Socialization is the life-long process through which we learn, relearn, and reflect the culture, structure, and institutions of our society. Among social class, race, and gender, socialization has much more immediate and enduring impact on gender because, according UNICEF,
“…people learn to behave in a certain way, as dictated by societal beliefs, values, attitudes and examples. Gender socialization begins as early as when a woman becomes pregnant and people start making judgments about the value of males over females. These stereotypes are perpetuated by family members, teachers and others by having different expectations for males and females.”
Maybe this comic provides an example:
The opportunity structures and gendered messages for women and men, girls and boys, coming from multiple directions and sources sustain socially-constructed and socially-functional gendered roles.
I came across this blog post from Ms. magazine on the new line of Lego toys. In the blog, Lego reportedly used social science to determine the types of Legos with which young women and girls show some interest in playing, including the focus on “beauty”.
“The company is framing their new line for girls with “science.” Executives are going to great lengths to explain that the line is based on research, using anthropologists who spent time with girls in their homes. The frame gives the company an excuse for reproducing the same old gender stereotypes that we see throughout our culture. They can shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, what are we to do? This is what girls want.” In this way they are trying to make it clear that they shouldn’t be held accountable for the messages their products send.”
I doubt that girls are only interested in the fashion utility of Legos; in actuality, they did not have much interest in these types of toys because these toy companies were not interested in girls! But the times have changed and the online Lego shop now includes a category for “girls” (but no separate category for “boys”).
Like Risman’s “Socialization into Gender” article suggests, even when these messages are purposefully and consciously rejected by parents, their children are presented with conflicting messages outside of their own home. Risman concludes that the determination of gender-neutral families alone does not allow children to live beyond gender; effective social change requires collective action across families and communities. It is, in effect, a project in and for massive social change.