Socialization is the way you have been shaped by society. This could be anything from common courtesy to strict rules; either personal, or in society. People are also socialized by whether they are an agent or a target. Agents are people in society who have an advantage. Some examples are white people, males, and older individuals. Targets are people who are at a disadvantage, such as poor people, women, and kids. People are constantly influenced by their society, whether they realize it or not. This is all part of something called the “Cycle of Socialization.” This is a representation of how people are socialized, starting at birth. You are mainly socialized by your friends, family, and the media. There are other things that will influence you, but these are the most prominent. Even the ways people act are a reflection of how they have been socialized. I have been socialized by society and the media to think that my gender has to be strong, fearless, and overly confident.
I have been socialized to think that males need to be strong. This may be a stereotype, but some of the things we do or have in society reflect what we think. Things like rough sports, which we think of as “male” sports, show strength, as well as dominance over one another, which shows who is strongest. Over time, I have noticed that males, even at my age, are starting to take part in these ideas, even though they are not as extreme. Things like boxing and wrestling are reflected by me and my peers by giving each other friendly punches or tripping each other in the hallways. When we see people who are older than us participating in rough sports or activities, we think of them as role models. We want to be like them, even if it is subconscious, and the way we do that is by rough-housing with each other. These actions are never meant to hurt anyone, but the message is there. As I have noticed these things, I’ve realized that because of the amount of violence I have been exposed to, this behavior is, in my eyes, normal. I have also realized that it seems we, like the video “American Masculinity” says, constantly have to show our masculinity and dominance.
I have been socialized to constantly think that males have to be fearless in order to be “men.” We see this everywhere; in movies, TV shows, and even in our own experiences. I have seen many things in the media exhibiting males as the “protectors” or the “guardians,” especially of women. I, like some of my peers, have been taught through socialization that males “never run from a challenge” and always show bravery, even when they are scared. Tony Porter, an insightful man, tells a story in the video “A Call to Men” about his father after a funeral. He says “He didn’t want to cry in front of me, but he knew he wouldn’t make it home, and it was better to cry in front of me than to allow himself to express these emotions in front of the women.” He later goes on to say “[he kept] apologizing to me for crying, and giving me props for not crying.” Not only was his father sorry for crying, but he was lifting up his son for not showing emotion. This shocked me. He was teaching his son, maybe without meaning to, that showing emotion is bad, especially in front of women. He was basing his reactions on his surroundings. As I thought more about this, I realized that it is true, not only in society, but on a personal level as well. Even more so, I realized that this happens because we are scared of how our friends will respond, or how they will treat us depending on the choices we make. Tony Porter’s father was crying while the women were gone because he was afraid of how they would think of him after seeing him show emotion. I recognized that sometimes I make decisions based on what my friends will think of me because of my choices. As I started to think more in-depth about it, I realized how strange it is that how people view or think of us is what matters most in our society. I ask myself, “Is this really how it needs to be?”
I have also been socialized to think that the male gender must be overly confident, and that “you” are always the best. An example that first comes to mind is professional athletes. I am an athletic person, and I like watching sporting events on TV. I have noticed that in many sports, especially team sports, if an athlete does something amazing, they automatically celebrate. It seems to me, though it is not blatantly obvious, that they are putting themselves above the rest of their team. Everybody must have done something, but that one person is “better” because they got a touchdown or scored a goal. I thought about this, and noticed that these people are, to some extent, role models to my generation. I began observing interactions between peers or with peers and myself and noticed, while subtle, that almost everything is a completion to see who is best, and the reactions that follow put others down, even though it may not be obvious or intentional. Because of this, people’s feeling can be hurt, or worse, they will hurt themselves trying to do something “better.” Must everything be a competition, or can we find other ways of interacting with each other?
Socialization is always around us and affecting us, and this changes the way we think of the world. Our ideas are constantly evolving; racism, sexism, sexual orientation, beliefs, and ideas. Everything is changing, year after year, into something new, better or worse. But how can we break the cycle of socialization? We need to change the ways we think of each other, ourselves, and our surroundings. As of now, people just go with whatever’s “in”. Individuality is frowned upon; if someone is different, they will be ridiculed and targeted for it. But why do there have to be categories? People group each other and themselves into different categories, social classes even. People who believe the same thing or act a certain way are grouped with others like them, with nowhere else to go. We have freedom in this country, but are we really free?
My mask represents how I see society and what I can do to change the effects of the cycle of socialization. Over the eyes is a blindfold that says “We Are Blind”, representing that we are blind to the stereotypes we have in society and that we choose to see no direction for change. I chose the color blue because blue is thought of as the “masculine” color. The lower half of the mask contains some of the stereotypes we have come to know in society. There is a camera viewfinder to symbolize that how others see us is important in our society. There is a mirror where the mouth should be to show that we “reflect” back the stereotypes we hear to our peers instead of saying our own things. On the upper half, there is a camera viewfinder from behind to show that I see others but am not as affected by their actions, or otherwise. The words represent who I am individually, and how I can break the cycle of socialization by being myself.
You can view my project reflection as a PDF here.