Gender Socialisation

Assalamu ‘alaikum. I wrote this article when I was fourteen years old. Since then, my views of things, especially in regards to Islam, have changed and developed.

Recently, during a school trip to Kings’ College University, I had the privilege of meeting the head of the university’s Psychology Department- Professor Richard Brown. Having a keen interest in societal ideas of gender, I naturally became very fascinated by the nature of one of Professor Brown’s observations:

In a social experiment, Professor Brown laid out a complex scientific activity. He put the participants into groups according to gender, and timed how long it took for the groups to obtain the correct answer. He found that, whilst the girls were interested in organisation and the avoidance of conflict, the boys were far more assertive, if slightly aggressive, and this allowed them to delve into the finer details of the task at hand. They called each other “idiots” and were far more competitive in their approaches. They favoured competition over cooperation, as opposed to the girls.

Much has been written about how boys are typically more ‘independent, assertive and competitive’ than girls, even at early ages, but are these characteristics biological or learned? Many sociologists argue that the idea that they are intrinsic and ‘critical to the survival of our species’ is wholly mythical, and that such characteristics only arise as a direct result of gender socialisation.

From a young age, boys are encouraged to play with cars, action figures and science sets. Thus, they are channelled into their gender roles as ‘protectors’, and favour careers in science and technology.

Meanwhile, young girls are, and are encouraged to be, sensitive, passive and supportive. They are often canalised into playing with dolls, tea sets and simulation toys, and tend to come to favour careers in teaching, nursing and other nurture fields.

In my view, gender roles are fundamentally stupid: they are restrictive and irrational, and damage young children and young potential. [This is what fourteen-year-old me thought. In truth, now, I believe that Allah has made men and women differently. Spiritually, also, we are equal.]

Do you have any views on this topic? If so, feel free to comment below. 

Alternatively, you can email me at sadiadventures@outlook.com, and I shall endeavour to respond within three days. 

A Question of Gender

Assalamu ‘alaikum. Please note that I wrote this particular article when I was 14. My views, as I have come closer to my Deen, acquiring more Islamic knowledge (Alhamdulillah) have changed a lot since then.

Since the age of four or five, I have always considered myself a ‘tomboy’, and would always argue vehemently if someone called me ‘girly’ or ‘feminine’. These terms are usually associated with being dainty, polite and graceful, and having an intense admiration of the colour pink. I am not so dainty or polite, and am about as graceful as a physically unstable elephant. I am fond of all colours, however pink is not exactly a favourite of mine. Can I still be considered feminine?

According to the Oxford dictionary, the definitions of ‘feminine’ is as follows:

Having qualities or an appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness.

Relating to women.

If this is the case- if the genuine definition of the word ‘femininity’ simply means ‘relating to women’, there can never exist a prototypical woman, not in this day and age. According to the second definition of ‘femininity’, women who have pixie cuts, women who have long hair, women who cover their hair, women who enjoy wearing sweatpants and T-shirts, Jewish women, Muslim women, women who enjoy wearing make-up and skinny jeans, transsexual women, sporty women, tough women, outspoken women, shy women, smart women, wild women, women who are obsessed with pink, women who are obsessed with black- these women are all feminine, simply because they are women. However, the lives they choose to lead should not be defined by this term,  for a singular adjective can never wholly define a completely unique being.

I am often considered ‘masculine’ and a ‘tomboy’ purely because I happen to express myself freely, and feel comfortable in sporty clothes. When I wear a tinge of makeup, my aunts ignorantly comment, “You look more like a girl!” I am not ‘masculine’, for I am not a male. The term ‘femininity’ for me is completely subjective to each individual woman. I am ‘feminine’ solely because I am a woman. I do not believe the term should come with a set list of rules, expectations and prejudicial associations.

I am a female. I am therefore feminine. Calling me ‘masculine’ or otherwise will never dissuade me from being who I am.

Please share your personal opinions below!


Thanks for reading!

© Sadia Ahmed 2015