Biology determines an individual’s sex, but it does not necessarily determine one’s gender identity - Assignment gender introduction. Although men and women are different biologically, there are many factors that can influence the gender with which one identifies. These factors include, but are not limited to, parental upbringing, schooling, and socialization in a particular culture.
First, parents traditionally raise their children according to their gender. Baby girls are dressed in pink and boys in blue. Boys are given balls, trucks and footballs to play with while girls receive dolls and homemaking devices. These toys send a message to children that boys are supposed to do one thing and girls are supposed to do another. In addition, boys are often dressed in pants while girls have the option of wearing skirts and dresses. A parent who is concerned that others will be confused as to the gender of a child will go to an extreme, putting bows and frilly dresses on a young girl. Some parents allow their children to choose the clothes they wear and the toys they play with; this can lead to a boy identifying with traditionally female clothes and toys and girls wishing to play football and wear pants exclusively.
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At one time, schools furthered the traditional gender roles. Girls took home economics, boys took shop classes, and only male/female couples were permitted to attend dances together. Today, however, boys are permitted to become cheerleaders and some schools will allow the more athletically exceptional girls to play football. Many schools have eliminated the male/female requirement at dances. Such a difference tells young people that gender lines can be naturally crossed without fear of persecution.
Finally, there are many cultures that socialize their young to follow traditional gender roles: men are expected to work and support the family while girls are taught to become homemakers. This, too, is becoming less common as there are many mothers working while the fathers stay home and raise the children. These children will be influenced by the non-traditional roles.
Media, school and peers have a large influence on the sexuality of teenagers and young adults, both in furthering promiscuity and in lessening the pressure to pretend to be straight when one is gay. Many television shows feature teenagers in high school who are having sex, regardless of the consequences. In addition, they feature gay students who experience a minimum of persecution and often have no trouble dating. While these depictions may not be accurate or even responsible, they do send a message to teens and young adults that gender is fluid and that they can express their sexuality from a young age.
Schools still enforce gender roles in many ways, by separating teams into boys and girls, having separate restrooms and often conducting sex education separately as well. Some schools are required to mention birth control and the threat of disease while others will simply promote abstinence.
One’s peers have the greatest influence on their gender identity and sexuality. It is a teenagers friends and acquaintances who will let them know what behavior is acceptable and what behavior is not; these are the same individuals who might persecute a boy who prefers to dress effeminately or a girl who dresses in a masculine wardrobe. Teens and young adults are more likely to look to their peers for advice and acceptable standards than they are their parents, school or church.
It is my opinion that we, as a society should not take an active role in influencing or affecting gender roles and gender identity. These concepts vary according to the individual and evolve throughout time. For example, a man who preferred to sew rather than engaging in traditionally male activities one hundred years ago would have been persecuted shamelessly. Today, a man can become a fashion designer, a model, a teacher or a nurse and expect little or no rejection from his peers. There are more male nurses than ever before, and this change will most likely continue through the years. Women are just as likely to become doctors as they are nurses, and they are more likely to hire someone to look after their children as they are to care for them themselves. This demonstrates that gender issues will resolve themselves; attempting to influence these matters will lead to public fear.
There are ways in which the members of a society can influence gender identity in order to diminish the lines between traditionally male and female interests. First, schools can ensure that classes and activities are available to both boys and girls equally. Parents can teach their children that there is no such thing as gender roles in the home; men and women can share tasks without dividing them up along gender lines. They can encourage their children to choose classes and careers based on interest and ability rather than by gender.
As a whole, society cannot influence gender issues. Women in the WNBA do not receive the accolades or the financial rewards that men in the NBA receive. At present, there are no national football or baseball teams intended for women. If teams were established, they would fall out of the limelight much in the same way as the WNBA. Employers who attempt to encourage men or women to accept jobs that are non-traditional for their gender are accused of discrimination against the other race. Eventually, societies will be ready to encourage individuals to be who they are and to focus less on gender identity. Until then, change needs to be enacted from the bottom up, from individuals to entire groups.