Socialization

Reflection Paper #2

SOC 101, Glenn Booker, 10/25/12

 

Consider the ways you were socialized by your family.  In what ways was your socialization gendered?  What toys did you play with as a child?  What extracurricular activities were you encouraged to pursue?  What household chores did you perform?

 

My parents were very traditional in their roles.  My father was a military officer (in Army special forces, no less), and my mom was a cheerleader in high school.  American as apple pie!  My brother and I were the only kids, so no girls around.  My first major sign of gendered socialization came in 7th grade when I had the very first elective in school:  wood shop or home economics.  Literally without a question, my father signed me up for wood shop.  No other possibility!  And while I enjoyed wood shop, I also really wanted to take home ec!  Through my childhood it was clear that I was expected to go to college, but I doubt that would have been any different if I had a sister.

I went through a lot of surgeries as a child, but my father’s admonition that “boys don’t cry” was strongly enforced under all but the most extreme circumstances.  Once I had been through a surgery very recently, but was trying to get through church sitting next to my father, in spite of being in a lot of pain.  He saw my struggle, then gently put his big hand on my good leg, and let out the deepest, saddest sigh I’ve ever heard in my life.  That was the most sympathy he could show.

I had very traditional ‘boy’ toys as a child – Matchbox cars come to mind first, and toy dinosaurs.  I played in the gutters in the street, and used sand to control the water runoff from people washing cars and watering their lawns.  Back then, kids boys were allowed to get dirty!  Later on, I learned how to make balsa model airplanes, and made a bunch of those.  My mom was the only female in the house, so no feminine toys were around.  I remember finding bobby pins and hair accessories in the street, and wondering what these pieces of the female world were about; almost like I was an anthropologist investigating some foreign culture’s artifacts!

My father is a big fan of music, so musical interests were encouraged.  My brother and I both took piano lessons for a while when we were too young to have any dedication to it.  As a cripple growing up, it wasn’t expected that I would do much of any sports.  I recall being good at tetherball – most of the time you could stand in one place (good for me), and I had good upper body strength.  I was on a basketball team very briefly, and tried out for a fourth grade softball team very unsuccessfully.  My brother had even less interest in sports, so I guess we were bad boys for not fulfilling that gender role well.  My brother and I both played Dungeons and Dragons in high school; that was the most social activity I had as a child.

My mom worked a full time job, but she was responsible for most of the household chores.  She did cleaning, all of the laundry, most of the food prep and cleanup, and grocery shopping.  After my parents got divorced, my dad had to ask someone how to do laundry – he literally had no idea!  The only chores my brother and I did were helping put dinner in the oven (when we remembered to follow mom’s instructions!), and a little bit of vacuuming and dusting once in a while.  My dad did the yard work and took care of the cars.  My dad used cotton handkerchiefs for a while, and I remember learning how to iron those.  In high school I remember calculating for a class how much time I typically spent watching TV, and it was something over 8 hours per day.  Ok, I didn’t have much of a life.

One final example of clear gendered socialization.  My brother and my names (Michael and Glenn) were both carefully chosen by our parents to be explicitly gender-specific!  My father has often said how disgusted he was when Michael Learned and Glenn Close ruined that careful selection (both are women).

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