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Destiny Rubio
Professor Beadle
English 115
13 September 2015
How Parents Play A Factor In Gender Construction

In the book Composing Gender by Rachael Groner and John F. OHara; there were
many intriguing essays I came across. Two of them that I found to be strikingly relatable were
From Women, Men, and Society by Claire Renzetti and Daniel Curran; and also No Way My
Boys Are Going to Be Like That: Parents Responses to Childrens Gender Nonconformity by
Emily W. Kane. While reading both I came across the same topic over and over, which was
parents shaping and crafting their children to be a certain way to their convenience. This is also
known as gender construction. Gender construction is a very controversial topic in todays
society because many people are now stepping out of their typical gender category to express
themselves freely, but it is still frowned upon greatly. In my lifetime I have personally witnessed
the emotional damage done to people who have dealt with confusion with their gender identity.
Gender construction is implemented in many ways by parents in how they dress their children,
what toys they buy them, and what is generally expected of them as a person.
To start off, I would like to explain what is most commonly associated with the male
category. As soon as some parents know the gender of their child, the construction begins. The
toys, the clothes, and the expectations all come into play. Infant males are most commonly
dressed in dark primary colors such as red and blue. Their clothes are designed around the idea
that males are to be active, therefore most boy clothing typically will have sporting, military
equipment, trucks, and superheroes implemented in it.

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Another association that plays a big factor in the gender construction of a child are the
toys they play with. In a research done, boys were found to have more toys than females (Curran
& Renzetti, p.90). Male toys were found to have been based on action and adventure as well as
being brave, for example a superhero (Curran & Renzetti, p.81).
In contrast to male clothing and toys, we have the female category. Female infants are
most commonly associated with being dressed in pastels, mostly pink and yellow. The clothing is
decorated with ruffles, bows, flowers, and hearts. Females typically wear dresses, as a result it
restricts females from being active like the males. This is just an example of where the categories
came to be.
The toys that were always associated with females were dolls or household appliances. In
From Women, Men, and Society by Renzetti & Curran; there is statement that perfectly
distinguishes males versus females. It states Toys for boys tend to encourage exploration,
manipulation, invention, construction, competition, and aggression. In contrast, girls toys
typically rate high on manipulability, but also creativity, nurturance, and attractiveness.
(Bradbard, 1985; Miller, 1987; Pevetti & Sydney, 1985). In other words, females and males are
no different physically but at such an early age the minds are already being developed to think a
certain way. Both genders are capable of the same things but society chooses to distinguish
which traits go with what gender.
You may be asking yourself Why is a restatement of boys vs. girls toys/clothes needed?
It is needed to show how parents play a role in gender construction. Some examples of that
begin as early as birth. Although there is no scientific difference between males and females after
birth, there is a standard already in effect. Infant boys were described as tall, large, athletic,
serious, and having broad, wide hands. In contrast, infant girls were described as small and

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pretty, with fine, delicate features (Reid, 1994). Once again, the genders are being categorized
even though there is hardly a difference between them. Another well represented example is a
research done in From Women, Men, and Society, where an infant placed in a neutral yellow
jumpsuit was given to parents. When the parents believed the baby to be a female, it was given a
doll. When it was believed to be a male, it was given a football. Not only do parents play a big
factor, but so does society. One example I came across again in From Women, Men, and
Society, was a quote from the director of Mattel Inc. (inventor of Barbie). They stated Girls
play involves dressing and grooming and acting out their future- going on a date, getting
married- and boys play involves competition and conflict, good guys versus bad guys (qtd in
Lawson, 1989, p.c1). From all these examples, it is agreeable that parents and society shape
exactly how they want a male or female to be.
Although after reading these facts, most people would believe that it is all the parents
fault why gender is the way it is today. That is not always necessarily the case. Even though
many parents can implement and craft their child to be a certain way their whole life, it does not
stop the urges or feelings one feels. I have personally seen very strict religious parents with
children who have opposed their opinions to live how they would like. In the end it comes down
to how a person wants to live their life.
The next topic I came across frequently was the different expectations of males versus
females as well as the interactions associated with them depending on the mother or father. In
both articles there was evidence of expectations of parents crafting their children. Starting with
infants, mothers and fathers already began to distinguish the categories with their children. In
From Women, Men, and Society, It stated that mothers were more restrictive with male infants,
and were more emotional towards females. I also came across evidence that parents expect

