Explain the role social structures play in forming gendered identity.

Essay by palhudsonCollege, UndergraduateA-, August 2004

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The aim of this essay is to examine the influence of social structures on gender identity. In order to do this, free will and determinism will be explored, along with evolutionary behaviorism, social meaning, and some forms of social structure and their direct influence on gendered behavior.

Identity is the combination of how others experience us and how we experience ourselves. It is a sense of identifying and differentiating with certain groups of people, we have multiple roles and identities within society made up of many components such as age, sex, class, ethnicity and intelligence. More importantly it is the meaning the social world gives to these attributes, which we then internalize as parts of our identity. However the amount of control we have over forming our identities is debatable.

The idea of agency (free will) and structural (determining social influence) is relevant here. Behaviorism as defined by Skinner argues that free will is an illusion, reducing human behavior to reward seeking and punishment avoidance.

Meaning behaving 'freely' is an illusion as it occurs only when no negative reinforcers are present. (Skinner 1974 p.50) So in relation to identity formation it states that we have no autonomy and are simply products of our environment. Other less determining ideas can be found in Humanistic psychology, which states that we are free to make our own choices and shape our own identities.

An individual with no sense of self or identity would be unable to function in society. Schizophrenia is said to be when an individual's sense of identity becomes confused and fragmented (R.D. Laing 1967 p.86).

Of the many factors influencing identity, gender is the most important. Gender is said to be characteristics associated with being male or female (masculine or feminine). Turner has developed these characteristics arranging them into 'universally...