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There is no such thing as man and woman. No such thing as boy and girl.

All
things being equal, we are born with a clearly defined biological sex. We are
born male or female, but we are not born boy or girl. That distinction must be
taught. That distinction can only come from the culture around us.
Mothers treated their young sons and daughters very differently. They
usually kept their infant female children closer to them than their boys. They
also touched and talked to their daughters more than their sons.
Children learn that the line between man and woman is clearly
demarcated. For boys: independence, power, leadership and freedom. For
girls: domesticity, passiveness, a focus on beauty and image.

There is no such thing as man and woman. No such thing as boy and girl. The
distinctions we use to separate men from women, and the qualities that go
into what we call masculine and feminine, are arbitrary and culturally
defined. All things being equal, we are born with a clearly defined biological
sex. We are born male or female, but we are not born boy or girl. That
distinction must be taught. That distinction can only come from the culture
around us. The media teaches us that only men can be corporate executives.
Our families teach us that girls wear dresses and are cleaner, happier, and
more polite than boys. Our schools teach us that boys play soccer and girls
jump rope. Commerce ties the whole bundle together with dolls and trucks;
pants and dresses; designer toothbrushes in blue and black or pink with
sparkles. This paper will explore early gender socialization through the
artifacts and social institutions of the United States. This does not pretend to
be an exhaustive study, merely an inquisitive exploration.
It would help to begin by defining what we mean by "gender." Gender does
not mean biological sex. Gender refers to the socially constructed
expectations placed on a person as a result of their sex. Male, as a purely
biological classification, usually refers to that organism which has the smaller
of the two sex cells in organisms with dualistic male/female reproductive
techniques. In humans, it refers to someone who has an X and a Y
chromosome, and is capable of producing spermatozoa. Standard equipment
for males includes a penis and two external testicles responsible for the
production of sperm and testosterone. Female, as a biological classification,
usually refers to that organism with the larger of two sex cells and which is
responsible for gestating and bearing young. In humans, females have two X
chromosomes and are included with, as standard factory equipment, two
internal ovaries that produce ova, and a uterus for gestating young. Adult
male and female humans exhibit many biological distinctions, with the
possibility of inherent psychological differences only now being investigated.
It is well established, however, that males tend to be taller, heavier, and

more muscular than females. Females tend to have less body hair and more
surface body fat leading to a rounder, more gracile form. Current research
would also suggest a host of differences in the structure of male and female
brains. Despite the usually unmistakable physical separation between human
males and females, there exists a whole other class of traits: culturally
prescribed gender. Those qualities which humans are taught, literally from
the moment of birth, about what men and women, boys and girls, are
supposed to be. They dwell benieth our counciousness and alter our
preceptions, opinions, reactions and impluses without us ever realizing it. We
are taught that women are nurturers and men are leaders. We are taught that
women are emotional and loving, and that men are strong and impassive.
These things, unlike our biology, are taught to us via the socialization
process. They, not biology, make males men and females women.
We are born genderless, but the process of gender socialization is immediate.
Often from the very moment of birth, infant males are dressed in blue, and
infant females in pink; from that point on they can start becoming boys and
girls. It has become politically correct for some hospitals and parents to adopt
gender-neutral colors such as yellow or white for newborns, but the
significance of blue and pink as a permanent symbol of gender remains. A
1998 survey by students at the University of Oregon found that, out of 54
adults, a full 95 percent identified blue as a boy's color and pink as a girl's
color. While those conventions may be ebbing, it is still fairly uncommon for a
man to voluntarily wear pink clothing. The color of apparel is only the
beginning of gender socialization, and may merely communicate sex and how
people should treat infants and very young children. A study conducted in
1969 by psychologists Michael Lewis and Susan Goldberg found that mothers
treated their young sons and daughters very differently. They usually kept
their infant female children closer to them than their boys. They also touched
and talked to their daughters more than their sons. By the age of 13 months,
girls stayed closer to their mothers when they played. When the researchers
placed barriers between the mothers and their children they found the girls
were more likely to cry and motion for help; the boys to try to climb over the
wall. Lewis and Goldberg concluded that, in our society, parents
unconsciously reward independence in their sons and passive dependence in
their daughters. Sociologists have found, though often anecdotally, that
parents allow their young sons to roam farther from home, to get dirtier and
play rougher, and even to be more destructive in their play. Young girls are
kept cleaner and are expected to stay that way, and are taught the
importance of beauty and image. Girls tend to play indoors more, and are
much less rough in their games. Parents promote this activity in their
children, and from it they teach that violence and rough, athletic activity are
proper for males. Cleanliness and quite, near inactivity proper for females.
These ideas remain virtually intact into adulthood, only to be passed down to