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different things from males and females. As I stated before, there is no physical difference
between male and female infants. In the reading it stated that males were fussier, and as a
result of that parents responded with forced attention. In contrast to that, when an infant female
would cry, they would be ignored. It perfectly represents the idea that more is expected of
females versus males. The last evidence I came across was how mothers and fathers interacted
with males and females. As I have stated before, mothers spoke to females in a manner of
emotion, meanwhile mothers spoke to males in a manner of anger. For fathers, I read that they
were more interactive with male infants, but very vocal with female infants (Bronstein, 1988).
From interactions, to expectations, to what is given to a male or female, it is all for one
reason: to construct and conform to their category. What happens when one doesnt? In No Way
My Boys Are Going to Be Like That: Parents Responses to Childrens Gender Nonconformity
by Emily W. Kane, it shows us exactly what happens. In most cases, parents were accepting of
for example, a boy wanting a doll. When it came to a boy wanting to paint his nails or wear
feminine clothes it really frightened parents. It frightened them because some believed that when
a boy was feminine, it stated that it gave fear that their son would be perceived as gay (Kane,
p.95). As I have stated before, parents and society shape everything in gender construction. At
this day and age it is true that there is societal pressure to have a straight son. Kane also gives a
great example when she states, One father says If he were to be gay, it would not make me
happy at all. I would probably see that as a failure as a dad, as a failure because Im raising
him to be a boy, a man. (Kane, p.96). Clearly this father is worried about how society views him
and how he treated his son over his lifetime. Society shaped this fathers thoughts Taken to
discourage homosexuality and accomplish heterosexuality as Kane had stated. It seems like it
was a bigger problem for a male to be gay, than a female to be lesbian. In the readings it stated

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that parents didnt have such a big issue with their daughters being lesbian, but when it came to
their sons being gay it was a much bigger problem. Once again, a perfect representation of the
different expectations of males versus females.
To conclude, after reading these readings it was obvious that everyone conforms to be a
certain way, as a result of that, all continue the tradition of implementing that into their children.
I feel as if the authors wrote these essays to remind the readers of the everyday things that
parents do that in turn molds what normal society is supposed to be. In this generation it has
been coded, it is evolving to be more acceptable to not conform. More and more now more than
ever parents are talking to their children a certain way, buying them certain toys, dressing them a
certain way, expecting more of them, and are more cautious in how they interact with them. All
of this is gender construction. When one isnt what society or their parents want them to be it
creates a problem. This is why gender construction is controversial, because so much people are
used to the norm and stereotypes that when something different comes along it is considered bad.
When the controversy ends, it will be in a day and age where his and hers will no longer exist
and everyone can be free to act, wear, talk, walk, and live exactly how they wish to.

Works Cited

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Bradbard, M.R. Sex differences in adults gifts and childrens toy requests at Christmas.
Psychological Reports.1985. 56, 969-970.
Bronstein, O. Father-child interaction. Fatherhood today: Mens changing role in the family.
In P. Bronstein & C. P. Cowan (Eds.).New York: John Wiley, 1988. 107-124.
Curran, Daniel and Claire Renzetti. From Women, Men, and Society. Composing Gender.
Boston: Bedford/ St. Martins, 2014. 76-84. Print.
Groner, Rachael and John F. OHara. Composing Gender. A Bedford Spotlight Reader. Ed.
Boston: Bedford/ St. Martins, 2014. Print.
Kane, Emily W. No Way My Boys Are Going to Be Like That; Parents Responses to
Childrens Gender Nonconformity. Composing Gender. Boston: Bedford/St.
Martins, 2014. 91-97. Print.
Lawson, C. Toys: Girls still apply makeup, boys fight wars. New York Times. 1989, June 15.
C1, C10
Reid, G.M. Maternal sex-stereotyping of newborns. Psychological Reports. 1994. 75, 14431450.