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DiTommaso 1

Joseph DiTommaso
Professor Jon Beadle
English 115
7 December 2016
Something Political In The Air
Through the progression of our lives, we are placed into gender roles that we overlook
and even take for granted. History shows that at the dawn of civilization, men were hunters and
women were gatherers, and together they formed a productive household in which they were
able to reproduce and teach their children the same tasks, whether be a boy or girl. It is almost
natural that boys are taught to be strong and aggressive while girls are taught to be sensitive and
care for the children. This has been a system unquestioned for thousands of years. However, as
we advance into a more progressive society, some people do not feel comfortable with certain
values or traits forced upon them because of their assigned sex at birth. It is because of this that
people who challenge the roles of gender placed by society are often met with negative
reinforcement, specifically through parents. The readings of Aaron Devor, Emily Kane, and
Claire Renzetti and Daniel Curran, all note of negative reinforcement displayed by parents for
gender construction, in hopes of expressing concern for an outdated gender system in pursuance
of comfort and individuality for each person.
Aaron Devor exemplifies his claim of negative reinforcement from parents on gender
construction in order to display that society demands parents to construct our children a certain
way socially. Devors article mentions how throughout our own life, we are placed into
categories of gender that are determined by our parents. Usually boys are taught to be more

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masculine and like toys such as cars and action figures, whereas girls are taught to be more
feminine with nurturing characteristics, such as taking care of a Barbie or a doll. Yet, we position
our children into a gender because of their sex simply because society demands them to. In
Devors article, Becoming Members of Society: The Social Meanings of Gender, Devor
approaches this subject and states that, As we move through our lives, society demands
different gender performances from us and rewards, tolerates, or punishes us differently for
conformity to, or digression from, social norms(Devor 1). Devors claim exemplifies the
predispositioned mindset society places on families, where these gender roles must be obeyed,
insuring an assumed prophecy for everyone to partake in. Similarly, I have faced these actions
lied out upon me firsthand. Growing up as a boy, my parents worked hard in order for me to
become a masculine male. I was always demanded by my parents to perform tasks that a typical
young man would do, such as take out the trash, clean the backyard, and wash the cars. If I ever
disobeyed them or challenged their set requirements for me, I would be subject to harsh criticism
and would be told to grow up and act like a man, thus understanding Devors claim in that
societal expectations are placed on gender continuously by negative reinforcement.
Like Devor, Renzetti and Curran demonstrate parents negative reinforcement on gender
construction through creating unfair expectations for individuals at a young age according to
their assigned sex. In most cases, we see that boys and girls are treated different at a young age.
Parents tend to be more firm and disciplinary towards their sons and more compassionate and
loving towards their daughters. From the beginning, treatment of individuals at birth tend to
influence behaviors for them growing up, which is the main goal. Claire Renzetti and Daniel
Curran expand upon this notion in their article, From Women, Men, and Society, by

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articulating from a study in 1995 from Adams, Fivush & Kuebli that, They [parents] also talk
more about sadness with daughters, whereas they talk more about anger with sons(Renzetti and
Curran 4). Parents instill these forms of behavior towards their children through communication,
and by pushing enforcement of gender towards them, parents are almost compelled to act
negative and give disciplinary action should their children not obey their expectations of gender
norms. I too am directly affected by such treatment from my parents. I note that my mother, born
from a religious Mexican family, instills and even forces this aggressive and cold language upon
myself in order to toughen me up. With this aggressiveness, there also comes negative
reinforcement, should I not obey the types of gender codes that my parents, more specifically my
mother, places upon me. However, with the advancement of a politically correct society, we see
controversy within such treatment, shown in Renzetti and Currans purpose, which is to inform
their audience on the negative consequences of reinforcement of gender norms placed into
individuals from their parental guidance growing up.
Emily Kane displays her position on the usage of negative reinforcement displayed by
parents towards their children by the fear of homosexuality by not adhering to specific gender
roles . Negative reinforcement in society is shown to be a tool used in order to have people
following the correct gender roles and expectations. If children started playing with toys that are
not of their gender, then they are ultimately breaking the gender norms set forth by society, and
can be cast out if not dealt with immediately. Such is the case with many parents, who do not
feel comfortable with their children playing with toys or doing activities that do not belong to
their gender. Kanes article, No Way My Boys Are Going to Be Like That, she expands upon
the notion of expectations placed on gender through children at a young age, specifically through

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young boys. In noting the responses among parents, she realizes that, Nail polish elicited
concern from a number of parents too, as they reported young sons wanting to have their
fingernails or toenails polished(Kane 5). By young boys exploring women accessories, parents
are obliged to criticize their boys on the basis that the accessories are only for girls. Ironically,
when I was young, I was curious about nail polish and saw my mother put some on her, to which
I tried to do as well. I was met with criticism and disapproval from my parents, on the basis that I
was a boy, and nail polish was for girls. It is understandable that something small as nail polish
can influence gender among boys, and can even induce homosexuality. However, should people
find comfort in painting their nails, regardless of what assigned sex they are, they should not be
met with negative reinforcement by parents for the fear of homosexuality.
The readings of Aaron Devor, Emily Kane, and Claire Renzetti and Daniel Curran all
share a common idea that disobeying gender norms is met with criticism and is often times met
with negative reinforcement from parents. Each display a similar idea, however, each note their
own purposes for expressing this problem. With the purposes of each author different, each in
the end reach a common goal of bringing change to an outdated gender code system in order to
promote change and individuality. Personally, I have experienced all forms of negative
reinforcement of gender codes from my parents, whether it be of fear of homosexuality or
insubordination to gender expectations. While I am not directly hurt or affected by this, I can
understand the reasons that which Kane, Devor, and Renzetti and Curran note, and because of
them, I am more aware in understanding gender, and hope a change occurs within society.

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Works Cited
Devor, Aaron. Becoming Members of Society: The Social Meanings of Gender. Composing
Gender. Edited by Rachel Groner and John F. OHara. 1st Edition, Bedford/St. Martins,
2014. P.P 35-43.
Kane, Emily. No Way My Boys Are Going to Be Like That: Parents Responses to Childrens
Gender Nonconformity. Composing Gender. Edited by Rachel Groner and John F.
OHara. 1st Edition, Bedford/St. Martins, 2014. P.P 91-97.
Renzetti, Claire and Curran, Daniel. From Women, Men, and Society. Composing Gender.
Edited by Rachel Groner and John F. OHara. 1st Edition, Bedford/St. Martins, 2014.
P.P 76-84.