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Children and Our Future

Girls and Boys at Play

The text discusses how the types of games that girls and boys play influence their gender-role socialization. Let’s take a closer look at two early sociological studies that provided important evidence for this process.

Janet Lever (1978) [18] studied fifth-grade children in three different communities in Connecticut. She watched them play and otherwise interact in school and also had the children keep diaries of their play and games outside school. Lever found that boys’ games were typically more complex than girls’ games: The boys’ games had a greater number of rules and more specialized roles, and they also involved more individuals playing. She attributed these differences to socialization by parents, teachers, and other adults and argued that the complexity of boys’ play and games helped them to be better able than girls to learn important social skills such as dealing with rules and coordinating actions to achieve goals.

A second sociologist, Barrie Thorne (1993), [19] studied fourth- and fifth-graders in California and Michigan. The boys tended to play team sports and other competitive games, while the girls tended to play cooperative games such as jump rope. These differences led Thorne to conclude that gender-role socialization stems not only from practices by adults but also from the children’s own activities without adult involvement. When boys and girls interacted, it was often “girls against the boys” in classroom spelling contests and in games such as tag. Thorne concluded that these “us against them” contests helped the children learn that boys and girls are two different and antagonistic sexes. Boys also tended to disrupt girls’ games more than the reverse and in this manner both exerted and learned dominance over females. In all these ways, children were not just the passive recipients of gender-role socialization from adults (their teachers), but they also played an active role in ensuring that such socialization occurred.

These two studies were among the first to emphasize the importance of children’s play for the gender-based traits and values that girls and boys learn, which in turn affect the choices they make for careers and other matters later in life. The rise in team sports opportunities for girls in the years since Lever and Thorne did their research is a welcome development, but young children continue to play in the ways that Lever and Thorne found. The body of research on gender differences in children’s play points to the need for teachers, parents, and other adults to encourage girls and boys alike to have a mixture of both competitive and cooperative games so that both sexes may develop a better balance of values that are now commonly considered to be either feminine or masculine.



Schools

School is yet another agent of gender socialization. First of all, school playgrounds provide a location for the gender-linked play activities just described to occur. Second, and perhaps more important, teachers at all levels treat their female and male students differently in subtle ways of which they are probably not aware. They tend to call on boys more often to answer questions in class and to praise them more when they give the right answer. They also give boys more feedback about their assignments and other school work (Sadker & Sadker, 1994). [20] At all grade levels, many textbooks and other books still portray people in gender-stereotyped ways. It is true that the newer books do less of this than older ones, but the newer books still contain some stereotypes, and the older books are still used in many schools, especially those that cannot afford to buy newer volumes.



Mass Media

Gender socialization also occurs through the mass media (Renzetti, Curran, & Maier, 2012). [21] On children’s television shows, the major characters are male. On Nickelodeon, for example, the very popular SpongeBob SquarePants is a male, as are his pet snail, Gary; his best friend, Patrick Star; their neighbor, Squidward Tentacles; and SpongeBob’s employer, Eugene Crabs. Of the major characters in Bikini Bottom, only Sandy Cheeks is a female. For all its virtues, Sesame Street features Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, and other male characters. Most of the Muppets are males, and the main female character, Miss Piggy, depicted as vain and jealous, is hardly an admirable female role model. As for adults’ prime-time television, more men than women continue to fill more major roles in weekly shows, despite notable women’s roles in shows such as The Good Wife and Grey’s Anatomy. Women are also often portrayed as unintelligent or frivolous individuals who are there more for their looks than for anything else. Television commercials reinforce this image. Cosmetics ads abound, suggesting not only that a major task for women is to look good but also that their sense of self-worth stems from looking good. Other commercials show women becoming ecstatic over achieving a clean floor or sparkling laundry. Judging from the world of television commercials, then, women’s chief goals in life are to look good and to have a clean house. At the same time, men’s chief goals, judging from many commercials, are to drink beer and drive cars.

