Sunday, July 15, 2012

Personal Gender Socialization

Personal Gender Socialization

I grew up with the normal social expectations related to my sex. For example, my mother taught me how to cook and sew, but she never mentioned a word about either of those to my brother. He was taught how to mow the lawn. Later, he was expected to go to a good college and my parents funded his education to an expensive school. My sisters and I, on the other hand, were encouraged to pursue higher education, although were told that it was more important for my brother to go to a good school because he was a boy. That had a decided effect, and it still irritates me to an extent. Social roles used to be far more restrictive, although it still appears that some part of the fundamental system in this country continues to value the work quality of men more than women.

Gender Socialization of Lesbians, Gays, and Others
Regarding the gender socialization of lesbians and gays, I imagine a tremendous dissonance between who they think they are and the expectations of others (determined by their gender.) Sue and Sue (2008) describe this identity struggle as between one's internal perceptions compared against the norms for one's gender. For example, if a three year old boy wants to dress up as a princess, his parents may panic because his desire to dress in a female role goes against normal social expectations, or they may laugh and think it is funny. Either reaction could create a conflict between the boy's self identity and the rules and norms for his gender. Tobin et al. (2010) believe children can differentiate gender roles by age 3 or 4. Furthermore, children have the capacity to perceive themselves as matching gender norms and stereotypes or as being different (Tobin et al., 2010).

Gender socialization is similar to our acculturation as Americans, it is quiet, yet the expectations insidious. The subtle and harsh expectations of gender cause isolation and stigmatization for many people who do not behave or think according to gender norms. I disagree (to some extent) that the social construct theory explains every aspect of gender differences, especially as it is applied to some gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals. Certainly the videos we viewed this week were not an example of deviant socialization that caused confusion of gender roles. For most of us, socialization explains our gender orientation, but the biological aspect of hormones and brain function (women's brains are different from men's) has an apparent role as well.

Personal Gender Socialization as an Affect in Counseling
Broverman et al. (1970) studied mental health professionals' idea of mental health for both men and women. The disturbing result showed that the professionals were fairly consistent with their ideas for mental health for both genders, (which varied greatly) however, when they were asked to describe mental health for an adult (no gender specified), their descriptions were far more like the descriptions of male mental health. Although this is an old study, it speaks volumes for the silent, but obvious stereotypes mental health professionals held, and likely still hold, for both genders.

Personal Considerations

It will be important to continue to learn about the Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender populations and review my own bias and prejudice toward this group. My own gender socialization would interfere with understanding what it feels like to be in conflict with my gender, as well as any stereotypes and bias I may hold toward either gender. As mentioned by Sue and Sue (2008) clients may have issues that are a direct result from membership in a minority population, although counselors must not assume that issues are always the result of sexual orientation. If I were deeply entrenched in beliefs that women or men should act in a prescribed set of behaviors (which to some extent I am, even subconsciously,) I would have to work at consciously accepting the behaviors and acknowledging the differences when working with a client who acts outside of those parameters.

Broverman, I. K., Broverman, D. M., Clarkson, F. E., & Rosenkrant, P. S., & Vogel, S. R. (1970). Sex-role stereotypes and clinical judgments of mental health. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 34(1), 1-7. doi: 10.1037/h0028797

Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2008). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Tobin, D. D., Menon, M., Menon, M., Spatta, B. C., Hodges, E. E., & Perry, D. G. (2010). The intrapsychics of gender: A model of self-socialization. Psychological Review, 117(2), 601-622. doi: 10.1037/a0018936

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