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Young people, class and gender

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To what extent, and why, are young people divided by class, race or gender, and how does this reflect the influence of wider social processes? In exploring these questions, you should seek some perceptions from young people themselves and use these as data. What relevance might youth work have in this context? Intro. "People are divided by their gender from birth until death. Throughout life, gender influences the manner in which a person is treated within their social class and within society as a whole. This then affects their treatment of others." Young Person, FYWG consultation, 2004 The subject of gender divides within young people has long been an interest of mine. I believe that although some divides are biological, most are a consequence of social attitudes regarding gender and the roles each sex has with society. Historically women have always been classed as the 'underdog' of society and have had to fight continuously for their rights to be recognised. It needs to be acknowledged that men have in recent years come to recognize the important of child rearing and housekeeping. Many have fought to take on these roles previously thought of as feminine, even going to court to gain sole custody of children after a family breakdown. Although it is generally assumed the children would live with the mother regardless of who is the better carer, men are beginning to prove that they can carry out 'maternal' caring roles as well as women can take on the stereotypical men's jobs. In order to obtain up to date information based on the views of young women in Cornwall and relevant to my field of work, 20 young people from Hear Our Voice, Young People's Mental Health Project (HOV) and 20 young people from another youth project (Zebedees Youth caf´┐Ż) aged between 14 and 25 years completed a questionnaire I had compiled to ascertain their views on gender divides (see appendix). ...read more.


Childhood trauma rarely goes away if left undealt with and in such an extreme case, both individuals were denied advocacy and support throughout their childhood, being shunned by their peers and their only support network being family. Both children must at times have experienced negative emotions towards their parents and each other about the situation, yet neither had anyone to talk to. Could their suicides have been prevented? It is too late to know but all professionals in contact with young people must learn from this. The society in which we live plays an enormous role in shaping the different attitudes and behaviour of all those who are a part of it. These differences are reflected most strongly perhaps in the development of certain gender-related social roles and behaviour traits. Within every society gender is a socially constructed term, and the development of gender roles often begins earlier than birth, albeit only in the minds of parents and people affected by the conception. Society uses the term 'gender' to make clear distinctions between the two sexes, and to define their characteristics through gender roles, shaping much of what people consider masculine or feminine (Williams, 1983). In most societies, to be masculine is to have power, assertiveness, freedom, brainpower, and to be a hard worker. Femininity however, suggests virtuousness, weakness (both physical and mental), compassion and a caring and loyal nature. An experiment by Condry and Condry, in which couples were asked to describe a newborn infant demonstrates the extent of this. When told the infant was a boy, the couple would describe the newborn using words such as strong, mischievous, and alert. In contrast, if the couple was told the infant was female, it would commonly be described as weak, beautiful, and delicate. Rubin (1974), conducted a similar experiment in which parents described their newborn child and produced the same results. In reality they showed no differences in height, weight, or health. ...read more.


I acknowledge that men have been somewhat discriminated against also but their rights have not been suppressed to the same extent as those of women and not for such a long period of time. In an ideal world men and women would share equal rights, education, pay and status in all societies. However, the process of gender equalising cannot happen overnight and will involved sustained work, a fact recognised by Spencer and Podmore (1987) who, in a study of women in the highly male dominated area of Law during the early 1980's, stated: 'We recognise that change in the deeply held assumptions which this chapter has highlighted will be a lengthy, difficult and conflictual process.' (P130) Although I do wonder if the importance we play upon equality does sometimes reinforce the idea there is a big diffrence in young peoples minds. Several young people stated they noticed no difference between themselves but the constant questioning by society about gender equality made them think about it and, they felt, not in a constructive way. I believe we should just start from day one with this issue. Teach young boys and girls about all their feelings, don't push them into their gender stereotype, and let them explore all their feelings and emotions for themselves. Don't discourage boys from crying and don't discourage girls for getting a little dirty. I think when this occurs it won't fix the differences between men and women, but what I do think is that it will help tremendously. It is about time that men and women let down their so-called "brick wall" and learnt a bit more about each other. We are all individuals and we can't have one another figured out just because of our gender. Time is needed in order for gender inequalities to be eradicated and we must start from conception educating both parents and children about gender equality and how they can narrow the present divides. Maybe then there will be more understanding and respect for the biological differences between men and women and we can discard the socially constructed stereotypes in existence now. ...read more.

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