BEIRUT: Although individuals constantly accumulate knowledge, early socialization remains critical to shaping people’s beliefs and behavior. The way people are nurtured therefore, has an impact on their views and attitudes regarding equality between sexes.
Importance of socialization
“Studies show that children consume information and interact with their surroundings at any given time," Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist Elise Bitar, told Annahar. “They observe at all times how their parents and teachers behave. They are unknowingly absorbing all of the norms, values, and principles, which are reflected in their future behaviors and lives."
Therefore, she emphasized the importance of socialization as "a key point in an individual’s development.”
“There are many entities that have an impact on the socialization process including parents, siblings, teachers, idols, and media. All of these can shape and change the way we see the world," said Bitar as she explained the the concept of "learned behavior," which refers to the attitudes that we acquire based on what we live through.
"The role of parents is not limited to what they teach, but also what they themselves live through and how they interact with one another,” she added.
Accordingly, she explained that parents should absorb the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities, and behave accordingly at home.
“Parents’ cultural backgrounds should be taken into account. They can’t be forced to behave in a way that is inconsistent with who they are,” said Bitar, adding that “however, parents should pay attention to whether or not they are discriminating, and in what specific areas they are discriminating."
Bitar also stressed on the importance of parents respecting their children’s interests and preferences, as well as giving them space to know who they are and to know their sexuality, as opposed to confining them to traditional roles which can hinder their growth.
“Our perception of who we are affects our behavior. When I speak to parents I always tell them the same thing," said Sarouphim-McGill, Associate Professor of Psychology and Education at the Department of Social Sciences at the Lebanese American University. “If you want to protect your daughters, you need to teach them how to protect themselves. They need to know that they can depend on themselves.”
Sarouphim-McGill pointed to stereotypical feminine and masculine gender roles, which are to a great extent still present in our society.
“The way we raise children is how we perpetuate our social cultures. It’s not only about our explicit words or behavior around children; it is also the hidden messages surrounding gender roles that we are sending, which they internalize too,” she explained. "We need to reverse these stereotypes by teaching girls that they can be whoever they want to be, and they can study whatever they want to study, instead of pressuring them into stereotypical feminine roles."
She explained that the stereotypes need to be reversed for boys as well.
“There is still a lot of pressure on men in our part of the world to be the sole provider for the family, and if they fall short of that, it affects their own self-worth,” she said. “We need to change all of these perceptions, and the way we change them is through education. It starts at home, in our small unit."
Gender roles constitute a huge part of socialization, and are often learned by children very early on. However, they can be unlearned.
“Lebanese society is changing its view toward masculinity, and schools are paying more attention to this but it is still a problem,” concluded Bitar.
Role of schools
Educational institutions are a significant socializing agent and can have a large impact on people’s attitudes and personalities.
"There are many studies that show that girls are given less attention than boys at school, especially in math and science classes,” Sarouphim-McGill told Annahar. “They are given less of what we call ‘wait time’ – when teachers ask a question, the wait time between asking the question and receiving an answer is much longer for boys."
She further explained that this is because many teachers believe – consciously or unconsciously - that boys know the answer, whereas girls don’t.
The Associate Professor also highlighted “boys are both praised and punished more, and therefore given more attention at school.”
“This implies that educators may believe boys will do better at school; these are the messages that are often received,” Sarouphim-McGill added while stressing the importance of restructuring educational systems in a way that allows equality.
Welcome to “NAYA," the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. NAYA is devoted to women of all generations-NAYA Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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