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gender socialization

Definition of Gender Socialization

(noun) The lifelong process of learning the socially approved attitudes, behaviors, norms, and values associated with a sex, typically through early education, family, media, and peers.

Examples of Gender Socialization

  • Giving biological females dolls, dressing them in pink or referring to them as she or her.
  • Giving biological males guns, dressing them in blue, or referring to them as he or him.
  • The poem “What Are Little Boys Made Of?” in which boys are made of “Slugs and snails, And puppy-dogs’ tails” and girls are made of “Sugar and spice, And everything nice.”

Gender Socialization Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: gen·der so·cial·i·za·tion

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /jEn-duhr soh-shuh-luh-zAY-shuhn/
  • British English – /jEn-duh soh-shuh-lie-zAY-shuhn/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈʤɛndər ˌsoʊʃəlɪˈzeɪʃən/
  • British English – /ˈʤɛndə ˌsəʊʃəlaɪˈzeɪʃən/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: gender socializations
  • A gender role is what you are expected to be, gender socialization is the process of learning your role.
  • A type of socialization.

Related Quotations

  • “Instead, explains gender theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, some people are more gender-y than others. But there’s no rigid, hard-and-fast thing called masculinity or femininity. Gender is constructed and it is changeable and it’s something we can all perform in myriad ways. The Bem Index actually confronts the sorts of gendered assumptions about men and masculinity that are reinforced through cultural myths, media, and everyday pop culture” (Tarrant 2009:75–76).
  • “‘Sex‘ basically refers to our biology—what’s between our legs when we’re born. Gender refers to social class as men and women—when we don’t fit into either of these categories—as transgender or genderqueer. Gender is something that is fluid and learned: We might come into this world with a penis or vagina, but we’re not born wanting to fix things with a hammer or carry a purse. We learn gender-appropriate behavior as we go along—or we don’t, and we might suffer for it. Gender is taught and reinforced through institutional arrangements that tell us how men and women ‘should’ behave. In other words, gender is about the social construction of masculine, feminine, or genderqueer identity. Gender is not a binary selection but rather, a continuum of possibilities” (Tarrant 2009:6).
  • “The family is by far the most significant agent of socialization. Although social change has increased family diversity and created more opportunities for children to be influenced by other social institutions, the family continues to play the pivotal role in primary socialization. The family is responsible for shaping a child’s personality, emerging identity, and self-esteem. Children gain their first values and attitudes from the family, including powerful messages about gender. Learned first in the family and then reinforced by other social institutions, gender is fundamental to the shaping of all social life. Gender messages dominate and are among the best predictors of a range of later attitudes and behaviors” (Lindsey 2016:78).
  • “The feminist perspective assumes that gender is socially created, rather than determined by one’s biological inheritance, and that change is essential in order for people to achieve their human potential without limits based on gender. It also assumes that society reinforces social expectations through social learning, which is acquired through social institutions such as education, religion, and the political and economic structure of society” (Kendall 2006:18).

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Additional Information

Related Terms


Kendall, Diana. 2006. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Lindsey, Linda L. 2016. Gender Roles: A Sociological Perspective. 6th ed. New York: Routledge.

Tarrant, Shira. 2009. Men and Feminism. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.

Works Consulted

Andersen, Margaret L., and Howard Francis Taylor. 2011. Sociology: The Essentials. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Bruce, Steve, and Steven Yearley. 2006. The SAGE Dictionary of Sociology. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Collins English Dictionary: Complete and Unabridged. 6th ed. 2003. Glasgow, Scotland: Collins.

Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. 2010. The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology. 2nd ed. New York: Norton.

Henslin, James M. 2012. Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. 10th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Kendall, Diana. 2011. Sociology in Our Times. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Kimmel, Michael S., and Amy Aronson. 2012. Sociology Now. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Kornblum, William. 2008. Sociology in a Changing World. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Macmillan. (N.d.) Macmillan Dictionary. (https://www.macmillandictionary.com/).

Shepard, Jon M. 2010. Sociology. 11th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Shepard, Jon M., and Robert W. Greene. 2003. Sociology and You. New York: Glencoe.

Stolley, Kathy S. 2005. The Basics of Sociology. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

Cite the Definition of Gender Socialization

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2016. “gender socialization.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved May 28, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/gender-socialization/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

gender socialization. (2016). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/gender-socialization/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2016. “gender socialization.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed May 28, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/gender-socialization/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“gender socialization.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 28 May. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/gender-socialization/>.