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Gender Differences in The Documentary "Babies"

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Words: 940 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Words: 940|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Body 1: Cultural Practices and Gender Socialization
  3. Body 2: Parental Behaviors and Gender Expectations
  4. Conclusion

Introduction

The 2010 documentary "Babies," directed by Thomas Balmès, offers a captivating glimpse into the first year of life for four infants from different parts of the world: Mongolia, Namibia, Japan, and the United States. The film eschews narration and instead relies on visual storytelling to highlight the universal experiences and cultural differences in child-rearing practices. One intriguing aspect to explore within the documentary is the presence and portrayal of gender differences. While the film primarily focuses on the babies' developmental milestones and interactions with their environments, subtle cues and cultural contexts provide insights into how gender roles and expectations are introduced and reinforced from a young age. This essay examines the depiction of gender differences in "Babies," analyzing how cultural practices and parental behaviors contribute to shaping gender identities during infancy.

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Body 1: Cultural Practices and Gender Socialization

In "Babies," the cultural context of each infant's upbringing plays a significant role in shaping early gender socialization. Although the documentary does not explicitly address gender, the environments and cultural practices observed offer clues about the subtle ways gender expectations are communicated to infants.
In Namibia, Ponijao is raised in a rural Himba community where traditional gender roles are deeply ingrained. The film shows Ponijao and her siblings engaging in communal activities, with women often seen carrying out domestic tasks and childcare responsibilities. This early exposure to gender-specific roles, although not overtly emphasized, suggests the beginnings of gender differentiation. The infants observe and mimic the behaviors of their same-gender role models, subtly absorbing the expectations of their culture.
In contrast, Bayar's upbringing in rural Mongolia reflects a more flexible approach to gender roles, at least during infancy. Bayar is often seen exploring his environment independently, with less apparent gender-specific behavior modeled by his caregivers. The focus on survival and practical skills in this context seems to overshadow rigid gender expectations, allowing for a more androgynous experience of early childhood.
Mari, growing up in urban Japan, experiences a blend of modern and traditional influences. The film depicts Mari engaging in activities typical of infants, such as playing with toys and interacting with her parents. While the scenes do not overtly depict gender-specific expectations, the cultural backdrop of Japan, with its nuanced approach to gender roles, provides a framework within which Mari's gender identity will eventually be shaped. The emphasis on discipline and education in Japanese culture suggests that as Mari grows older, she will encounter more defined gender expectations.
In the United States, Hattie is shown in a progressive, egalitarian household where gender roles are less rigid. Her parents are depicted sharing childcare responsibilities and encouraging a wide range of activities regardless of gender. This approach reflects contemporary Western values of gender equality and individualism, offering Hattie a more fluid and less constrained experience of gender during her early years.

Body 2: Parental Behaviors and Gender Expectations

Parental behaviors in "Babies" play a crucial role in the early gender socialization of the infants. These behaviors, whether intentional or subconscious, provide the infants with initial cues about gender roles and expectations within their respective cultures.
In the Himba community, Ponijao's mother and other female relatives are frequently shown engaging in traditional gender-specific tasks, such as preparing food and caring for children. These activities serve as a primary source of social learning for Ponijao, who observes and eventually imitates these behaviors. The close-knit community and the visible division of labor between men and women subtly introduce Ponijao to her expected gender role from an early age.
Bayar's interactions with his family in Mongolia present a different dynamic. His parents are seen engaging in a variety of tasks, from herding livestock to household chores, with less evident gender segregation. This shared responsibility model allows Bayar to witness a more egalitarian division of labor, which could influence his understanding of gender roles as more flexible and situational. The less structured environment in Bayar's upbringing emphasizes practical skills over gender-specific behaviors, offering a broader range of experiences.
In Japan, Mari's interactions with her parents reflect a blend of modern parenting styles and traditional cultural values. Her parents encourage her exploration and learning through play, yet the structured nature of her environment hints at the cultural expectations she will face as she grows older. Japanese society, with its emphasis on social harmony and conformity, may subtly reinforce gender norms through parental guidance and societal influences. Although Mari's early experiences appear gender-neutral, the cultural context suggests that gender-specific expectations will become more pronounced as she matures.
Hattie's upbringing in the United States showcases a more explicit rejection of traditional gender roles. Her parents actively share childcare duties and provide her with a diverse range of toys and activities that do not adhere to gender stereotypes. This approach reflects contemporary Western ideals of gender equality and allows Hattie to explore her interests freely. The supportive and inclusive environment created by her parents fosters a sense of autonomy and encourages Hattie to develop her identity without the constraints of rigid gender norms.

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Conclusion

"Babies" provides a unique window into the early stages of human development across different cultural contexts, subtly highlighting how gender differences begin to emerge through cultural practices and parental behaviors. While the documentary does not explicitly address gender, the diverse environments and interactions depicted offer valuable insights into the early socialization of gender roles. From the traditional gender-specific tasks observed in Namibia to the more fluid and egalitarian approaches in Mongolia, Japan, and the United States, the film underscores the powerful influence of culture and family in shaping gender identities. By examining these subtle cues and behaviors, we gain a deeper understanding of how gender roles are introduced and reinforced from infancy, setting the stage for the lifelong process of gender identity formation.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Gender Differences in the Documentary “Babies”. (2024, Jun 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-differences-in-the-documentary-babies/
“Gender Differences in the Documentary “Babies”.” GradesFixer, 12 Jun. 2024, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-differences-in-the-documentary-babies/
Gender Differences in the Documentary “Babies”. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-differences-in-the-documentary-babies/> [Accessed 23 Jul. 2024].
Gender Differences in the Documentary “Babies” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 12 [cited 2024 Jul 23]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/gender-differences-in-the-documentary-babies/
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