Margaret Mead

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Based on Mead’s Sex and Temperament, in which Mead refutes the idea that there is a biological basis for masculine and feminine temperament, what temperament traits do you have and are they linked to gender expression? How are gender-linked expectations of behavior reinforced by society?

Mead joins with many researchers in challenging the traditional idea that gender traits are biological. Instead, she emphasizes that gender is socially constructed. Behavioral expectations based on gender are perpetrated when parents and caregivers praise "correct" gender responses and steer boys and girls to activities that their society has deemed gender appropriate. In terms of a personal response to this issue, you might look back to your earliest memories of gender.

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Mead is part of a long line of researchers in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries who challenged traditional ideas that gender traits are biological and inborn, stating instead that they are indoctrinated by society. There is not an innate female or male temperament. Gender norms are socially produced and constructed.

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Mead is part of a long line of researchers in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries who challenged traditional ideas that gender traits are biological and inborn, stating instead that they are indoctrinated by society. There is not an innate female or male temperament. Gender norms are socially produced and constructed.

You will have to look personally at your own life to determine what temperament traits you have and how they are linked to gender stereotypes or expressions. In Western society, gender-linked expectations of behavior include expecting boys to be aggressive and physically active while girls are expected to be physically passive and nurturing. This is reinforced from a very early age, starting in infancy before an infant can remember. By the time a child is a toddler, say 18 months or two, in almost all cases they have a firm sense of gender and what expectations that gender entails. Girls by that age have typically been inundated with dolls, toy jewelry, and pretty, ornate clothing, while boys have been inundated with cars and plastic baseball bats. Girls are still often told to stop being wild and sit still while boys are praised as "all boy" for the same behavior.

To locate gender-socialized traits in yourself, you would likely want to go back to your earliest memories of how boys and girls were treated differently. I, for example, would look at all the subtle ways my supposedly progressive kindergarten reinforced gender norms, such as encouraging the boys to ride the trikes in the courtyard while girls were encouraged to head for the quiet dress-up corner. I can remember noticing these things, but not knowing I could challenge them.

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