Women’s and men’s magazines reinforce these gender images (Hesse-Biber, 2007; Milillo, 2008).[22] Most of the magazines intended for teenaged girls and adult women are filled with pictures of thin, beautiful models; advice on dieting; cosmetics ads; and articles on how to win and please your man. Conversely, the magazines intended for teenaged boys and men are filled with ads and articles on cars and sports, advice on how to succeed in careers and other endeavors, and pictures of thin, beautiful (and sometimes nude) women. These magazine images again suggest that women’s chief goals are to look good and to please men and that men’s chief goals are to succeed, win over women, and live life in the fast lane.

Religion

Another agent of socialization, religion, also contributes to traditional gender stereotypes. Many traditional interpretations of the Bible yield the message that women are subservient to men (Tanenbaum, 2009). [23] This message begins in Genesis, where the first human is Adam, and Eve was made from one of his ribs. The major figures in the rest of the Bible are men, and women are for the most part depicted as wives, mothers, temptresses, and prostitutes; they are praised for their roles as wives and mothers and condemned for their other roles. More generally, women are constantly depicted as the property of men. The Ten Commandments includes a neighbor’s wife with his house, ox, and other objects as things not to be coveted (Exodus 20:17), and many biblical passages say explicitly that women belong to men, such as this one from the New Testament: “Wives be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church. As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands” (Ephesians 5:22–24).

Several passages in the Old Testament justify the rape and murder of women and girls. The Koran, the sacred book of Islam, also contains passages asserting the subordinate role of women (Mayer, 2009). [24]

A Final Word on the Sources of Gender

Scholars in many fields continue to debate the relative importance of biology and of culture and socialization for how we behave and think as girls and boys and as women and men. The biological differences between females and males lead many scholars and no doubt much of the public to assume that masculinity and femininity are to a large degree biologically determined or at least influenced. In contrast, anthropologists, sociologists, and other social scientists tend to view gender as a social construction. Even if biology does matter for gender, they say, the significance of culture and socialization should not be underestimated. To the extent that gender is indeed shaped by society and culture, it is possible to change gender and to help bring about a society where both men and women have more opportunity to achieve their full potential.



KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Sex is a biological concept, while gender is a social concept and refers to the social and cultural differences a society assigns to people based on their sex.

  • Several biological explanations for gender roles exist, but sociologists think culture and socialization are more important sources of gender roles than biology.

  • Families, schools, peers, the mass media, and religion are agents of socialization for the development of gender identity and gender roles.

FOR YOUR REVIEW

  1. Write a short essay about one or two events you recall from your childhood that reflected or reinforced your gender socialization.

  2. Do you think gender roles are due more to biology or to culture and socialization? Explain your answer.

[1] Aulette, J. R., & Wittner, J. (2011). Gendered worlds (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

[2] Buss, D. (2012). Evolutionary psychology: The new science of the mind (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

[3] Thornhill, R., & Gangestad, S. W. (2008). The evolutionary biology of human female sexuality. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

[4] Browne, K. (2002). Biology at work: Rethinking sexual equality. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

[5] Begley, S. (2009, June 29). Don’t blame the caveman. Newsweek, 52–62; Fine, C. (2011).Delusions of gender: The real science behind sex differences. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

[6] Begley, S. (2009, June 29). Don’t blame the caveman. Newsweek, 52–62.

[7] Mazur, A. (2009). Testosterone and violence among young men. In A. Walsh & K. M. Beaver (Eds.), Biosocial criminology: New directions in theory and research (pp. 190–204). New York, NY: Routledge.

[8] Miczek, K. A., Mirsky, A. F., Carey, G., DeBold, J., & Raine, A. (1994). An overview of biological influences on violent behavior. In J. Albert, J. Reiss, K. A. Miczek & J. A. Roth (Eds.), Understanding and preventing violence: Biobehavioral influences (Vol. 2, pp. 1–20). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

[9] Card, N. A., Stucky, B. D., Sawalani, G. M., & Little, T. D. (2008). Direct and indirect aggression during childhood and adolescence: A meta-analytic review of gender differences, intercorrelations, and relations to maladjustment. Child Development, 79(5), 1185–1229.

