Baxter 1 David Baxter April 13, 2013 ENGL 1302 Marisue Coy Gender Roles From the beginning of time

we have seen the same story; the man works to provide for his family while the woman stays home and cares for the children, cooks and cleans. These gender roles have been globally accepted since the dawn of time. But now many people are beginning to blur these ideas. More men are becoming stay at home dads while the rate of working mothers is increasing. Why are they doing this? Who decides which role we are to take on? Natural selection? Our upbringing? Do we decide for ourselves? The debate of “Nature vs Nurture” still rages today. The “Nature vs Nurture” argument lies between the idea that one’s role in life is determined by biology, nature, or by socialization, nurture. In James Dobson’s essay “Biology Determines Gender Roles” he sides with nature. Dobson says that “maleness and femaleness” are rooted in the brain. He sets up the scenario of a playground filled with young boys and girls. Even at this young age we can see the difference in genders. The boys run around raucously and throw sand at each other, while the girls skip along and pick flowers. Mister Dobson believes that this is proof positive that we are programmed to act one way or another based on our born gender and any variant of this is simply a mistake. This belief is greatly flawed. If you talked to those parents you would very likely discover that most of the boys

Baxter 2 watch super hero shows where the male characters run around and fight bad guys, and that the girls watch shows where the female characters sit around and chat and obsess over superficial qualities. The body is not programmed this way from birth. We program our children this way. Television is not the only “programming” tool we use. The toys we buy children also have a large effect on this. We gift little boys with water guns and army men and buy Barbie dolls and press on nails for little girls. From a young age we teach children that boys are supposed to love cars, action and violence, while girls are supposed to like pink, ponies and pretty things. But why can’t girls play with guns and boys play with dolls? Hasbro Toy Company asked the same question and answered, “They can.” In John Bell’s article in the Wall Street Journal he informs us that Hasbro has been thinking this for fifty years. In the 1960s when Hasbro first developed their G. I. Joe toys, they knew boys wouldn’t want to play with dolls, so they coined the phrase “action figure,” a phrase that has stuck with boy target dolls since. Hasbro recently found itself in a similar situation. They are trying to market their two biggest products, Nerf and Easy Bake Oven, to girls and boys, respectively. In efforts to create, what Bell calls, a deeply divided toy aisle, Hasbro thought up two great ideas. They just released a new Rebelle line of Nerf guns. The toys are still pink, but can shoot just as far as their male-target counterparts. Also, a genderneutral Easy Bake Oven is in the making. The new oven boasts a sleek gray and purple paintjob and the packing will show a boy and a girl playing with the oven. Sweden is trying to get to the same place as Hasbro, but they are taking an alternate route. Swedish toy stores are marketing toys that boys and girls can enjoy, but they

Baxter 3 are not changing the product at all. Anna Molin writes in the Wall Street Journal that Top-Toy Group in Sweden recently published a gender blind catalog during the Christmas season. In the catalog there are images of boys playing with dolls and girls shooting toy guns. Many parents love this new change, Molin tells us. There are many people who believe that the culture we are raised in has the ability to motivate our beliefs pertaining to gender roles. In his essay “Culture Influences Gender Roles” James Doyle explains that the process of socialization varies from culture to culture. “Socialization is the process by which all people learn what is expected of them through their interactions with others (Doyle).” Children learn what role they are expected to play in society just as they learn to use a fork and spoon or chopsticks, Doyle comments. Three researchers, Jerrie Will, Patricia Self and Nancy Datan set up and experiment in which they presented five mothers with a six-month old baby in blue pants named “Adam” and six mothers with a baby of the same age, but dressed in a pink dress named “Beth.” Each mother was given a toy fish, doll and train and told to play with the baby. Unbeknownst to the mothers, the baby boy they were playing with was a girl and the girl was really a boy. The results showed that the mothers playing with “Beth” tended to hold her close and play with the doll, while the mothers with “Adam” preferred the truck (Doyle). This experiment clearly demonstrates the prejudice many adults have toward gender in relation to infants.

Baxter 4 Another, and maybe strongest, socialization agent is peer groups. Paul Henry Mussen comments about peer groups: The peer group provides an opportunity to learn how to interact with age-mates, how to deal with hostility and dominance, how to relate to a leader, and how to lead others. It also performs a psychotherapeutic function for the child in helping him deal with social problems, conflicts, and complex feelings, and this may be reassuring... Finally, the peer group helps the child develop a concept of himself. The ways in which peers react to the child and the bases upon which he is accepted or rejected give him a clearer, and perhaps more realistic, picture of his assets and liabilities (Doyle). Growing up, we go through many phases. The most noticeable phases deal with out appearance, more specifically, our clothing choices. Up to fifth grade I cared little about my appearance, but about the same time I started taking interest in the opposite sex I also took up interest in my looks. I went though the entire gambit of styles. First I tried the polo and khakis everyday look, but putting that much effort in my appearance every day did not suit me very well. I moved on the “country” look, complete with boots, Levi jeans and plaid shirts. Then came the “scene” look, which came with super skinny jeans and graphic tees. Throughout all of these looks of trying to find my style, and myself my contemporaries never neglected to inform me on which looks were acceptable and which were not, and there were plenty of each. Had I lived in a different region, the accepted styles may have differed greatly. Style is just one aspect culture influences, Doyle believes. If our surroundings affect that, they can definitely influence gender roles.

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Works Cited Bell, John. “Hasbro Takes on Gender in a Divided Toy Aisle.” Wall Street Journal (Online): n/a. Feb 13 2013. ProQuest. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. Bernards, Neal, ed. Gender Roles. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Print. Dobson, James C. “Biology Determines Gender Roles.” Bernards. 17-20. Doyle, James A. “Culture Determines Gender Roles.” Bernards 31-38. Molin, Anna. "In Sweden, Playtime Goes Gender-Neutral for Holidays." Wall Street Journal

Baxter 6 (Online): n/a. Nov 28 2012. ProQuest. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.