Socialization and the Learning of Gender Roles

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The term socialization refers to the “lifelong social experience by which individuals develop their human potential and learn culture.” [Macionis et al. p 55] The concept of socialization is that our actions are driven/learned by culture. Socialization is also the foundation of personality, which we build by internalizing our surroundings. Through the lifelong process of socialization, society transmits culture from one generation to the next.

A good example of socialization is the learning of gender roles. Anthropologist Margaret Mead reasoned that if gender reflects biological facts of sex, that people everywhere in the world would define the same traits as masculine or feminine. However, she argued, that if gender is cultural, such conceptions should vary. Mead researched three societies in New Guinea and concluded that “culture is the key to how sexes differ.” [Macionis et al. p233]

In the first society, Arapesh, Mead reported that the men and women had similar behaviour and attitudes. They possessed similar traits that our culture would define as feminine, such as being cooperative and sensitive to others. Similarly, Mead found the men and women of Mundugumor to posses similar traits as well, although contrary to those of the former. Men and women of the latter possessed traits defined by our culture as masculine, such as selfishness and aggressiveness (stemming from a culture of headhunting and cannibalism). The third society, that of Tchambuli, Mead observed to be similar in culture to our own in the facts that gender roles were distinct. Although, contrary to our culture, the feminine and masculine traits defined by their culture were reversed.

A global study, performed by George Murdoch, showed that there seemed to be ...

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...ars and financial areas are predominantly male.

Carol Gilligan argued that “…moral development of men and women is quite different. While men tend to focus on human rights, justice, and freedom, the principles of human responsibility, caring and commitment form the basis of women’s sense of morality. Feminists now refer to all aspects of society differentiating between masculine and feminine, such as toys for boys and girls, a segregated labour force, and advertisements that accentuate cultural ideas of masculinity and femininity, as elements of a gendered society."[Baker and Driden p193]

In conclusion, we see that gender roles, as specific as they are in our culture, vary from culture to culture. And the variation of gender roles, in a global perspective, demonstrates that they are learned through socialization as oppose to stemming from nature, instinct and drive.
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