the next generation. Children learn that the line between man and woman is
clearly demarcated. For boys: independence, power, leadership and freedom.
For girls: domesticity, passiveness, a focus on beauty and image, and a
generally more subdued existence.
Our media institutions are both windows and mirrors on society. Television
especially, they at once teach and reinforce cultural attitudes, and for
children can be among the most powerful forces of socialization. All one has
to do is turn on a television or open a magazine to see men and women cast
in often very rigid gender roles. Advertising is required to constantly reinvent
itself, but some images are frequently reused. Among them, images of men
as rugged and strong --the Marlboro man for instance-- or women as
submissive objects which can be simply cast into a scene to attract eyeballs.
Indeed, much advertising seems based on buxom and semi-naked young
women whose sexual assets are expected to sell everything from cars to long
distance plans. Most of these women are drawn as mere objects whose value
is measured only in the fleeting beauty of their bodies. Girls are taught to
judge themselves accordingly, and a truly awful message is sent to our
daughters. Researchers found in a 1992 study that in prime-time television
males outnumber females two to one. Males were also portrayed in more
glamourous, higher-status positions. Sociologist Nancy Signorielli found in
1990 that those depictions do effect viewer's opinions of women. The more
television people watch, Signorielli found, the more restrictive their views
about women tended to be. Media images help form the filter that is
socialization, and they all contribute to the internalized gender identity. It
sounds almost silly to say it, but people only do what they know how to do.
Where little boys and little girls are told that they may only act in accordance
with their sex, and then are repeatedly shown examples of strong men in
positions of power and passive women in positions of subordination, what
else can they become?
The toys of children are interesting artifacts of gender socialization. Almost
without fail, the playthings of boys and girls come from two different worlds.
Walking by the cluttered shelves in the children's section of a major
department store, androgynous or gender-neutral toys seem an exception
rather than a rule. The clearly demarcated zones of dark blue and electric
pink only bring the quantitativeness of geography to the distinction. But
beyond that, the separation between what is marketed to young boys and
young girls is glaring and, on closer inspection, somewhat disheartening. To
boys are offered a near endless assortment of toys. Vehicles: trucks, planes,
race cars, boats, space ships and police, fire and military hardware, all in
various themes and scales. Weapons: swords, endless varieties of guns,
bows, and fanciful projectile weapons. Sporting paraphernalia, action figures,
systems of construction such as Legos, and video games. Girls would appear

to have a somewhat less exciting selection. While a stunning variety of dolls


and doll equipment does exist, the pink-swathed universe of girls toys would
seem to end there. The only break to this theme are board games and the
occasional invocation of the "princess" archetype (where is Carl Jung when I
need him?). The princess image is an interesting diversion, but the board
games marketed to girls only reinforce the gender stereotypes already
mentioned. Girls are marketed games which promote beautification,
"acceptable" male mate selection, and the navigation of artificial social
networks. The upshot is distressing. While the playthings of young boys seem
based on power, action, adventure, and even violence, the toys of girls seem
to reflect one thing: domesticity. If little boys are trained to be race car
drivers and fire fighters through their toys, girls are trained to be mothers and
house wives with theirs.
That great crucible of American socialization, school, plays no small part in
gender socialization. Schools represents vast social environments where
children come together and learn about who they are by watching and
interacting with others. The stunning powers of acceptance and rejection can
put the finishing touches on the development of early gender identity in
young children. Many studies of elementary and middle schools show a selfimposed segregation based on sex. In choosing work partners or where to sit,
boys almost always choose other boys, and girls other girls. On the
playground large spatial separations can be seen between boy groups and
girl groups. It is within these groups, isolated from the other sex, that children
learn from each other the proper social posture and models of interaction
"proper" for their gender. The social differences between adolescent boys and
girls are numerous, often dramatic, and usually carry on into adulthood. Boys
tend to interact in larger, more publicly visible groups. They take up more
space, and are rougher in their play. Girls tend to choose smaller, more
intimate groups of shifting alliances. Compared to boys, they tend to be less
competitive and engage in more turn-taking. Girls tend to acquiesce more
readily than boys to teachers and the rules of the institution. The larger boy
groups give each member a greater degree of anonymity, and group rule
breaking for boys is rather common. Boy groups are also more clearly
hierarchical, with well defined leaders. From this, boys learn how to interact in
structured organizations where there is a clear top and bottom. They learn
competitiveness, assertiveness, and aggression as tools for success. Girls
tend to organize themselves into pair groups of "best friends" linked in
shifting alliances. They continually negotiate with each other for friendship,
and talk about who "likes" who. Compared with boys, girls tend to be more
interested in forming intimate relationships and communicating their feelings.
This interaction helps to teach the creation, sustaining, and ending of
relationships, intimate and otherwise. Their attention to who "likes" who and
the delicate social interactions of those around them teach them strategies

for forming and leaving personal relationships. These disparities between


early male and female socialization reflect several major qualities of later
sexual identification: that girls and boys are members of opposing,
sometimes antagonistic groups, that cross-gender contact is at once
dangerous and pleasurable, and that girls are more sexually defined than
boys.
A biologist might disagree that the sum of who we are, our aspirations and
opinions, the underlying expectations placed on us, and the subtle
psychological forces which nudge us this way and that, are purely the result
of socialization. But if there is anything which anthropology teaches us, it is
that humans are different and the same each in very precise ways. The
human condition is the same the world over. We all do the same things, we
just go about them in different ways. The idea of men and women, boys and
girls is no different. All cultures include the powerful symbols of man and
woman, but how they separate the two is arbitrary. The separation must exist
though, for where biological sex is a factor the "real" issue of reproduction
must be considered. The luxuries of culture and society can not overpower
our "true" function as mere machines for the reproduction of our genes.
Gender as an extension of biological sex is our little way of making sure that
that is carried out. But into gender, we must be socialized. To what end result,
however, is up to the culture around us.