Gender Roles

arhendolf By arhendolf, 4th Sep 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Personal Development>Self-awareness

Gender roles vary. Different cultures impose different expectations upon the men and women who live in that culture. Gender roles refer to the set of social and behavioral norms that are considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex in the context of a specific culture, which differ widely between cultures and over time.

Gender Roles

What is male? What is female? Your answers to these questions may depend on the types of gender roles you were exposed to as a child. Gender roles vary. Different cultures impose different expectations upon the men and women who live in that culture. The United States has experienced tremendous upheaval and revising of its traditional gender roles in the last generation. These changes in gender roles affect the home, the workplace, and the school.

Gender roles refer to the set of social and behavioral norms that are considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex in the context of a specific culture, which differ widely between cultures and over time. There are differences of opinion as to whether observed gender differences in behavior and personality characteristics are, at least in part, due to cultural or social factors, and therefore, the product of socialization experiences, or to what extent gender differences are due to biological and physiological differences.

Where Do Gender Roles Come From?
A person's sexuality comes from within him or her, making a person heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or asexual, depending on the partners he or she is (or is not) attracted to. Unlike sexuality, however, gender roles are imposed from without, through a variety of social influences. Formed during the socialization phases of childhood and adolescence, gender role issues influence people throughout their lives; conflict can arise when someone does not feel at ease with his or her gender role.

Gender role theory posits that boys and girls learn the appropriate behavior and attitudes from the family and overall culture they grow up with, and so non-physical gender differences are a product of socialization.

Due to the influence of (among others) Simone de Beauvoir's feminist works and Michel Foucault's reflections on sexuality, the idea that gender was unrelated to sex gained ground during the 1980s, especially in sociology and cultural anthropology. This view claims that a person could therefore be born with male genitals but still be of feminine gender. In 1987, R.W. Connell did extensive research on whether there are any connections between biology and gender role and concluded that there were none.

Changing roles
A person's gender role is composed of several elements and can be expressed through clothing, behavior, choice of work, personal relationships and other factors. These elements are not concrete and have evolved through time (for example women's trousers).

Traditionally only feminine and masculine gender roles existed, however, over time many different acceptable male or female gender roles have emerged. An individual can either identify themselves with a subculture or social group which results in them having diverse gender roles. Historically, for example, eunuchs had a different gender role because their biology was changed.

Boys and Gender Roles Over the last three decades, gender roles have changed dramatically, and the impact on boys needs to be examined. Some researchers maintain that boys may not develop their full capacity for emotional depth because of a combination of factors, including parenting, education, biological and genetic factors, and the messages they receive from popular culture. As a result, some boys are less able than girls to deal with the emotional upheavals that accompany adolescence; recent statistics show that teenage boys commit suicide at five times the rate teenage girls do. Ultimately, a lack of emotional development as a boy makes it difficult for the adult man to develop healthy relationships.

As gender roles have changed, they have opened greater opportunities for females. But men face a dilemma. The old model of the "macho man" is less acceptable in today's world than it was even three decades ago, and men are struggling to reinvent themselves. Some men are so dependent on the old roles for their identity that they find themselves at a loss when confronted with new expectations. For example, some men cannot adjust when they discover that their wives or girlfriends earn more money than they do, and end the relationship. Silly? To some, perhaps. But plainly, for such men the new options they have regarding gender roles are limited and limiting.
Women and Gender Roles Just as men's gender roles have changed, women's gender roles have changed in the last few years, opening new opportunities. However, opportunities have their price, and some things are slower to change than others.
Women can no longer be discriminated against in the workplace. If a woman is qualified for a job, she is by law able to have it. However, few women hold top positions at large companies. A 1995 survey found that among Fortune 500 companies, only 90 had women as their chief executive officers. About 65 percent of Americans believe that women are discriminated against in getting such well-paying positions--a phenomenon called the "glass ceiling," in which a woman rises only so far in management and no further. However, women are looking more and more at the tradeoffs involved. Even though they may be able to get ahead in the workplace, things at home remain remarkably the same as they did in their parents' generation.

Due to gender roles, women--even if they work full-time outside the home--are still perceived as having the primary responsibility for taking care of home and family. Generally, if a child is sick and both parents work, it is the mother who leaves the office, picks the child up, and stays home until the child is well enough to return to school. Researchers have also found that the woman is still the primary doer of housework (although today's men tend to do more housework than their fathers did). Working mothers do 20 hours of housework each week, compared to working fathers, who do 10. The tasks considered "male," such as yard work and car maintenance, were sporadic in nature and involved an aspect of leisure. The tasks considered "female" were generally repetitive, and had to be done daily--researchers called these tasks "unrelenting, repetitive, and routine." In addition, women are still responsible for mostof the food shopping, child care, laundry, cleaning, cooking, and even for how the house looks.

Gender stereotypes create expectations regarding emotional expression and emotional reaction. Many studies find that emotional stereotypes and the display of emotions "correspond to actual gender differences in experiencing emotion and expression.
Stereotypes generally dictate how and by whom and when it is socially acceptable to display an emotion. Reacting in a stereotype-consistent manner may result in social approval while reacting in a stereotype-inconsistent manner could result in disapproval. It should be noted that what is socially acceptable varies substantially over time and between local cultures and subcultures.

Common gender stereotypes associated with women are:
- submissive – emotional – quiet – neat – clean – clumsy – artsy – housewife - child rearing

Common gender stereotypes associated with men are:
- aggressive- no emotions- loud- messy- athletic- math and science oriented- money maker- naughty

A Disadvantage for the Male Gender Role
In the past, men were traditionally socialized to be the "breadwinner" of the family. Men have had to make adjustments to the fact that, in today's society, their wife may earn more income than they do. Some men struggle with their male identity and self-image in this respect while other men come to terms with the fact that women can be independent and financially secure without their assistance.

A Positive Change in Male Gender Roles
Historically, men have been been seen as aggressive, competitive and taught that it was okay to use violence to settle disagreements. The expression "rule of thumb" came from English law where men were allowed to beat their wives with a piece of wood as long it wasn't wider than his thumb. In the past 20 to 30 years, there has been a significant anti-violence movement. Violence against women is no longer accepted or tolerated and men have become involved in campaigns to end abuse as a positive example.

Cons of the Female Gender Role
While women have integrated significantly into the workforce in the last several decades, few women hold positions as chief executive officers. According to a study by economist Stephen J. Rose at the consulting firm Macro International Inc., women only make 44 percent of what the average man earns. Heidi I. Hartmann, the president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington, agrees that while women have made great strides in terms of employment, they are still discriminated against in terms of salary compared to men.

Positive Female Gender Role
According to therapist Dr. Beverly Block, if a girl was raised in a family where her father was abusive, the girl would typically grow up and marry a man who was also abusive. Women have learned over the past several decades that any kind of abuse should not be tolerated. That includes verbal, emotional, financial and physical abuse. Women have learned to respect and love themselves and to terminate any relationships that are unhealthy for them.

Let me leave you with this thought from Jessica Valenti: The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women “When women's sexuality is imagined to be passive or "dirty," it also means that men's sexuality is automatically positioned as aggressive and right-no matter what form it takes. And when one of the conditions of masculinity, a concept that is already so fragile in men's minds, is that men dissociate from women and prove their manliness through aggression, we're encouraging a culture of violence and sexuality that's detrimental to both men and women.”


Female, Gender, Gender Identity, Gender Strereotypes, Male

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author avatar arhendolf
A mother of three wonderful children, a career woman and a post graduate student at a local state university.

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