[10] Begley, S. (2009, September 14). Pink brain, blue brain: Claims of sex differences fall apart. Newsweek, 28; Fine, C. (2011). Delusions of gender: The real science behind sex differences. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

[11] Lindsey, L. L. (2011). Gender roles: A sociological perspective (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

[12] Murdock, G. (1937). Comparative data on the division of labor by sex. Social Forces, 15, 551–553.

[13] Brettell, C. B., & Sargent, C. F. (Eds.). (2009). Gender in cross-cultural perspective (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

[14] Williams, W. L. (1997). Amazons of America: Female gender variance. In C. B. Brettell & C. F. Sargent (Eds.), Gender in cross-cultural perspective (2nd ed., pp. 202–213). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

[15] Andersen, M., & Hysock, D. (2011). Thinking about women: Sociological perspectives on sex and gender (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

[16] Begley, S. (2009, September 14). Pink brain, blue brain: Claims of sex differences fall apart. Newsweek, 28; Eliot, L. (2011). Pink brain, blue brain: How small differences grow into troublesome gaps—and what we can do about it. London, United Kingdom: Oneworld Publications.

[17] Lindsey, L. L. (2011). Gender roles: A sociological perspective (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

[18] Lever, J. (1978). Sex differences in the complexity of children’s play and games.American Sociological Review, 43, 471–483.

[19] Thorne, B. (1993). Gender play: Girls and boys in school. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

[20] Sadker, M., & Sadker, D. (1994). Failing at fairness: How America’s schools cheat girls. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s.

[21] Renzetti, C. M., Curran, D. J., & Maier, S. (2012). Women, men, and society. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

[22] Hesse-Biber, S. N. (2007). The cult of thinness. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; Milillo, D. (2008). Sexuality sells: A content analysis of lesbian and heterosexual women’s bodies in magazine advertisements. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 12(4), 381–392.

[23] Tanenbaum, L. (2009). Taking back God: American women rising up for religious equality. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

[24] Mayer, A. E. (2009). Review of “Women, the Koran and international human rights law: The experience of Pakistan.” Human Rights Quarterly, 31(4), 1155–1158.


    1. Feminism_and_Sexism____LEARNING_OBJECTIVES'>Feminism and Sexism


LEARNING OBJECTIVES

  1. Define feminism, sexism, and patriarchy.

  2. Discuss evidence for a decline in sexism.

In the national General Social Survey (GSS), slightly more than one-third of the public agrees with this statement: “It is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? If you are like the majority of college students, you disagree.

Today a lot of women, and some men, will say, “I’m not a feminist, but…,” and then go on to add that they hold certain beliefs about women’s equality and traditional gender roles that actually fall into a feminist framework. Their reluctance to self-identify as feminists underscores the negative image that feminists and feminism have but also suggests that the actual meaning of feminism may be unclear.

Feminism and sexism are generally two sides of the same coin. Feminism refers to the belief that women and men should have equal opportunities in economic, political, and social life, while sexism refers to a belief in traditional gender role stereotypes and in the inherent inequality between men and women. Sexism thus parallels the concept of racial and ethnic prejudice discussed in Chapter 3 "Racial and Ethnic Inequality". Women and people of color are both said, for biological and/or cultural reasons, to lack certain qualities for success in today’s world.

Feminism as a social movement began in the United States during the abolitionist period before the Civil War. Elizabeth Cady Stanton (left) and Lucretia Mott (right) were outspoken abolitionists who made connections between slavery and the oppression of women.http://images.flatworldknowledge.com/barkansoc/barkansoc-fig04_x006.jpg

Stanton photo courtesy of US Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3a28976; Mott photo courtesy of US Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3a42877.
Two feminist movements in US history have greatly advanced the cause of women’s equality and changed views about gender. The first began during the abolitionist period, when abolitionists such as Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton began to see similarities between slavery and the oppression of women. This new women’s movement focused on many issues but especially the right to vote, which women won in 1920. The second major feminist movement began in the late 1960s, as women active in the Southern civil rights movement turned their attention to women’s rights, and it is still active today. This movement has profoundly changed public thinking and social and economic institutions, but, as we will soon see, much gender inequality remains.

