Agents of Socialization
Being a rather typical representative of my generation, I have experienced numerous influences that shaped my self-representation as a female and my overall perception of what roles men and women should play in society. Among multiple agents of socialization, I might single out family, peers, and media, as those contributing the most to my gender roles identification. Firstly, my family taught me that women and men have different responsibilities when it comes to performing chores and housework. From my parents, I learned that men should do all the hard work that requires strength, and women should take care of children and do the so-called ‘feminine’ work, such as cooking, cleaning, washing, and others.
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Secondly, my peers at school also shaped my idea about genders. For example, when in the playground or at a birthday party, we as children always separated into gendered groups, where boys played with guns and girls with dolls. Such a separation based on gender influenced my understanding of the significant differences between males and females. Thirdly, media was one of the most influential determinants of socialization in my teenage years since I spent much time online and watching TV. The media representation of genders taught me that women need to prioritize their looks over education or self-realization.
Ways of Agents’ Influence
These three agents of socialization influenced me by different means; however, most of them were implicit and did not articulate the rules directly. Although the socialization messages that I received from my mother when I was a little girl were rather explicit. My mother explained how I had to dress and how I needed to behave to be a nice girl. The language my mother and other members of the family used defined gender roles as opposing ones. At the same time, my father always opened the door for my mother and helped her lift heavy things, which subtly taught me that women need help from men.
As for the peers’ influence, the interaction with my friends, and the long-lasting patterns of behavior in a mixed group indirectly defined how each gender should behave. More specifically, the typical topics for discussion among my girlfriends were toys, cartoons, female singers, or boys. Since the majority of the group acted in a certain way, I followed the pattern and adopted it.
Finally, the media never addressed any gender-specific issues directly but developed a built a particular social context from which I could retrieve some implications concerning gender roles expected by society. The films and advertisement predominantly represented women as fragile creatures whose appearance is the top priority, while men were portrayed as strong independent individuals who dominate over women. Popular romantic comedies also imposed behavioral patterns in relationships between men and women.
Despite extensive influences of a number of socialization agents, I managed not to conform to the imposed roles. I was able to filter the influences and develop my own understanding of my gender role regardless of the patterns imposed by family, peers, or media. The reason why I think so is that I purposefully used other sources of information that appealed to rational and progressive thinking when analyzing gender roles. Such wide-spread issues as sexism and domestic violence demonstrate how patriarchal society diminishes the role of women.
However, the advancement in women’s movements and the gender equality promotion allowed me to revise both explicit and implicit messages I received from the agents of socialization throughout my life. At the same time, some of the behavioral patterns that I adopted from my mother remain pertinent in my life. They predominantly concern the female appearance, which should fit the generally accepted image of a woman.
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Implications for the Future
Taking into account my personal experience, I think it is important to be more equality oriented when teaching children about gender roles. Although there exist some radical approaches to bringing up children in a gender-free environment, I believe such methods are exaggerated. Children should understand who they are but should not be imposed with artificially attributed social functions. I will not teach my children the same lessons I was taught because I want them to be less dependent on their gender self-identification. It is essential for both boys and girls to understand the importance of their personalities, talents, genuine preferences, and characters to help them in their self-perception.
My opinion is based on the overall adverse social tendencies in relation to genders, where women are exposed to domestic violence, limited employment opportunities, and wage inequality. Future generations have all the tools to change it and transform how gender roles are perceived now. Therefore, I suggest that the best message that might be addressed to young men and women is that both genders are equal in capabilities, talent, and social integration. Despite significant physiological differences, they both are individuals who live in the same society. Thus, it is crucial not to mistake gender for sex and not to apply its characteristics to the social roles people play.