Mothers & Sons: Feminism, Masculinity, and the Struggle to Raise Our Sons

By Andrea O'Reilly | Go to book overview

6

SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE FEMINISTS' ACCOUNTS OF MOTHERING SONS

Alison M. Thomas

Introduction

Most academic definitions of socialization are based on the theme of adults preparing children to take their place in the society into which they have been born. In most cases this involves children learning how to act out adult roles by modeling the behavior of those around them, especially that of their parents or those most involved in their upbringing. This applies as much to children's acquisition of gendered behavior patterns as to any other learned behavior, and psychological theories concur in identifying the modeling of parental behavior as the primary way in which children learn the gendered roles considered appropriate in their society (Maccoby).

Such a process is obviously facilitated when models of both genders are readily available to children to observe and imitate, as in societies in which production, as well as reproduction, is carried out in or close to the home. However, in most “modern” industrialized societies 1

1.
In this chapter I am confining myself to discussing the gender socialization of boys in modern industrialized societies, since it is there primarily-in societies such as those of North America, Western Europe, and Australia-that twentieth-century changes in gender roles have led to the problematizing of masculinity in the last quarter century.

this is no longer the case, since adult work is generally performed away from the home and therefore typically removes one or both parents from the home for large portions of each working day.

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