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Gender Identity Shaping Social Experiences Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1516 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Gender identity emerges due to the experiences of our life and these experiences differ not only based on gender by also due to other factors such as race. These identities are formed under the narrow structures of stereotypes, which are created as a “system of social control” (Andersen 311). The interaction between race and gender creates stereotypes of different categories of men and women. An analysis of Sociology: Understanding a Diverse Society by Margaret L. Andersen and Howard Francis Taylor and Jacquelynne S. Eccles’ article “Gender Role Stereotypes, Expectancy Effects, and Parents’ Socialization of Gender Differences” reveals that gender intersects with race thus proving that manhood and womanhood are developed by systems of discrimination and exclusion that come hand in hand with race and gender.

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Gender is part of our social structure, just as race and class are. When applied to Camara Phyllis Jones’ article, “The Gardener’s Tale,” men are the red flowers and women are the pink. From the moment of birth, men and women are put into different pots. These pots symbolize socialization because the separation affects how men and women choose among their options. However, institutionalized sexism causes these options to be distinct. Eccles suggests that parents are role models for an action as simple as giving a toy truck to a little boy and a Barbie to a little girl can help develop a child’s gender identity. If a child grows up with a mother who is very athletic, she is more likely to view sports as a normal part of being a girl. The same idea can apply to a boy for if he sees his dad treating his mom kindly, he is less likely to abuse his own wife. Personally mediated sexism revolves around the concept of omission. This can be seen in society in which men are given better resources for they are believed to become the next world leaders, doctors, business men, engineers, and scientists. Women grow up wearing frilly pink dresses and are taught to be gentle and remain at home. They are excluded from entering certain schools or career paths because they are expected to not have the capacity to exceed in certain fields. However, as M.P.P Root questions, is it possible to “separate the gendered experiences from the racial existence”? Latinas and African American women are discriminated by both race and gender and even possibly by class. White men, usually, are given more prestige and economic resources; however, this does not apply to Latino men. Tim Wise even explained that he had experienced this unearned privilege. Growing up, he was given the benefit of the doubt if he did not succeed. African Americans felt a weight on their shoulders for if they did not succeed, then they would be proving the stereotype, African Americans are inferior to Whites, true. Lastly, there is internalized racism, which can be seen in early adolescence. This once again reintegrates Eccles statement of how parents play a critical role in influencing their children’s social “self-perceptions, interests, and skill acquisition” (Eccles 2). Early adolescence is when people begin noticing the existence of gender differences and believing in them. Young women, generally, view themselves as having a lower math ability in comparison to young men. They go on to “express less interest…in studying mathematics and in entering math-related professions” (Eccles 2). Females do believe that they are more competent in English that their male counterparts and males believe their “athletic competence” is greater than a female’s (Eccles 2).

Gender identity incorporates racial identity. Females are taught from a young age to have characteristics of femininity that include a nurturing yet confident personality. They should seek higher education and a career. However, African American women, compared to White women, have a greater likely hood of declaring their independence. This aspiration may come from the fact that their mothers were career orientated women who relayed upon themselves. Males are also affected by their racial identity. Latino men are almost expected to embody the stereotype of “machismo,” – exaggerated masculinity – which is associated with sexist actions and “honor, dignity, and respect” (Andersen 313). Despite the existence of such behaviors, the relationship between Latino men and women is “multidimensional” (Andersen 313). These families are egalitarian so the decisions are made between both the men and the women. African American men are also subjected to certain associations such as “accountability to family” and “self-determination” (Andersen 313). As they mature, they in turn put a greater stress on themselves for having to be the breadwinner.

Most people acknowledge that race includes systems of privilege and inequality, yet they do not realize that gender is also controlled by the same systems. Women are generally at a disadvantage when compared to when in aspects such as access to “economic and political resources” (Andersen 315). Women are denied an opportunity for achievement, influence, and independence. Gendered institutions are the cause of the different experiences of men and women. In a career that is dominated by men, women are “treated like outsiders” and seen as tokens (Andersen 314). Men, on the contrary, continue to rise to a higher position because they are viewed as more important and the career advancement may simply come from connecting and spending more time with their superiors. Women are not given these opportunities to spend time with their superiors whether it be inside or outside work. The income of an employed woman is less than that of an employed man. However, when analyzed among Hispanics and African Americans, the woman’s income is approximately that of man’s in the same racial group. Furthermore, gendered institutions build toward gender roles, which can be defined as “learned patterns” of behavior associated with “being a man or a woman” (Andersen 314). Nonetheless, in recent years, there has been a shifting of gender roles. Women are no longer dictated to be the keepers of the house and do “women’s work” and men are working as nurses and primary school teachers and they celebrate a woman’s triumphs rather than fear that it diminishes their own. These advancements and the crossing of gender boundaries also brings about drawbacks such as the questioning of one’s “true gender identity” (Andersen 321).

The roles that both men and women fall into are not random but rather are conditioned by the “social context” of their experiences (Andersen 313). Experiences are predicated by class, race, and gender status. Each exhibits different effects, depending on a person’s location in the interconnection of “gender, race, and class relations” (Andersen 323). Males and females identify with certain gender expectations. This involves the issue of conformity. Males take risks that can lead to greater violence and all because of the “cultural definition of masculinity” (Andersen 311). But it is both gender and race that further emphasize stereotypes. African American men are stigmatized as being “hyper masculine and oversexed” while Latinos are “macho” (Andersen 312). Jews, on the other hand, are viewed as being simply “intellectual” but “asexual” (Andersen 312). Woman, similarly, conform to their environment and the stereotypes of their race. As David R. Williams and Chiquita Collins have stated in their article, “Racial Segregation: A Fundamental Cause of Racial Disparities in Health,” it is from this segregation, that African Americans lose employment access and thus income. It is of no surprise that this social inequality develops into the stereotype of African American women bring “welfare queens” (Andersen 312). Residential segregation also introduces class. Even the “White race” has its own distinct boundaries. Working-class white women are perceived as “slutty,” while those of the over-class are “frigid and cold” (Andersen 312). Experiences of race and gender socialization do interact with one another to create today’s societal norms.

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An understanding of the diversity among men and women begins with considering how gender shapes social experiences. Race, gender, and class all are nuances that affect a person’s life. Sometimes, either race, gender, or class may be the primary identity, but together each places a mark on the experiences of a person. This is why I have come to conclude that though race, gender, and class are different, they are “interrelated dimensions” in our social structure (Andersen 323).


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