Gender Relations

By Ayushi Singhal, NUJS


One of the routes adopted to understand the origins of gender differences in the study of gender socialization- the learning of gender roles with the help of social agencies like family, media etc.

The approach of gender socialization makes a distinction between biological sex and social gender- an infant is born with the first and develops the second. Through interaction and contact with various social agencies, both primary and secondary, children gradually internalize with social norms and expectations which are seen to correspond with their sex. Gender differences are not biologically produced but are cultivated culturally. They occur because men and women are socialized into different roles. Gender roles, behavior and identities are differently created and interpreted by particular cultures and in a particular historical time.

Hence, gender socialization refers to all processes through which gender identity is formed whereby the individual internalizes culturally constructed notions of masculinity and femininity. It includes socializing of gender roles, gender status, and gender identity.

The theory of gender socialization has been favored by functionalists who see ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ as guided by positive and negative sanctions and socially applied forces that reward or restraint behavior. These positive and negative reinforcements aid boys and girls in learning and conforming to expected sex roles. For example, a boy is positively approved for his bravery but negatively sanctioned for doing something feminine like playing with dolls.

If an individual develops gender practices that do not correspond to his behavior he is regarded as deviant and this is an example of irregular socialization. According to functionalists, socializing agencies contribute to the maintenance of social order by overseeing smooth gender socialization of new generations.

However, this approach of gender socialization has often been critiqued ad not being a smooth process as different social agencies like family, school, peer group are often in contrast with one another. Also, humans are not passive objects or unquestioning recipients of gender ‘programming’, and it is critiqued that gender socialization emphasizes rigid differences between males and females and compels individuals to act according to expectations of society.

Hence, gender socialization is the approach of regarding gender distinctions as a social construction that is learned through social agencies.

Successful socialization leads to-

  1. Series of expectation-

Society expects individuals to follow certain patterns of behavior, on the other hand, the individual expects to be accepted by the society he lives in as he complies by all its norms.

  1. Changed behavior-

Successful socialization would always lead to changed behavior i.e. behavior adapted to particular situations.

  1. Socialisation inculcated a desire to conform.


The differences in the experiences of men and women, together with the change in the relationship between them, have profound and significant implications for ways in which social phenomena are conceptualized and investigated. Formulation and development of important sociological ideas are influenced by gender. Example, concepts essential to the study of sociology such as social class, alienation, work, and citizenship are drawn from perceptions and understandings of gender in social life.

Gender plays an important role in structuring the opportunities that are available to social groups, the kind of experiences they are likely to have and the way in which they are represented in a range of societal institutions from mass media to welfare state and social policy. Despite widespread rhetoric about equal opportunity policies and legislation, major inequalities persist between men and women, and the study of gender in sociology can greatly help in addressing these problems.

An illustration of the importance of gender in sociology is that in the field of education. Feminists have always argued that education, as an aspect of social life, has a gendered, as well as a class and race dimension. The educational experience of children shows aspects of being gendered as in initial days of schooling, girls performed better than boys, which was reversed later.

Also, the importance of the study of gender can be illustrated in the field of employment. A gendered educational experience received by girls results in the gendered nature of their future position in the labor market. The labor market remains extensively segregated, both horizontally and vertically.

While on one hand, the nature of work in which women are employed is different from that of men, also in various occupations and industries, women are concentrated in smaller jobs. Also, there is a ‘glass ceiling’ whereby men dominate higher ranks and women fail to achieve their full potential within it. However, with the importance of gender in sociology being recognized, this segregation is diminishing.

Also, changes in the nature of the labor market are gendered. Example, manual occupations dominated traditionally by men like construction and manufacturing are collapsing, and part-time small jobs that realize women’s potential are increasing, changing the picture of the labor market. Hence, gender is very relevant and influential in studying the social aspects of the labor market.

Gender refers to the totality of meaning that is attached to sexes within a particular social system and it varies in social context. So gender is a socially constructed distinction- i.e. feminine and masculine, whereas sex is the biological constructed distinction of male and female.

Gender is one of the factors that locate men and women in society. Gender system is a system of meaning and differentiation linked to the sexes through the social arrangement, social context like the institution of family, certain given patterns and structure of behavior, the educational system like schooling procedure etc.

Formatted on February 20th, 2019.

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