In "Gender Schema Theory and Its Implications for Child Development: Raising Gender-aschematic Children in a Gender-schematic Society", Sandra Lipsitz Bem introduces a cognitive model for the process of sex-typing as it occurs in child development. She then provides a step-by-step explanation of how to counter-act such sex-typing as to raise a child without any preconceived notions about gender, supposing that doing so would be liberating for the child as he or she comes into an identity of his or her very own.
To begin to explain Bem's concept of gender schemas, one must first have a brief understanding of two theories, which contribute to hers: social learning theory and cognitive-developmental theory. Social learning theory explains how children learn many socialized behaviors, gender roles being one of them. Behaviors, according to this theory, are learned in accordance with positive or negative reinforcements of the child's sex-associated actions.
key words- sex-typing, sexism and homophobia.
[...] According to Bem (1983), a category will become a schema if The social context makes it the nucleus of a large associative network, that is, if the ideology and/or the practices of the culture construct an association between that category and a wide range of other attributes, behaviors, concepts, and categories; and the social context assigns the category broad functional significance, that is, if a broad array of social institutions, norms, and taboos distinguishes between persons, behaviors, and attributes on the basis of this category. [...]
[...] It also followed that the children learned from their parents that all ideas about gender were originally thought up by people with certain biases, and that these biases can become outdated. Finally, the last phase of inoculating one's children against sex-typing, according to Bem, is to teach them about sexism and homophobia (Bem 1998). Having considered Sandra Bem's gender-schema theory and her suggestions for raising gender-aschematic children, one might wonder if such an up-bringing is truly advantageous to the child. [...]
[...] Gender schema theory builds on these ideas, proposing that child also learns to invoke this heterogeneous network of sex-related associations in order to evaluate and assimilate new information” (Bem 1983). This binary view of masculinity and femininity colors nearly everything the child encounters, forming networks, or schemas, with the ability of organizing fresh input quickly and systematically, serving as an instant associative guide for their perception of the world. Schematic process does not guide all incoming information into cognition, however. [...]
[...] To truly alter the child's environment to be free of gender associations, the parents must learn to run their household in an egalitarian manner. That is, both mother and father should do the same amount of cooking, cleaning, bathing the child, household maintenance, driving the car, etc. In addition, parents must censor any media the child is exposed to which may contain messages about gender, including books and television. Bem writes about how she censored her children's books: was handy with my whiteout and magic markers, which I used liberally to transform one main character after another from male to female by changing the character's name, by changing the pronouns, and even by drawing long hair (and, if age-appropriate, the outline of breasts) onto the character's picture. [...]
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