Doing Gender and You

reminisce about your past socialization as boys and girls and women and men and discuss one or two particular events that demonstrated the sociological perspective on gender. There should be two main parts to your response:

1) The socialization process: Discuss one or two particular circumstances in your lives whereby you found yourself being socialized about appropriate gender behavior or were encouraged or discouraged to behave in a certain way because of the gendered expectations in a given social setting. Remember while gender is the main variable being explored here, gender can intersect with race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, age, and other social variables. In other words, gendered expectation and assumptions can be influenced by being male and female but also by being a heterosexual or homosexual male or female, or a Chinese-American male or female, or a 14 year old male or female. Those connections (or intersectionality) are always fascinating to explore and contemplate.

2) Discuss outcomes or responses to the event or events discussed in #1: Although we are generally encouraged to conform (which is the path of least resistance and usually the path most taken), we often also engage in non-conforming behavior to resist the gender normal expectations and behavior in a given context. How did you navigate through the given situation? What social variables were important in determining what you did or did not do? If you did conform, what influenced your decision to do so? You are welcome to add discussion of stratification and inequality as part of an outcome as well.

As part of your stories, it is expected that you apply/connect course material (articles, concepts, textbook information, etc.) explored this week to your post. Post one original post by 11:59pm on Saturday (4/25) and an optional post if desired by 11:59pm on Sunday (4/26).

An Example and My Story: My Son and His Boots

A few years ago, my family and I decided to drive to South Lake Tahoe for a short one-day vacation during the winter season. We had packed all our bags and started our ascent up the mountain when we paused to inquire whether we had packed our son’s snow boots in the travel bag. We were now about 30 minutes from Sacramento and so we decided to stop by our preferred coffee shop and check for them after we picked up our drugs (I mean coffee). To our dismay, we discovered that both my wife and I had neglected to pack the boots and concern set in. It was surely cold up there and not having snow boots could be taxing on our 4 year old son (yes, yes terrible parents- consider social roles and expectations). We had two options, turn around and get the boots or pick up a pair when we arrive in Tahoe. After very short deliberation, we came to an executive discussion to tread-on and get our son new boots upon arrival at the destination. We stopped by a well-known large retail store (we were sure to find what we needed here due to our past shopping experiences) and proceeded to the kid’s shoe section. The section with the boots was separated by boots for boy and girls with all the appropriate colors we have come to naturally associate with boys and girls. We perused the boy’s section of course and, to our utter horror, we realized that the boots in our son’s size were not available. They had a few smaller sizes and many much larger sizes. They did have his size in the pink Dora the Explorer themed boots and just as we pointed them out, my son interjected, “I like those boots, can we get them?” We found ourselves in a predicament and contemplated whether to get the boots or look elsewhere. After much (and I mean much) deliberation, we decided we would get the pink boots for him justifying the decision by focusing on practicality (what is important is protecting his feet) and other factors (he will outgrow them anyway and they can be mostly covered up by his ski pants). It is always sociologically interesting to question why we took time to deliberate extensively on whether to get him boots meant to protect his feet but boots that were socially constructed as non-gender normal. Remember I am a sociologist and have explored extensively the social fabrication and in most cases the superficiality of gender coding. Why would I care? Did it have to do more with what I truly felt or what I felt others would think? In any case, we picked up the boots and proceeded to the cashier when my son impatiently started asking to wear the boots immediately due to his excitement of acquiring new boots he really liked. We decide to let him to avoid a scene. We did get several curious looks as we put them on him and we were able to alter time and space by simply walking down the store aisles as we looked for other merchandise with his Dora boots. We got several double-takes and one person in the line as we checked out commented, “I like those boots on him.” Now don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy compliments but some compliments come with various possible interpretations. This is similar to when some respond “interesting” in particular situations. My wife and I left the store and did discuss what had just happened in the store while driving to the hotel. Why did this incident matter? Looking back, it was obvious that we had both been socialized to take color and gender coding seriously (after all, color has no objective essential meaning but is infused with subjective cultural symbolism) and we were concerned not so simply about protecting our son’s feet (yes responsible parents do this) but also about what others would think of us as parents, what they would think of our son’s identity, and dodging much emotional labor (this refers to expressions we put on to navigate in particular social settings- think about how grocery store cashiers are trained to act and the tough guise front many boys put up) that would be required of us because we had strayed away from gender normal behavior. Yes, I could make several connections to “doing gender,” the Looking-Glass Self, functions and dysfunctions of doing gender, and so on but I will leave that to you.

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