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Development of My Gender Identity

I think I belong to the “entertainment” generation. My generation and I simply have too much access to information. Since I have access to information, I also get exposed to insights and influences not just from fellow Americans but even from the global community. Television, movies, and the Internet bombard me with insights and images that consciously and unconsciously affect the way I think, feel and act as a woman. Pair that with my educational and family background, then I would have to concede that my gender identity is strongly linked to my external environment.

I like to watch TV and I like to read. I like the show Scrubs for instance, where they have very strong female characters (Dr. Elliot Reed and Nurse Carla Esperanza). They show how these characters manage to excel in the male-dominated field of medicine, but at the same time the show also tells us the struggles that these women go through to find their place in that industry. Shows like Desperate Housewives, which I detest, portray strong female stereotypes.

There is the desperate single mom who is hungry for love, the slutty vixen, the perfect housewife, the young hot wife neglected by her workaholic husband, and the harassed mother who is struggling to balance her career and family life. I think this show best embodies how our society places women into neat little boxes or categories. I find it very irritating. The characters in Desperate Housewives are almost one-dimensional – they are like puppets playing out the roles that society expects women to play.

I feel very strongly against this show, especially since it is one of the hit series today, since I think it sends out a negative message to both women and men. It’s just a bunch of bored housewives who have nothing better to do than poke around their neighbors’ affairs, or have sex with their gardener, or stalk some handsome neighbor. It’s especially annoying, coming in after the end of Sex and The City which shows strong, independent women. Yet Desperate Housewives clicked. And this tells us something about our society.

The show is just actually a reiteration of how women have been stereotyped by media and society. How perverse are these female stereotypes in our society and why do we have them in the first place? How do these female stereotypes in media affect my own gender identity? What I Hope to Learn and Achieve Through This “I/R” Paper In studying the major factors of social learning and female stereotypes, I hope to understand the influences on my own gender identity. I look forward to studying why I have very strong objections to certain female stereotypes by analyzing the way I was raised and brought up.

I want to be able to understand the pervasiveness of these female stereotypes so that I may in the future avoid categorizing or stereotyping the women I meat. I also hope that understanding these female stereotypes will serve as a way to liberate myself and not to fall into the limitations that society may place on women and what we can do and achieve. Brief Description of Parts II Through V In Part II/Subtopic 1 of this I/R Paper, I will examine how the Social Learning Theory has played a role in the development of my own gender identity.

In Part III/Subtopic 2, I will discuss how Female Stereotypes have affected or influenced my gender identity. In Part IV, I will perform a “RICA” self-analysis on Part II (Subtopic 1) and Part III (Subtopic 2). Lastly, in Part V, I will conclusions and pre/post PSY 3312 observations about my main topic question on the major factors of Social Learning Theory and Female Stereotypes and their effect on my gender identity. II. Subtopic 1: How Has Social Learning Theory Affected My Gender Identity?

Theory Construct and Application The Social Learning Theory explains learning that occurs within a social context. The theory provides that people learn from one another and emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others (Ormrod 1999; Abbot 2006). The Social Learning Theory is about observational learning which is also known as imitation or modeling since it involves an individual observing and imitating other people’s behavior (Isom 1998).

The leading proponent of the theory, Albert Bandura, provides that observational learning has four primary components: 1) Attention which involves learning by observation through perception of the significant features of the modeled behavior; 2) Retention, which involves coding the information into long-term memory in order to reproduce the modeled behavior; 3) Motor Reproduction, which involves learning and possessing the physical capabilities of the modeled behavior in order to reproduce the modeled behavior; and finally, 4) Motivation, wherein the observer receives positive reinforcements upon reproducing the modeled behavior (Isom 1998; Kearsley 2006). In studying gender identity, Bandura’s Social Learning Theory can be examined in lieu of Julian Rotter’s Social Learning Theory which provides that an individual’s personality represents an interaction of the individual with his or her environment.

The personality, which is internal to an individual, is never viewed as something independent of the environment. At the same time, behavior is not viewed as an automatic response to environmental stimuli. Personality thus considers both the individual’s history of learning and the experiences, and the environmental stimuli that the individual is responding to (Mearns 2005). Gender identity pertains to the gender with which a person identities – whether one perceives oneself to be a man or woman. It can also be used to refer to the gender that other people attribute to the individual based on what they know from gender role indications, such as clothing or hairstyles.

Our gender identity may be affected by different social structures such as ethnic groups, employment status, religion and family (Wikipedia 2006). As applied to the examination of my gender identity, Social Learning Theory helps to understand why certain activities from my educational and family background helped me to develop gender-appropriate behavior and how this has changed throughout the years based on environmental stimuli such as female stereotypes which I perceive through media. Rotter’s Social Learning Theory provides that personality (and thus behavior) is always changeable (Mearns 2005). The more exposed and immersed I get into one environment or medium, the more influences I receive as to my behavior.

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