Gender adjustment: Introduction:
Gender plays a very important role in defining the roles and positions of individuals in their social environments. According to the social learning theory of gender, gender roles and adjustments occur through the process of learning. This means that boys and girls, in childhood and adolescence acquire the characteristics of behavior related to their gender by observing others, and by having their behaviors positively or negatively reinforced according to their appropriateness in the social context in which they take place.
Distinct behaviors that distinguish boys from girls are very clear and socially recognized. For example, girls play with dolls, like to stay more in the kitchen, whereas boys tend to involve in games that have a more rough nature. Through observation and reinforcement, children and adolescents learn what is expected of them and what is not.
The impact of social norms, values and standards:
Amidst all this, social norms, values and standards tend to impose a very strong impact on the characteristics related to gender, and at the same time, on the reactions of individuals and groups to gender-related behaviors. Those who confirm with the expected behaviors are seen as behaving appropriately and are rewarded likewise by acceptance, popularity and other social incentives. On the other hand, those who do not show the appropriate expected behavior tend to be penalized for their behaviors.
However, this tendency is more obvious among males than among females. Studies show that when a male behaves showing characteristics related to the female gender, this individual is penalized by male peers. On the other hand, a female who acts like a tomboy is not penalized in the same way or even degree. Females tend to be more lenient about girls acting like boys, whereas males do not show this leniency, at all, but rather, they tend to be more restrictive. Several explanations and interpretations can be induced.
A sissy according to other males is avoided and treated with total unpopularity because acting like a girl is not appropriate for males. The isolation and negative reaction that these boys face in their childhood and adolescence tend to create major gender adjustment problems in their lives later on. On the other hand, women who behave in a tomboy way are not penalized in the same way. On the contrary, research shows that tomboys tend to enjoy a lot of popularity among their peers, and at the same time, they have higher opportunities to be leaders in their groups. Does this mean that it is more appropriate to behave as a boy than it is to behave as a girl?
One reason for such a disparity is that society is dominated by males. Males tend to put a lot of restrictions that would protect and enhance their social positions and privileges. Henceforth, a boy who acts a girl is penalized because his behavior shows that he is ignoring the rules of the male society. Since males are dominant in society, and since they are very keen on keeping the status quo as it is, they would react rigorously to those who do not keep the rules. Of course children are not conscious of these realities, but they act and behave as they learn from others, including their parents and other male models.
On the other hand, females who are not dominating in society, try to remove as many restrictions as possible among them. Since they are not attempting to put restrictions to protect their position (since it is not dominating) they would not react negatively to any behaviors which do not fully confirm with their gender. Consequently, tomboys are not penalized, and in fact, they tend to be given better leading positions in their groups as they grow up, probably because they are reflecting male related behaviors, that is, behaviors desired by the male-dominant society.
Gender adjustment and society:
In simpler words, gender adjustment in society is ruled and formed according to the value given to gender behavior by society. Society sees male behavior as necessary for males and dislikes its absence. At the same time, male behavior in some girls is positively received because it enhances male dominance in society.
Another interpretation for the acceptance of tomboys is the role played by feminism in the past few decades. The pressure exerted by feminist movements in the past has brought with it a lot of changes, particularly as more and more women started to conquer the male monopoly of the work place. As a result, there is a tendency towards removing the restrictions that men used to impose on society, particularly those restrictions which aimed at gender segregation. By adopting male-like behaviors women, especially feminists are displaying their ability to compete against men. Such behaviors and attitudes are highly approved and encouraged by the female society, since it shows that women are capable of changing society. As a result, those females who express male-related behavior tend to assume leadership positions among their peers, and in general, they are not received negatively for being tomboys.
Boys and girls at the age of ten or eleven are not aware of what they are doing when they react to gender-related behaviors. Boys are not conscious of what they are doing when they stop talking to a boy because he is a sissy. To them, they are punishing him because he is not being appropriate. But in reality, they are simply protecting those restrictions which will maintain their senior positions in the future. Of this, they are not aware, but they do it because they observe it from their fathers and other males in society.
The spur years of gender adjustment are those years from childhood through adolescence. It is during these years that individuals acquire and experience their gender-related behaviors. Studies show that girls do not have any serious problems with gender adjustment if they do not reflect feminine behavior and if they act as tomboys. On the contrary, it was seen that they had better opportunities to assume leading positions among their peers. But the same does not go for boys as it was explained.
Boys tend to suffer more, especially during manhood when they are seen as inappropriate for mixing with. They tend to be very isolated, undesired and avoided by other men. No statistics are available about the relation of tomboys among women or sissies among girls.
The studies also infer that males in general and boys in specific tend to hold very strong and traditional stereotyping behaviors, especially towards gender-related traits and characteristics. This is again interpreted through the male-dominance and seniority in society.
A few points need to be discussed and more research should be conducted for further information. The first issue is whether gender-related traits in personality affect the relations of the two sexes, particularly during adolescence and later stages. It is well-established that boys act according to their gender traits and expectations, for various purposes, such as gaining popularity, but also for attracting females. Similarly, girls act in a gender-related manner in order to attract males mainly by relating to values such as beauty, femininity, softness and others. But how about the relations of sissy males with normal girls? How far are they accepted? How far are they rejected? What do females perceive such males? Similarly, it is important to study how males perceive tomboys and how they behave towards them. Discussing these relations and their influences will throw more lights on gender relations and related behaviors.
In conclusion, gender characteristics and adjustments are more salient and obvious in males than in females. Males who do not behave according to the appropriate and expected behaviors in their childhood and later years tend to face many difficulties and restrictions from their peers. They are left isolated and are not popular. This is considered as a punishment against them for not confirming. On the other hand, tomboys and women acting like men do not face the same problem. Women are more tolerated when they do not behave as expected, because the expectations are not as restrictive as those found among males. Consequently, males suffer a lot in later year adjustments, whereas women do not. On the contrary, it is very possible for tomboys to be normally popular and even to be given more chances to assume leadership roles.