I am not a stranger to social construction. I was born to a very strict Roman Catholic Italian family. My grandfather worked construction 50 hours a week while my grandmother tended seven children. My own mother was not even allowed to attend college because they believed that “girls weren’t supposed to go to college”.
Inequality and gender difference was very visible. Do to social construction, my mother grew up believing that there were certain jobs for men and certain jobs for women. Ironically it was the changing society of the late 60’s and early 70’s that gave my mother the motivation to question tradition. I feel that in this situation it’s not society in general that constructs gender but simply ignorance through tradition. In my mothers case it wasn’t society at all but merely her families strict traditional values that tried construct her into the “traditional women” figure.
Even though many years have past since my mother has grown up and much has changed traditional values still play a part in how gender difference is created in society. In my own life my family has influenced my views on gender dramatically. When I was young I would listen to my grandfather ramble (in that myopic traditionally old fashioned tone so common of an older generation) about the inadequacy of women drivers and the annoyances of having women in the workplace. As a young person his views were very impressionable and if I hadn’t been corrected by my mother I may of easily carried these beliefs into adulthood.
In another situation, if there was ever any mention of eating a microwave meal in front of my grandmother she would immediately begin a rant about how she used to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for seven children, herself, and my grandfather everyday of the week with no exceptions. My grandmother never questioned the differences in gender supported by her own traditions. In her eyes these gender inequalities were not excusable but law. I do not believe, although, that society in general is completely innocent. Though I believe that tradition is basically to blame for gender differences it’s not at complete fault. Even in situations like the gender differences created by traditions in my family it required a society that either supported these differences or at least didn’t question these differences.
Society before the 1970’s readily supported the idea that the man was to go out and make money and the women was to stay home and tend the house and children. It wasn’t till the “question everything” ideals of the babyboomers that basic society became less of a resistance to gender equality. I am very aware that even in this modern age there are still gender differences and inequalities that are overlooked daily. Many of these have affected my own life. It wasn’t long into junior high when I stopped playing sports to pursue more artistic interests.
After doing this I felt very much like an outsider (at a time when fitting in was of most importance). I noticed that in most situations at school the guys would play the sports and the girls would cheer them on. In a small town like my own things like this were never questioned. Ideals like these seem horribly archaic as it silently enforces gender differences with almost no resistance.
In my case I believe that even though my home town preached gender difference it was influence from greater society (specifically outside media) and my parents that motivated me to question these beliefs. Also, in today’s society not all gender inequalities have been removed completely but rather replaced or transformed into something that is less noticeable on the surface. In sports today the big hype is the fact that there is now a female sports announcer for a professional ball team. In the past this position would of been considered a strictly male position. In fact it must still be considered a strictly male position or the idea of a female announcer would fail to be as surprising.
In the end I feel that society has become a lot mor liberal in it’s views on gender and gender differences. I don’t believe, however, that society is completely free of this inequality or if it will ever be. The problem remains that traditional families pass traditional family values and most of these values are outdated. Many gender related inequalities stem from beliefs passed on from parent to child.
These beliefs leave strong impressions and are regarded as truths when this child grows up. I feel that to remove are inequalities from society we have to first learn how to stop spawning these differences from generation to generation. Finally I don’t believe that we really have to worry about the gender difference created by putting blue or pink clothing on our children but rather what we teach these children after they’re in these clothing.