Several varieties of feminism exist. Although they all share the basic idea that women and men should be equal in their opportunities in all spheres of life, they differ in other ways (Hannam, 2012). [1] Liberal feminism believes that the equality of women can be achieved within our existing society by passing laws and reforming social, economic, and political institutions. In contrast, socialist feminism blames capitalism for women’s inequality and says that true gender equality can result only if fundamental changes in social institutions, and even a socialist revolution, are achieved. Radical feminism, on the other hand, says that patriarchy (male domination) lies at the root of women’s oppression and that women are oppressed even in noncapitalist societies. Patriarchy itself must be abolished, they say, if women are to become equal to men. Finally, multicultural feminism emphasizes that women of color are oppressed not only because of their gender but also because of their race and class. They thus face a triple burden that goes beyond their gender. By focusing their attention on women of color in the United States and other nations, multicultural feminists remind us that the lives of these women differ in many ways from those of the middle-class women who historically have led US feminist movements.



The Growth of Feminism and the Decline of Sexism

What evidence is there for the impact of the contemporary women’s movement on public thinking? The GSS, the Gallup poll, and other national surveys show that the public has moved away from traditional views of gender toward more modern ones. Another way of saying this is that the public has moved from sexism toward feminism.

To illustrate this, let’s return to the GSS statement that it is much better for the man to achieve outside the home and for the woman to take care of home and family. Figure 4.2 "Change in Acceptance of Traditional Gender Roles in the Family, 1977–2010" shows that agreement with this statement dropped sharply during the 1970s and 1980s before leveling off afterward to slightly more than one-third of the public.

Figure 4.2 Change in Acceptance of Traditional Gender Roles in the Family, 1977–2010

http://images.flatworldknowledge.com/barkansoc/barkansoc-fig04_002.jpg

Percentage agreeing that “it is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family.”

Source: Data from General Social Surveys. (1977–2010). Retrieved from http://sda.berkeley.edu/cgi-bin/hsda?harcsda+gss10.
Another GSS question over the years has asked whether respondents would be willing to vote for a qualified woman for president of the United States. As Figure 4.3 "Change in Willingness to Vote for a Qualified Woman for President" illustrates, this percentage rose from 74 percent in the early 1970s to a high of 96.2 percent in 2010. Although we have not yet had a woman president, despite Hillary Rodham Clinton’s historic presidential primary campaign in 2007 and 2008 and Sarah Palin’s presence on the Republican ticket in 2008, the survey evidence indicates the public is willing to vote for one. As demonstrated by the responses to the survey questions on women’s home roles and on a woman president, traditional gender views have indeed declined.

Figure 4.3 Change in Willingness to Vote for a Qualified Woman for President

http://images.flatworldknowledge.com/barkansoc/barkansoc-fig04_003.jpg

Source: Data from General Social Survey. (2010). Retrieved fromhttp://sda.berkeley.edu/cgi-bin/hsda?harcsda+gss10.



KEY TAKEAWAYS


  • Feminism refers to the belief that women and men should have equal opportunities in economic, political, and social life, while sexism refers to a belief in traditional gender role stereotypes and in the inherent inequality between men and women.

  • Sexist beliefs have declined in the United States since the early 1970s.

FOR YOUR REVIEW

  1. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

  2. Think about one of your parents or of another adult much older than you. Does this person hold more traditional views about gender than you do? Explain your answer.

[1] Hannam, J. (2012). Feminism. New York, NY: Pearson Longman.



    1. Dimensions of Gender Inequality


LEARNING OBJECTIVES

  1. Summarize the status of women around the world today.

  2. Understand the extent of and reasons for gender inequality in income and the workplace in the United States.

  3. Understand the extent of and reasons for sexual harassment.

The primary focus of this chapter is gender inequality in the United States, but it is also important to discuss gender inequality worldwide. While American women are unequal to men in many respects, women’s situation throughout much of the world is especially dire. Accordingly, we first examine the global inequality of women before turning our attention to the United States.

