Monday, November 21, 2011

Gender Benders

We had a very interesting Sociology class last week in which we learned about gender roles and conformity. Everyone has been socialized from a young age to follow these socially constructed rules; girls and the color pink, playing with stuffed toys, mini houses and Barbie dolls and wearing dresses; boys and the color blue, playing with action figures, video games and wearing shirts and jeans.

Agents of socialization can be found everywhere; in religion, retail stores, bathrooms, greeting card stores, jobs, and even in the family. Societies tend to be extremely gender polarized, which means that social life is based around ideals of the male and female gender. This is why people tend to make gender-schematic decisions. The term, gender-schematic, means that an individual is influenced by a polarized society’s ideas of males and females.

Although a couple of decades back there were no opportunities for women to be treated as equals to men in society, today women have the chance to secure top positions. However even today women experience the glass-ceiling concept at the workplace, in which case they can see the top of the hierarchy but cannot reach it because of this “ceiling.” This results in the creation of feminist groups and ways of thinking. Feminists are women who believe women should be treated as equals to men, rather than being treated as inferior.

As with all aspects of society, there is deviance from gender too. Not all individuals fit perfectly into the categories of a society’s definition of male and female. An example of a movie that portrays deviance of gender well is “She’s The Man.” It is a modern day adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Basically, the lead character, Viola, wants to play soccer for her high school, but the girls’ team was cut, leading her to disguise herself as her twin brother and play on the boys’ soccer team of a rival high school. Viola, when dressed as a male, gets negatively sanctioned when she accidentally acts like a girl. This just shows what the behavioral and physical norms for men are, and that feminine behavior is considered to be emasculating.

Gender benders are considered to be deviant in particular societies. In Western societies it would not be odd or unusual to see a female dressed as a male, or vice versa. However in a country like Qatar, such acts would not just be negatively sanctioned, they may even be formally negatively sanctioned, in which case the authorities get involved.

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