Conditioning Myself into a “Real Girl”

When considering male female roles in society, and the way we develop them, some scientists insist that modeling is the primary explanation of our development. Others believe the explanation to be conditioning. And still others believe the way we develop into who we are is fully courtesy of genetics. Ivan Pavlov, the famous Russian physiologist, accidentally discovered the concept of classical conditioning while doing an experiment on the digestive patterns in dogs. Although we are “classically conditioned” by learning not to touch a hot stove after it burns us the first time, there is another kind of conditioning that better explains the way we interact with our environment: it is called operant conditioning. We learn and act differently based upon the consequences of our previous actions.

I tend to believe that through reinforcement and conditioning, like the concept of operant condition, we are molded into who we are. Although genetics allowed for some girlish traits, such as crying often and having a certain attitude with my parents, I did not begin really being a stereotypical girl until at least the 10th or 11th grade, maybe later. Slowly, as the years have gone by since then, I have learned more and more traits from my friends and family that are typical for women to possess. For example, holding grudges to get what I want in a relationship I learned from my friend Katie in the 10th grade. She told me how she wouldn’t kiss her boyfriend until he gave in to whatever silly argument they were having. I’m not saying I was forced to take on traits such as this, but when Katie was positively reinforced by getting her way, it seemed only logical for me to try the same thing. After trial and error (conditioning), I learned how to behave as a typical woman in my relationships, and in society.

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