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A baby is born and the doctor looks at the proud parents or parent and says

three simple words: Its a boy, or Its a girl! Before a newborn child even takes

his or her first breath of life outside the mothers womb, he or she is

distinguishable and characterized by gender. The baby is brought home and

dressed in clothes that help friends, family and even strangers identify the sex

of the child. Baby boys are dressed in blue and baby girls are dressed in pink.

The baby boy may be dressed in a blue jumpsuit with a football or a baseball

glove on it. The baby girl may wear a bow in their hair and flowered pajamas. As

the boy begins to grow, he is given a miniature basketball and a hoop to play

with. The girl is given dolls an d doll clothes to dress them up in. Even going

further, eventually the boy may play with Legos and Lincoln Logs and the girl

gets a PlaySchool oven and a plastic tea set with which to play house. Sounds

pretty normal right? Why? As illustrated in the not-so-fictional scenario above,

gender socialization begins very early in life. Society has accepted such

stereotypical things as baby boy blue and baby girl pink to help identify the

sex of a child. Heaven forbid the little Joey looks like a girl or b aby

Michelle is mistaken for a boy. Mothers and fathers make it easy for everyone to

distinguish their bundle of joy by utilizing the socially established gender

stereotypes. But where and how did these stereotypes come from? Unfortunately, I

don’t think there is a definite answer to that question. We seem to accept that

blue is for boys and pink is for girls. Boys generally play with balls, toy

trucks and building blocks whereas girls spend their time with dolls, tea sets

and stuffed animals. But these are the stereotypes that are influenced by the

parents. A baby child isn’t concerned with his or her gender identity. As the

child gets older though, he or she will begin to develop an identity for his or

herself and establish a personality th at reflects their masculinity or

femininity. In Nancy Chodorow’s essay "Family Structure and Feminine

Personality" she examines the development of gender identity and

personality. Except for the stereotypical examples I have given above which

again are e stablished by the parents, Chodorow states that the development of a

child is basically the same for boys and girls until the age of three. During

those first three years the mother is the dominant figure in the child’s life.

