Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Women, Gender, Life, Identity, Role, Theory, Family, Behavior

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/01/11

Gender identity is the primary factor in life to dictates the majority of the direction of one’s journey in life. In Aaron H. Devor’s essay, Becoming a Member of Society: Learning the Social Meanings of Gender provides a reference for how the generalized and specialized others play a fundamental part in the development of gender. The concepts of Devor’s essay on gender allow the reader to gain a deeper understanding of Jamaica Kincaid’s famous essay Girl, and seeing how one’s upbringing influences the way one displays and embraces his or her gender. The essay will justify Devor’s theory of ‘generalized and specialized others’ through exploring Kincaid’s essay, Girl, as well as my personal experience in gender identity and role development to understand the relevance Devor’s theory.
Aaron H. Devor, author of essay, Becoming a Member of Society: Learning the Social Meanings of Gender, provides an interesting concept on the development of gender identity. The author, who was born a female and decided to live as a male in 2002 is considered an expert in the field of sex research and the development of gender identity. According to Devor’s theory, society and culture are largely responsible in the way an individual adopts their identification of being a male or female. Gender identity is an ongoing process in life. Although most human’s settle in to their identity as children, there are adjustments that one makes throughout life to fit the societal role based on the gender of the individual. Sociology professor and author Devor states, “As we move through our lives, society demands different gender performances from us and rewards, tolerates, or punishes us differently for conformity to or digression from, social norms” (Devor, 387).
The influential factors are placed into two categories- the generalized other, and the specialized other. The ‘generalized other’ are the people in society; the images seen on television and the exposure of the individuals in one’s general environment. The generalized other allows the individual to realize the behaviors common to male and females. The following excerpt from Devor’s essay is used to explain the significance of the concept of the generalized other.
Then there are the “significant others” who are the people that the majority of time is spent with throughout childhood. The relationships with a mother, father, grandmother or grandfather are examples of ‘significant others’ who are the daily examples in our life. The ‘significant others’ are where the specific nuances of where the masculine and feminine behaviors are learned. Devor who is Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Victoria British Columbia explains, “Any person is available to become part of one’s ‘generalized other’, but certain individuals, by virtue of the sheer volume of time spent in interactions, becomes more significant in the shaping of people’s values” (Devor,390).
Devor’s theory provides the reader of Kincaid’s Girl, with a strong example of how a ‘significant other’ can shape the gender role of an individual. From my personal perspective, I would also have to agree with Devor’s theory in gender identity and role development through the ‘generalized and specialized others’ in my own life.

Kincaid: Girl

After learning about Devor’s theory of ‘generalized and specialized others’, Kincaid’s essay, Girl, takes on a deeper perspective for the reader. It is evident that a female is the ‘significant other’ and the society in which they live is the ‘generalized other’ for the character that the list of instructions is directed toward. Aside from the obviousness of the title, Girl, the instructions that the significant other delivers are common to the female gender role. Jamaica Kincaid displays this through messages such as, “On Sunday’s try to walk like a lady and not like a slut that you are so bent on becoming” (Kincaid, 385). It is evident from the quote that the significant other is the girl’s mother in an era where the female role was placed into a very strict behavior model. The female role for the characters in Girl were required by the ‘generalized others and significant others’ to be subservient to the man. Kincaid allows the reader to see that this trait is clearly taught to the daughter by her mother when she writes, “this is how you iron your father’s khaki shirt so it doesn’t have a crease”, and then again “and this is how to love a man, and if this doesn’t work there are other ways, and if they don’t work don’t feel too bad about giving up” (Kincaid, 385). The mother who is the significant other is teaching her daughter the expectations that the society (generalized others) will expect from her in to properly represent her female identity.

My Life

In the final portion of the essay I want to share my personal experience in the development of my gender identity. As a female, my mother, grandmother, and three aunts were the ‘significant others’ in my life who’s behaviors I have learned to adapt as appropriate for a woman. These women placed a large priority of keeping the home clean throughout my up brining. One of the lines from Girl, written by Kincaid relates to my own gender role expectations for myself, “This is how you sweep a corner; this is how you sweep a whole house; this is how you sweep a house” (Kincaid, 385). When examining my life and how I have learned the behaviors expected from woman, I can see concur that Devor’s theory if fairly accurate. Certain areas of the way I live life are dictated by the significant others in my life, such as the way I clean. The ‘generalized others’ most influential to my adoption of my sense of femininity comes from some of the famous female figures that I have admired throughout my life. The one in particular to influence me the most would be Madonna. Working on this essay I have come to notice how much my sense of sexuality, power, and rebellion are associated with the images I have admired in the pop singers performance and public behavior. Madonna allowed me to feel that some of the commonly masculine traits are acceptable for a woman to adopt and still remain feminine. Other women who fit into the ‘generalized others’ category include my second grade teacher Mrs. Newman, my dance teacher Erica, and a PE teacher whose name I cannot remember but was pivotal in forming my love for fitness that has stayed with me throughout the years. The influence of this generalized other is a clash with the fairly conservative style of the significant others in my life. Needless to say, I can see where my interesting mix of personality has come to be from examining the two groups who have influenced my gender role.
In conclusion, Devor’s theory on gender identity formation is a logical explanation for describing what is occurring in Kincaid’s essay Girl. Clearly the significant other is demonstrated as teaching the ‘girl’ what behavior and roles are expected of a female in her period. I can also see from Devor’s theory, that my own outcome of how I embrace my femininity, which includes a hint of masculinity, is derived from a combination of the significant and generalized others in my life.

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WePapers. (2021, January, 11) Good Essay On Midterm Essay. Retrieved September 27, 2023, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/good-essay-on-midterm-essay/
"Good Essay On Midterm Essay." WePapers, 11 Jan. 2021, https://www.wepapers.com/samples/good-essay-on-midterm-essay/. Accessed 27 September 2023.
WePapers. 2021. Good Essay On Midterm Essay., viewed September 27 2023, <https://www.wepapers.com/samples/good-essay-on-midterm-essay/>
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"Good Essay On Midterm Essay." WePapers, Jan 11, 2021. Accessed September 27, 2023. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/good-essay-on-midterm-essay/
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Good Essay On Midterm Essay. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/good-essay-on-midterm-essay/. Published Jan 11, 2021. Accessed September 27, 2023.

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