How Gender Specific Behavior Is Imposed on Children Term Paper

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¶ … Gender-Specific Behaviour is Imposed on Children

Both male and female children in our society are socialized from a very young age to behave in specific, predefined ways that are considered to be appropriate for their genders. Beginning with the parents of children, and then including many other influential factors in society, many sources define what type of behavior is to be expected from children of each gender. Male and female children of all ages are given guidelines to follow regarding proper interaction with others and acceptable behavior in social situations. "Children learn at a very early age what it means to be a boy or a girl in our society. Through myriad activities, opportunities, encouragements, discouragements, overt behaviors, covert suggestions, and various forms of guidance, children experience the process of gender role socialization." (Wit)Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on How Gender Specific Behavior Is Imposed on Children Assignment

This gender role socialization can be extremely destructive to the mental, emotional, and sexual well-being of the child and seriously limit their opportunities as free-willed individuals. Any individual who deviates from the gender expectations of his or her family, social group, or society as a whole may be criticized, ridiculed, or even punished for this deviation. Children are guided on what types of toys, physical activities, clothing, television shows, and relationships they are allowed to have or enjoy based on whether they are a boy or a girl. "From the time their children are babies, parents treat sons and daughters differently, dressing infants in gender-specific colors, giving gender-differentiated toys, and expecting different behavior from boys and girls...One study indicates that parents have differential expectations of sons and daughters as early as 24 hours after birth." (Wit) Deviations from the accepted gender norms vary in each individual. Some children will deviate only to a very small degree, fitting in with other children for the most part, but having a small behavior, habit, or interest that is generally associated with the opposite gender. (an example would be a boy child who is active in sports and overall conforms to male standards, but enjoys helping his mother bake and care for younger children, both of which are considered to be feminine qualities.) Other children have moderate levels of gender-bending qualities that are more noticeably a part of their self-identity. (an example would be a female child that enjoys playing hockey and baseball, which are considered to be masculine interests.) Still other children deviate a great deal from the gender norms, and they are generally considered to be disturbed or mentally distraught children, simply because they do not adhere to the standards of gender behavior. (an example would be children that cross-dress or prominently show sexual or mating interests in members of the same sex.) Depending largely on the degree to which gender norms are disregarded by a child, the repercussions from others will likewise vary. Parents may punish their children in any number of ways for disobeying the male/female rules of conduct. Peers may outcast or torment a child that does not fit into the gender roles that they have learned from their families, society, and the media, and this kind of mistreatment and bullying of the abnormal individual is often encouraged subtly or directly by authority and parental figures. Other authorities, such as teachers and social workers, will also be unsupportive and detrimental to the health and stability of the child. As children with gender-bending qualities are punished and discouraged from being true to their identity, they will repress and hide their unique traits and attempt to conform in order to survive in such a conservative world. Children who are not taught to accept those who are different will continue to be prejudiced and judgmental as they grow older, and will foster the cycle of intolerance when they teach their own children to conform to gender specific roles. However, a minority will ignore the guidelines set forth by society and allow their more prominent gender-bending qualities to shine through during childhood and into maturity.

In my own childhood, I was not very successful at fitting into the gender role that was assigned to me by my parents. In fact, I was quite the opposite of what my parents had decided I should be based on my gender. "Parents encourage their sons and daughters to participate in sex-typed activities, including doll playing and engaging in housekeeping activities for girls and playing with trucks and engaging in sports activities for boys." (Wit) My parents attempted to be encouraging in these areas like most parents, but I did not have the interests that they hoped I would. From an early age, I showed more interest in things that are traditionally considered to be effeminate. I chose the pretty dolls with long hair and sparkling dresses over the male-oriented toys. Tea sets and parties were more appealing to me than action figures and toy trucks. I also loved putting on an apron and baking in the kitchen. I got to play with my older sister's Easy-Bake Oven and would make sugar cookies and brownies to serve at my doll tea parties. When I had the opportunity, I always chose to socialize with females, whether that be the girls my age or the older women in groups. As I got slightly older, however, I did begin to enjoy chasing boys and trying to get their attention, and by the time I was in elementary school I was trying to steal kisses from boys on the playground. I wanted to be accepted into the social circles with the girls, but I wanted to "get" the boys. I had no idea that I was breaking gender rules, I was just following my natural instincts and impulses. Though it wasn't long before I did realize that I was on the outskirts of the realm of acceptable behavior, and I started to reap the punishments for nonconformity. It became increasingly difficult to make or keep friends. I learned that friendship is often based on gender, whether that be by the choice of the children I wanted to be friends with, or the decisions of parents that did not want their children to spend time with the "weird kid." My own parents, too, interfered and made it difficult for me to find any positive social interactions of any kind. I was outcast and isolated socially.

The first example from my childhood may have led to the second, or vice versa, it is difficult to say for sure. As a young boy, I wanted to dress in feminine clothing and accessories, wearing dresses and skirts and high heels, and otherwise dressing up in clothing aimed at girls. This is actually a very common practice among young boys that are experimenting with role-playing and pretend and imaginary games, where they might be trying to identify with their mothers or sisters, or just trying to understand all aspects of life. A child that dresses up and role-plays as the opposite gender does not necessarily turn out to be gay or transsexual, though it can often be a sign pointing in that direction.

Many children will grow into traditional sexual orientations despite having enjoyed an array of nontraditional toys and games. I did not just subtly avoid the gender stereotypes, but rather very specifically lived against them. The result of my failure to conform to my gender role, however, was that I was often teased, both at home and at school. Rumors spread quickly at school, and reports about gender-bending things I had actually done mixed with speculation about my wild activities to create a whole genre of jokes and secret dirty stories based on my life. I was bullied and outcast, and was the butt of not only verbal jokes, but also tricks and practical jokes that would be both painful physically and emotionally. I wanted to have friends very badly, but instead I was kicked around by everyone. In fact, the bullying extended to my own home, where I was also teased and beaten. My older sister was the only person who seemed to understand at all, though my mother was far more supportive than my father was. My mother would quietly explain to me that I simply could not behave in this manner. My father, on the other hand, would actually physically and sexually abuse me if I didn't stop trying on my mother's skirts or wearing her lipstick. The sexual abuse escalated as I got older, and my father insisted that if I was going to act like a "faggot," I was going to be treated like one. I was forced to wear boy clothes that were extremely restrictive to my personality. My hair was cut to a very short buzz-cut, which was humiliating to me. My parents' relationship was also strained by my behavior, and it gave my father fuel to take out on my mother as well, who was punished as well any time she stood up for me.

From my experiences, I learned the basic rule, "If you don't want to get raped,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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