In the U.S. individuals are exposed to the stereotypes of what constitutes masculinity and femininity at a very young age.  There are differences in clothing, toys, colors, and even packaging. What differences do you see?  How does this relate to the social construction of gender?

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The social construction of gender is a sociological concept by which one's understanding of how one should act is based on cultural ideas rather than pure biology. In other words, as one ages, one is exposed to cultural ideas of the way in which a boy/man or girl/woman should act, and society stresses that these actions or definitions are part of one's gender, while these ideas about gender have nothing to do with biological reality.

As the art critic John Berger wrote in Ways of Seeing, one's gender influences the way one is taught to look at the world. In Western society, men are taught to grow up looking at women, while women are made conscious of being looked at. Berger writes, "men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at" (page 47). In other words, society teaches women to monitor how they look to others, specifically men, while men are taught to regard women as objects. 

This social construction of gender, meaning the way in which society teaches us to behave and think based on our biological sex, starts early. Girls' rooms are decorated in pink and purple, thought to be feminine colors, and their traditional toys celebrate or focus on nurturing children (dolls and stuffed animals) or making food (tea sets, kitchens, etc.). Boys are encouraged to wear traditionally masculine colors such as blue or green and engage in active pursuits (sports, games) and even to be violent through the use of toy guns or other activities. Girls are taught to be conscious of their looks at a young age, following Berger's idea that they are objects to be regarded by men. There are beauty and fashion products on the market that target even young girls, while boys are not generally taught to focus on all aspects of their look so intently. A perusal of the toys and products available to children at any toy store or website reinforces these traditional ideas about gender. 

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