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How children are pressured by society to adopt gender appropriate behaviour
Boo. 5 years old.The article is about a mother who blogs about her 5 year old son’s socially deemed gender inappropriate choice of Halloween costume (Daphne from Scooby Doo) and the reactions as well as harsh comments she received from the other mothers in her son’s church pre-school. She is not only rebuked for supporting her son’s decision in wearing a female character costume, but also for not correcting him for his ‘mistake’ that would supposedly cause him more harm than good socially.
This article covers issues of gender identity and social relations in the form of evaluation and reactions to gender ‘inappropriate’ behaviour. It shows the sanctions faced by the ‘offender’, the boy, Boo as well as the ‘supporter’, his mother, for not preventing or attempting to change Boo’s decision for choosing a female costume.
I find that the story applies to most cultures. Especially Western and a majority of Asian countries where there is a prevalence of two genders and hegemonic sexuality, and both males and females have strict gender appropriate behaviour. This post is also in sync with the reading by Ridegeway and Correll where social relations are a test of gender appropriateness and of how parents act as activists in continuing the trend of gender enactment in their children (exampled by Mothers A, B and C).
In the article, Boo was aware that he was dressed in a socially inappropriate manner for his gender since it was considered cross-dressing despite it being Halloween. This shows how early gender awareness begins and that children know that they are being evaluated and judged by others for their actions and the fear that amounts from not fitting into social settings as dictated when Boo was reluctant to leave the car because he was afraid of being laughed at. Hence the article supports Maccoby, that despite parents setting the agenda for socially acceptable behaviour, children learn gender roles from each other via peer to peer socialization, which was where I believe Boo must have learnt to be fearful of his gender transgressing behaviour and understanding that it was considered inappropriate to most people despite his mother supporting his idea of wearing a Daphne costume.
Moreover, this post sheds light on gender biasness towards girls when the mother added that if it were her daughter instead who was wearing a Batman costume, she would not have had to face the same public sanctioning as her brother. This led me to reflect on the different extents of restrictions faced by males as compared to females. Such that males are more often than not forced to act in a manner that proves to show some degree of masculinity and even by showing a small amount of femininity would result in being ridiculed by society. To accommodate this article, I use the example of male fashion, where males have a more limited choice of clothing in contrast to females. Furthermore, most of the male apparel available in usually in monotones or like Prof. Thompson said in one of the lectures, “boy colours”. Even if they were not, there would be a masculine factor added, be it in the cutting or a certain style of the clothes that makes up for the lack of masculinity and reinforce gender.
Whereas when we compare it to female clothes, there is an obvious difference in the range of styles and colour choices available since females are allowed to express themselves, clothing-wise, more freely by being able to adopt both feminine and masculine looks. For example menswear inspired clothing such as ‘boyfriend’ cut jeans in which the jeans are cut in a loose manner that imitates men’s jeans. Hence I feel that males are more restricted in the ability to express oneself in the public sphere as compared to females.
Katie Holmes in a tomboy look. An example of how women are still socially accepted despite wearing male inspired clothing.
This article reinforces the idea that a majority of parents still retain the gender appropriate mentality, and in doing so, pass on their concepts if gender to their children who then act out gender roles that are deemed socially acceptable and in turn refute others who do not conform to the hegemonic belief of gender appropriateness, henceforth continuing the cycle of hegemonic belief through generations. As for the mother of Boo, I believe that she did the right thing by encouraging her son to not be afraid of public scrutiny especially at such a young age of 5 years, thus teaching him moral courage. I believe that society can only change its hegemonic belief if more parents adopt this mother’s stand of teaching their children moral courage, however, other institutes such as State policies and education systems that reinforce gender roles in society act against such teachings. Hence despite the effectiveness of the women’s movement in empowering more women globally, I think that in the case of men’s ability of freedom of self-expression in public, it would take a much longer time for people to change their long held understanding of men as the ideal embodiment of hegemonic.
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