This essay sample on Secondary Socialisation provides all necessary basic info on this matter, including the most common “for and against” arguments. Below are the introduction, body and conclusion parts of this essay.
In this essay, I shall be discussing the roles of secondary socialisation in both the creation and promotion of existing gender identities in the UK. The two social institutions I will be looking at are education, and the media – these both constitute as being ways of how we are socialised into particular roles, in this case through ‘secondary socialisation’.
Firstly, we need to establish what ‘gender roles’ are so we are able to discuss the importance of socialisation in education and the media on these roles.
Ann Oakley distinguishes between ‘sex’ (the biological differences between males and females) and ‘gender’ (culturally created differences), in that she focuses on what society defines as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ behaviours, roles, attitudes, expectations and so on. Gender identity is the result of gender role socialisation, unlike sex, which is biologically determined.
When discussing ‘masculinities’ and ‘femininities’ we need to appreciate that these are not merely two types of gender identities, but that in fact, there are different types of these identities.
This has been highlighted by Connell, who illustrated that there are both dominant and subordinate forms of these identities, for example, gay sexuality is a subordinate from of masculinity. So in fact, we should not be referring merely to ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’, but to ‘masculinities’ and ‘femininities’. Drawing on the nature/nurture debate, Joan Smith (1997) stated that men and women become different because they are treated differently.
In other words, socialisation and upbringing are more important than nature.
This suggests that biological differences in fact play no, or little, part in how our behaviour differs, but that in fact, gender identities are actually socially constructed, and then promoted through various social institutions. Evidence to support the social construction of gender identities comes from research into AIS, and also from cross cultural studies which show that different cultures define acceptable gender roles differently, proving that biology is not the main factor in determining male and female behaviour.
Discussion of popular culture, including the roles of magazines and books leads us to consider: “How are men and women represented in popular culture, and what role does this play in reproducing gender roles and identities? ” Firstly, we shall look at the idea that the education system is responsible for the creation of gender identities in the UK. Most importantly, we will be looking at how males and females learn their gender identities in education by assessing the role of children’s books in the promotion of, or the distinction between, gender identities.
We already know that educational institutions play an important role in socialising children for adult roles, but how exactly do we learn our gender identities from education? Michelle Stanworth (1983) introduced the idea of a ‘hidden curriculum’ whereby not only do children learn formal subjects such as Maths, English etc. , but from the school experience, they are also receiving hidden messages about their class, ethnicity, and gender.
As Stanworth found, this may be from the teachers – in a study, one male teacher was quoted as saying, of one of his female students, that she was likely to become: “a personal assistant to someone rather important. ” (I. e. this teacher means a man. ) In addition, it has been found that male students are likely to get more attention from staff than girls, even if girls outnumbered boys. An important way we learn our gender identities in education is through the use of books.
Dale Spender suggested that women are made ‘invisible’ in our culture, in that their lives and achievements are not represented as being as being of any significance, or may even be trivialised. This idea is supported perfectly when we look at children’s books. Many studies, including Lobban (’74) and Best (’93) have provided us with interesting findings. In the majority of children’s books, male characters tend to outnumber female characters by anything up to three to one.
Additionally, when female characters do appear, they are likely to be in traditionally stereotypical female roles. Male characters often appear as being heroes, are adventurous, and out of the home situation. How does this affect the children who are reading the books, and how does it promote gender identities? Young girls are likely to get the impression that they should serve men (‘happy servitude’), and the use of male heroes implies that women need to be rescued. For boys, they learn that men are big, adventurous, heterosexual and also protect women.
These effects are a clear example of how this form of secondary socialisation (education) promotes, and highlights the differences between gender identities. The second way we are socialised into gender roles is through the media. This includes books, the radio, television, videos and films, but we will look more specifically at magazines. In Angela McRobbie’s findings (’82), she demonstrated perfectly that the magazines girls read do in fact redefine, or even create, gender identities.
When looking at ‘Jackie’ magazine, she found that it helped to define girls’ identities and expectations from childhood onwards. She focused particularly on how the magazine constructed a ‘female world’ based around the ideals of romance, fashion, and pop music. The effects this had on young girls was that it promoted the idea that their primary task was to get a man and that their primary identity would be based on getting a man. Ferguson (’85) added to this idea, stating that women’s magazines promote the view that women should concentrate on cooking, housework, and childcare.
Furthermore, these are seen to be the main roles of women, and clearly define female identity as one which is centred around housework and childcare. Although Ferguson recognises that since her first studies in the 40’s, there has been a change in how this message is promoted in magazines, she does reiterate that nowadays, the predominant message is one of femininity being centred on childcare and housework. Taking a more general look at magazines aimed at females, we can draw certain conclusions about how we learn our gender identities through the media.
Most magazines aimed at young women, seem to have an unhealthy concern with appearance, health, and beauty. Many of the articles focus on diets, especially so called ‘celebrity diets’ which are an even more effective way of promoting diets, as young women are more likely to imitate the behaviour of people who they already look up to. This promotes the view that females should predominantly focus on their appearance. Looking at a recent issue of ‘Company’ magazine, we can see that there are 49 health and beauty articles, compared to six articles on real life issues.
This implies to the reader that health, beauty, and physical appearance are more important than real life issues, socialising them into a female gender identity based on these values. When looking at (heterosexual) men’s magazines, such as ‘FHM’ or ‘Loaded’, we can see that they are based around the idea that a man’s main interest is to have sex. Most of the articles are written in a way which almost ‘give advice’ on how to ‘get’ women. The magazine is socialising the reader into what is nowadays seen as typical masculine behaviour.
This is done by the content being predominantly about ‘lad-culture’, and provides a good source, for young males, of somewhere to learn typical ‘male behaviour’ from. This shows how secondary socialisation can create gender identities in the UK. To conclude, we need to look at other factors, aside from secondary socialisation, and cannot ignore the main source for our socialisation, (primary socialisation,) which is the family. Our parents are likely to treat us differently from other siblings of a different sex, although it may be unintentional.
This can include the way they dress us, they way they may restrain or encourage particular behaviour we display, and may even be evident in the toys they buy us. For example, giving boys tractors encourages them to do manual work and giving girls dolls encourages them to be caring and motherly. This is surely an important institution, and we must acknowledge its effects on the promotion of gender identities. We also need to reiterate that there are different types of masculinities and femininities, and need to recognise how these might be promoted through secondary socialisation.
For example, nowadays, there are many different types of men represented in the media. We are shown more traditional men such as Tony Blair who has a high-powered job and has a wife and children. But also, we are faced with images of David Beckham, who, although being a football player, (a typically masculine career,) has challenged typical masculine roles, by toying with feminine identities, without actually being homosexual. He has done this by, for example, wearing nail varnish, or by appearing on the cover of gay magazine ‘Attitude’.
To conclude, we have seen that both the media, and education do socialise gender specific behaviour into us from an early age. Personally, I do not find one of these institutions to be more effective than the other, but when considering other institutions, such as peer group influence, and the effects of the family, we can see that our gender identity is very much taught to us, and is by no means biologically predetermined, instinctual behaviour.