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Gender Socialization

Socialization is the process of internalizing society's values in order to adapt to one's culture .It influences how people behave as males and females in society. The social learning process that imbibes people into understanding the various aspects of culture includes the process of gender socialization. Gender socialization encompasses the process of learning society's gender roles and their advantages and limitations.

In most societies there is a clear categorization of what it means to be male or female. This categorization process and the agents of socialization that transmit knowledge about gender roles influence how individuals define themselves and other in terms of gender and sex roles.

In many societies gender roles are rigidly defined. For instance men have traditionally been expected to be strong, aggressive even dominating. Women have been expected to be nurturing, sensitive, emotional and relatively passive. Children are taught these values both consciously and subconsciously from a very early age. This is further reinforced with the use of toys as boys are given large sized, noise making or violent type whereas girls are often given gentler toys. These expressions influence information of self as well as identities.

The main agents of gender socialization are parents, peer, siblings, school, society and religion. For very young children parents and family play the central role in shaping gender socialization. They determine how the family interacts with a boy as well as the types of toys and clothes that the baby is given.

Gender identity is established by age of two years. Its central component is the notion – I am male or I am female. Sigmund Freud theorized that identification and imitation of same-sex parents leads to effective gender –identity formation. In the latency period males and females tend to aggregate themselves from each other. This may be considered part of the socialization process and further solidifies gender identification and role specific behavior. Schools and families continue to influence gender socialization throughout adolescence. During adolescence peer influence becomes the strongest agent of gender socialization as teens form together in small social groups to facilitate their transition into adulthood and into the larger society. The socializing effects of the mass media also become powerful in formative years.

Culture has been seen as of key significance in the construction of gender identity. Education has been seen as an important part of this process drawing girls and boys into different activities and achievements. The analysis of gender and culture has drawn on literary theory with the deconstructionism of Derrida and also on the discourse analysis of Michal Foucault. The emphasis has shifted from the individual's learning experience to the creation of the texts or representations that construct our notions of gender. In the Indian context woman is defined as an ambivalent person. Woman is located in myth and popular culture as both goddess and Shakti as virtuous and evil. Women were not only revered and worshipped but also controlled through a direct regulation of her sexuality.

Religion is powerful social institution that shape gender identity in society. There are sacred spaces where only men are allowed to ender and not women. There are norms defined by which only men can perform certain duties or obligations pertaining to religious activities but also reinforce and legitimize gender roles assigned to men and women in society.

Gender identity is conveyed and structured by both verbal and non-verbal means. The gender classification is influenced by the semantic structure of language. Lakoff has suggested that generic terms in language may influence cognitive structure and attitudes towards gender superiority. The term man means human being in general while woman refers to female .The term bachelor conserves its original meaning of single man while spinster has acquired the negative connotation of old maid. Language is another medium through which gender identities are imposed or reinforced.