The father plays a limited role until the child reaches the so called Oedipal

period (beyond age 3). It is at this stage that children begin to try to

separate themselves from the clutches of their mother and establish their own

identity. Chodorow examines how different this is for boys and girls. KFRC radio

disk jockey Ron Parker recently reported that out of a survey of one hundred

fourth grade boys and one hundred fourth grade girls, the boys receive an

average weekly allowance that is approximately 50% higher than the girls

receive. On the average, the boys receive $4.18 as compared to the $2.67 paid to

the girls. To look even further, the survey reported that the boys only perform

three household chores to earn their weekly allowance whereas the girls are

performing twel ve or more. Why are the girls expected to do four times as much

work around the house than the boys are? Chodorow writes that a young boy is

usually unable to identify with his masculinity through his father. The father

isn?t as readily available to th e boy as the mother. Without the father to

follow example, Chodorow concludes that a boy will identify masculine

characteristics be doing that which is not feminine. This could be an

explanation for the big difference in the number of chores the girls d o versus

the boys. Though you might disagree with the morality of this statement, you

have to admit that it is socially accepted that household chores are feminine

duties. Young boys are bound to realize this and following Chodorow?s theory,

will refuse to perform a lot of chores in an attempt to become more

masculine.GENDER?AND?THE?MEDIA Another aspect of everyday life that is highly

influential in gender socialization is the media. What we see on television or

at the movies, what we read in the newsp aper or in magazines, what we see on

billboards or hear on the radio are all very significant on how we form a

opinion on gender identity. Media publishers have very successfully learned to

?play? to an audience and are extremely successful in communicat ing with the

audience they wish to reach. Advertisers are the biggest example of this

concept. Society is very apt in recognizing images seen in commercials and

printed ads and viewing them as socially acceptable behavior. For example, beer

companies w ill target the twenty to thirty year old male audience and include

scantily clad women enjoying their favorite beers. Ironically, popular women?s

magazines also use beautiful women to promote cosmetics and beauty products

(funny that both my examples sho w the exploitation of female images in

society…more on that later). How often do you think people question the

activities they see portrayed in advertising and question them as to there

validity? Probably not very often. It is much easier for society to just accept

the images and not bother to take the time to analyze their bias and untrue

nature. It is this societal ignorance that clouds the mind and allows the images

to continue to influence what we believe to be socially acceptable. And when soc

iety is presented with something or someone out of the ordinary which doesn?t

follow what we deem to be correct, we rebel and try to modify it to our socially

acceptable standards.THE?ANDROGYNOUS?SCENARIO Imagine a baby born with no

visible sex organs. N ow imagine after some tests that there are no internal or

external sex organs whatsoever. No ovaries, no testes, no uterus, no vagina, no

penis, no glands that produce estrogen or testosterone, no semen, no eggs, no

anything. Is this possible? Surprisi ngly yes. It is very possible and in fact

probably more so that one thinks. Though rarely publicized, there are people in

this world that are physically indistinguishable as males or females. Sally

Jesse Raphael recently had one of these androgynous hu man beings on her popular

morning talk show. This person, known as Toby, is neither male nor female and

prefers to live life in the androgynous state. Toby is the only known human

being in the world like this. Medically feasible, yes; but is the androgy nous

person socially acceptable in our everyday lifestyle? Since Toby was born, Toby

hasn?t been able to live a normal life. Throughout childhood, Toby was

constantly pressured to make a decision to either become a full fledged male or

female. Doctors, teachers, friends and family all thought that Toby would be

much happier if Toby could be classified as either a man or a woman. But Toby

didn?t think so. Toby made a decision to stay androgynous and it has caused

some very interesting results. Everyw here Toby goes identity comes into

question. Is Toby male or female? Toby is neither. But that?s not possible. Yet

it is. Think about what you do everyday and how much of it relies on gender and

then think about Toby. What public restroom do you go in? What kind of clothes

do you wear? What store do you buy them in? What colors do you buy? What letter

is after the word sex on your drivers license? How does Toby answer these

questions? That?s not the point. The point is why does Toby have to a nswer

these questions? Because this is what we have determined to be socially correct.

There are two sexes, male and female and you must be one or the other. How can

there be an in between? Such a person should have no place in our culturally

biased s ociety.FEMALE?EXPLOITATION As I briefly mentioned earlier, advertisers

utilize female images to sell products. Society associates beauty with the

female and we are more inclined to pay attention to a beautiful woman presented

to us on a screen or a page in a magazine. But can this be more harmful to a

society than good. Recently in my woman?s studies class we were involved in a

student panel discussion regarding this topic. The presenters literally filled a

wall with images taken from magazines and ne wspapers and each of the

photographs were of beautiful women endorsing some product. Everything from

lingerie to Coca-Cola utilized a female image to attract attention to their ad.

This doesn?t just stop in advertising either. A documentary viewed in t he same

class entitled ?DreamWorld?, exposed the demeaning portrayal of women as sex

objects in music videos. Specifically those shown on the popular music video

network MTV. The women in the videos were all sex objects; beautiful, buxom,

sexy, promiscu ous and lacked any moral values whatsoever. Also, the woman in

the music videos all served one main purpose: to satisfy the sexual needs of

men. The documentary helped us to see how we are easily influenced by images

when we do not stop and think what t hey are showing us. Removed from the

context of how they were originally intended to be shown, the images in the

videos were very disturbing to both men and women. But, for those who only see

them as they were produced, which is most of the viewing popu lation, the videos

do indeed portray these woman in a fantasized nature. This too can lead to what

society views as being socially acceptable. In a perfect world, there would be

no gender differentiation, no racial tension and no ?political incorrectness ?.

But we live in an imperfect world that is currently making a turn towards

becoming more ?PC? (politically correct). Fading away are such terms as

fireman, stewardess, boyfriend and girlfriend, policeman and secretary. Now we

are starting to use a mo re socially acceptable language and replacing such

terms with fire fighter, flight attendant, domestic partner or significant

other, police officer and administrative assistant. We are slowly, and I do mean

slowly, moving towards a non gender separated s ociety. Eventually we may be

able to control what we see and how we see it, but until then we must rely on

ourselves to determine what is reality and what is part of a DreamWorld.


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