The Global Inequality of Women

The problem of global poverty first discussed in Chapter 2 "Poverty" is especially severe for women. Although, as Chapter 2 "Poverty" noted, more than 1.4 billion people on earth are desperately poor, their ranks include more than their fair share of women, who are estimated to make up 70 percent of the world’s poor. Because women tend to be poorer than men worldwide, they are more likely than men to experience all the problems that poverty causes, including malnutrition and disease. But they also suffer additional problems. Some of these problems derive from women’s physiological role of childbearing, and some arise from how they are treated simply because they are women.

Let’s first look at childbearing. One of the most depressing examples of how global poverty affects women is maternal mortality, or the number of women who die during childbirth for every 100,000 live births. More than 500,000 women die worldwide annually from complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Maternal mortality usually results from one or more of the following: inadequate prenatal nutrition, disease and illness, and inferior obstetrical care, all of which are much more common in poor nations than in wealthy nations. In wealthy nations, the rate of maternal mortality is 14 per 100,000 births, but in poor nations the rate is a distressingly high 590 per 100,000 births, equivalent to almost 6 deaths for every 1,000 births. Women in poor nations are thus forty-two times more likely than those in wealthy nations to die from complications during pregnancy or childbirth (World Bank, 2012). [1]

In India and Pakistan, thousands of new wives every year are murdered in dowry deaths because they have not provided their husbands a suitable amount of money and goods.http://images.flatworldknowledge.com/barkansoc/barkansoc-fig04_x007.jpg

Image courtesy of Claude Renault, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Women_moving_soil_with_bowls.jpg.

In addition to these problems, women in poor nations fare worse than men in other ways because of how they are treated as women. One manifestation of this fact is the violence they experience (World Health Organization, 2010). [2] About one-third of women worldwide have been raped or beaten, leading Amnesty International (2004) [3] to call violence against women “the greatest human rights scandal of our times.” Although violence against women certainly occurs in wealthy nations, it is more common and extreme in poor and middle-income nations, and in nations where women’s inequality (as reflected by criteria such as their labor force participation and their educational attainment) is especially high (Kaya & Cook, 2010). [4] More than half of women in Uganda, for example, have been physically or sexually abused (Amnesty International, 2010). [5] Many young women in India who work outside the home have been raped by male high-school dropouts who think these women lack virtue and should be punished with rape (Polgreen, 2011). [6] In India and Pakistan, thousands of women are killed every year in dowry deaths, in which a new wife is murdered by her husband and/or his relatives if she does not pay the groom money or goods (Kethineni & Srinivasan, 2009). [7] In many countries, young girls routinely have their genitals cut out, often with no anesthesia, in what has been termed female genital mutilation, a practice that is thought to affect more than 100 million girls and women across the earth and has been called an act of torture (Kristoff, 2011; Rogo, Subayi, & Toubia, 2007). [8]

Sex trafficking is another major problem in countries like Cambodia, India, Nepal, and Thailand, where young girls are often stolen from their parents and forced to work as prostitutes in what amounts to sexual slavery. The number of girls (and sometimes boys) under age 18 who work as sex slaves is thought to reach into the millions and to be larger than the number of African slaves during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Kristoff & WuDunn, 2010). [9]

Beyond violence, women in poor nations are less likely than their male counterparts to get a higher education, and girls are less likely than boys to attend primary school. Women are also less likely than men to work in jobs that pay a decent wage and to hold political office. In many poor nations, girls are less likely than boys to receive adequate medical care when they become ill and are more likely than boys to die before age 5. In all these ways, women and girls in poor nations especially suffer.

In stark contrast, women in wealthy democratic nations fare much better than their counterparts in poor nations. In many wealthy democracies, women’s status vis-à-vis men is higher than in the United States. The Note 4.23 "Lessons from Other Societies" box discusses this situation further.


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