Why is it that when we see a young girl playing with toy cars, or a young boy playing with Barbie dolls we automatically wonder why they are acting 'unlike their gender?' To what extent does society influence how we see the roles of men and women? The textbook identifies two important concepts: gender role and gender identity. Gender identity is the sense of being male or female, while gender role "refers to the behaviors that tend to accompany being male or female." As I was reading, I liked to refer to this as the stereotypes surrounding men and women. The book talks about children enjoying playing with different types of toys depending on their gender. What was especially interesting to me was that "investigators have observed these preferences in nonhuman primates including vervet monkeys. When placed in cages with toys, boy monkeys tend to choose trucks and balls, whereas girl monkeys tend to choose dolls and pots" (Alexander & Hines, 2002).
That seems pretty interesting to me! The book states how this might suggest that these differences are the result of biological predispositions. I totally fit that stereotype when I was younger; I liked to play with dolls, I didn't enjoy toy cars, and I was more interested in what I would now call 'feminine colors.' However, as I was growing up, I was definitely influenced by my more aggressive friends! One of my friends was an extreme tomboy and whenever I was around her, I was much more aggressive, and much more into "guy sports" (i.e. football). The same thing would happen when I was around my brother often! Does this suggest that not only are we biologically predisposed, but that being around certain people influences our behavior?
The more interesting finding to me is how we treat children! Do we have a certain menu of actions that we order for certain genders and events? Interestingly enough the book states that "teachers also tend to respond to boys and girls in accord with prevailing gender stereotypes. They give boys more attention when they exhibit aggression and girls more attention when they exhibit dependent or 'needy' behaviors" (Serbin & O'Leary, 1975). And what I have run into more and more often is the tendency of American society to be more strict with boys than with girls; "parents tolerate and may even encourage cross-sex 'tomboy' behavior in girls, like playing with both trucks and dolls, more than in boys, who tend to be stereotyped as 'sissies' if they play with dolls" (Langlois & Downs, 1980; Wood et al., 2002). I've run into this perception quite a few times in my life; even certain actions and objects and styles are stereotypically classified as 'feminine' vs. 'masculine.' Do you guys have any thoughts as to why? And how society encourages these gender roles? Or why? And what do you guys think--is this more attributable to genetics or the surrounding society? Personally, I believe that we're more inclined to reinforce and align ourselves with these stereotypes as a result of the environment and society we live in.