Gender socialization, as explained in an article called “Socialization Practices: Learning to be ourselves in a Gender Polarized World” by Yoder, is what teaches us how to enact our gender roles in the context of our culture. The United States is cultured into socializing men to be masculine and hide their feelings, while women are encouraged to express themselves and be the nurturing, care-takers. Gender socialization begins at a young age and affects physical health for men and women.
First, men are encouraged to be brave, endure pain, confront danger, and protect their loved one. They often have to achieve their masculine status with strenuous effort. This can deteriorate their physical health and make them more susceptible to injury. Men are also taught at a young age to “suck it up”, or “rub some dirt in it”. This leads to men under-reporting their illnesses or injuries, which negatively affects their health. Men are also taught to hide their emotions, which can lead to elevated levels of stress and can result in a weakened immune system, weight loss or weight gain, depression, sleeping disorders, drinking and strenuous exercises. As for women, they are socialized to be the responsible ones, the nurturers, and the caretakers. This can affect their physical health in many ways as well. It has been found that being a care-taker of someone with a chronic condition can cause high levels of stress and cortisol within the body, also known as care-taker syndrome. This can affect a women’s physical health because it can lead to weight loss or gain, depression, sleep deprivation, sleeping disorders, drinking or exercising. Secondly, women have work hard during their day jobs and when they come home to take care of their children. This can affect their physical health because many times women do not have time to take care of themselves because they are taking care of other people and their families.
According to Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, we learn by imitation and modeling. Young boys and girls learn about the ways in which they should act and look, according to their gender, from their peers and family. It is thought that a man should be strong and muscular and that girls are to always look pretty and put together. These things that are socialized at a young age affect boys’ and girls’ physical health, and the parents usually have the most control in what is being modeled to the children.
From what I can remember about my childhood, I was always sure of my gender. I think having a brother taught me the differences between a male and female. I knew that my brother was biologically and physically different from me. I also think having a close family and seeing both the roles of my Dad and my Mom influenced my behaviors as a woman now. I remember telling my brother when I was really little, “Since you’re a boy, you can’t be a Mom when you grow up”. Even at such a young age, I knew that taking care of the children was a woman’s role, just from watching my Mom and Grandmas, and I already foresaw a future where I would take on that role. I wouldn’t change a single thing about my childhood. I hope that I can raise my children how my parents raised me and my siblings, they never pushed us to like something just because it was society’s idea of what a girl and boy should like.
Yoder. “Socialization Practices: Learning to Be Ourselves in a Gender Polarized World.” (1995): 51-79. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.