To be a sociologist is to ask questions about how we as individuals affect and are affected by the social world around us. To be a feminist sociologist is to examine how the private experiences of men and women are similar to the experiences of other people of the same gender or sex. When we think like this we employ what Mills refers to as a “sociological imagination.”
In his 1959 text, Mills discusses how this sociological imagination can make us see our own experiences differently, less as isolated individuals and more as part of a social network.
As a response to this topic,
- first explain this statement in terms of the sociological imagination: “Patterns of gender relations are found throughout society, although much of the time these patterns remain invisible to us.”
- Then, explain what is meant by the term “the social construction of gender,” and provide one example (from your own life, or things you have observed, television, etc.) of how gender is socially constructed.
- Finally, discuss ONE of the following two options
- using direct references to the reading (quotes, please), discuss what you find to be a particularly interesting, important, or unanswered question raised in this week’s materials. Explain how studying that question from a sociological perspective could lead to benefits, and for whom. Also suggest an approach for that study — what would we need to know? How might we approach finding that information? Why is this an appropriate question for Sociology?
- Mills wrote The Sociological Imagination in 1959, and it does not focus specifically on gender (though issues of gender are certainly evident here). Consider his argument in Chapter 1 (your reading for this week), and explain how it applies to us today, particularly when we think about gender and society. How can his arguments help us to understand the Sociology of Gender and the ways we experience gender today? Is there anything in this chapter that strikes you as entirely wrong or anachronistic for the study of gender today?
As soon as we start to talk about children and gender, we encounter the “nature vs. nurture” argument. On the one hand people will claim that their children were “all boy” or “girly girls” from birth, despite no attempt to guide them. On the other hand, people (some of them sociologists) point to the surrounding culture, and the unconscious nature of so much of both our gender socialization and our own gender performance.
This week, present your own argument in the “nature vs. nurture” debate. Where does nature end and nurture begin? As a response to this post,
- Start with a statement that describes your position on the “nature vs. nurture” question. Reflect on whether the readings reinforced or challenged this position (if you position pre-existed the class), or whether or not the readings helped you to come to this position (if you had not thought about this topic in this way before this class).
- Discuss which of the theories of the gender socialization of children presented in Part I of “Module 2: Agents of Socialization” is most compelling to you, and briefly explain why. It is fine to combine theories or choose more than one, but identify each one you refer to clearly.
- Which of the institutions discussed in the reading (family, schools, media, nation, etc.) do you feel has the most influence on a child’s gender socialization and why? Do you believe any of these institutions do not have an influence?
- Finally, given these agents of gender socialization, how can you explain the variety of gender identities in our society? Why is the concept of intersectionality crucial for understanding individual gender identities and presentations? Can we see evidence of both nature and nurture in the gender identities and identity presentations described in the reading (give at least two specific examples)? Does the existence of transgender identity change your ideas about nature vs nurture? How does Judith Butler’s idea of gender performance connect to the nature vs. nurture debate?*