender development is influenced heavily by the ideas and concepts about what ‘maleness’ or ‘femaleness’ means in a particular society. According to the gender consistency theory, children go through three stages in the development of full gender identity starting from the age of 2 years old. Between 2 and 3.5 years children enter the gender identity stage, where they label themselves at present as a boy or girl Recognition of this then allows a better understanding and categorisation of the world. Through this stage children sometimes use incorrect labels for people, they also fail to recognise gender staying the same in the past or future e.g. they may believe that a person can change gender.
In Becoming members of society, Aaron Devor points out that the way we act or present ourselves in society had a great deal to do with our sense of a gendered self. He points out that our conception of what it means to be female or male are socially constructed. Furthermore, gender is “defined” differently in different cultures. He says that we start to acquire gender roles so early that we do not realize the difference in genders. In Two ways a Woman Can Get Hurt, Jean Kilbourne points out that ads affects us in potentially damaging ways than helping us informing us about the product.
Outline and evaluate the cognitive explanations of gender. Martin and Halverson proposed in their gender schema theory that the development of a child’s gender is induced by their readiness to categorise gender information. This gender information is organised into schemas which are effective in organising the information as a means of using it to interpret new gender related experiences. Such interpretation will be of knowledge pertaining to gender type activities and behaviour. Where schemas are an essential aspect of Martin and Halverson’s theory, a major concern involves the lack of explanation regarding how such schemas are originally acquired.