Gender roles are separate patterns of personality traits, mannerisms, interests, attitudes, and behaviors that are regarded as either "male" or "female" by one's culture. Gender roles are largely a product of the way in which one was raised and may not be in conformance with one's gender identity. Research shows that both genetics and environment influence the development of gender roles. As society changes, its gender roles often also change to meet the needs of the society. To this end, it has been suggested that androgynous gender roles in which both females and males are expected to display either expressive (emotion-oriented) or instrumental (goal-oriented) behaviors as called for by the situation may be better for both the individual and the society in many ways. However, this is not to say that traditional roles, reversed roles, or anything in between are inherently bad. More research is needed to better understand the influences of genetics and environment on the acquisition of gender roles and the ways in which different types of gender roles support the stability and growth of society.
Keywords Androgyny; Culture; Dyad; Gender; Gender Identity; Gender Role; Gender Stereotype; Norms; Sex; Socialization; Society; Subject; Twin Study
Gender roles have changed in many ways throughout history as well as within recent memory. In the 1950s, for example, little girls were said to be made of "sugar and spice and everything nice" and wore pastel organdy dresses and gloves to church. In the 1960s and 1970s, however, this all changed for many women; bras were discarded, and patched jeans became de rigueur. In fact, each succeeding generation has brought with it differing expectations for how men and women should act within society. Despite these changes, however, the truth is that modern society still has expectations for how men and women are to act. Although we may be more open to exceptions than were past generations, there still are expected norms of behavior for women and men in society.
Gender vs. Sex
In biosocial terms, gender is not the same as sex. Gender refers to the psychological, social, cultural, and behavioral characteristics associated with being female or male. Gender is defined by one's gender identity and learned gender role. Sex, on the other hand, refers in this context to the biological aspects of being either female or male. Genetically, females are identified by having two X chromosomes and males by having an X and a Y chromosome. In addition, sex can typically be determined from either primary or secondary sexual characteristics. Primary sexual characteristics comprise the female or male reproductive organs (i.e., the vagina, ovaries, and uterus for females and the penis, testes, and scrotum for males). Secondary sexual characteristics comprise the superficial differences between the sexes that occur with puberty (e.g., breast development and hip broadening for women and facial hair and voice deepening for men).
Biology as Gender Role Determinant
It is relatively easy to see that biology has an impact on gender and the subsequent actions and behaviors that are thought to be more relevant to either females or males. For example, no matter how much a man might want to experience giving birth, the simple fact is that he cannot, except as an observer. From this fact it is easy (if not necessarily logical) to assume that biology is destiny and, therefore, women and men have certain unalterable roles in society—for example, that women are the keepers of home and hearth because of their reproductive role, while men are the protectors and providers because of their relatively greater size and strength. However, before concluding that biology is destiny in terms of gender roles, it is important to understand that not only do gender roles differ from culture to culture, they also change over time within the same culture. Early 20th-century American culture emphasized that a woman's role was in the home. As a result, many women did not have high school educations and never held jobs; instead, they quite happily raised families and supported their husbands by keeping their households running smoothly. Nearly a century later, this gender role is no longer the norm (or at least not the only acceptable norm) and sounds quite constricting to our more educated, career-oriented 21st-century ears. If biology were the sole determinant of gender roles, such changes would not be possible.
Culture as Gender Role Determinant
In 21st-century United States culture, gender roles continue to be in a state of flux to some extent, although traditional gender roles still apply in many quarters. For example, boys are often encouraged to become strong, fast, aggressive, dominant, and achieving, while traditional roles for girls are to be sensitive, intuitive, passive, emotional, and interested in the things of home and family. However, these gender roles are culturally bound. For example, in the Tchambuli culture of New Guinea, gender roles for women include doing the fishing and manufacturing as well as controlling the power and economic life of the community. Tchambuli women also take the lead in initiating sexual relations. Tchambuli men, on the other hand, are dependent, flirtatious, and concerned with their appearance, often adorning themselves with flowers and jewelry. In the Tchambuli culture, men's interests revolve around such activities as art, games, and theatrics (Coon, 2001). If gender roles were completely biologically determined, the wide disparity between American and Tchambuli gender roles would not be possible. Therefore, it must be assumed that culture and socialization also play a part in gender role acquisition.
Society as Gender Role Determinant
Socialization is the process by which individuals learn to differentiate between what society regards as acceptable and unacceptable behavior and act in a manner that is appropriate for the needs of the society. The socialization process for teaching gender roles begins almost immediately after birth, when infant girls are typically held more gently and treated more tenderly than are infant boys, and continues as the child grows, with both mothers and fathers usually playing more roughly with their male children than with their female children. As the child continues to grow and mature, little boys are typically allowed to roam a wider territory without permission than are little girls. Similarly, boys are typically expected to run errands earlier than are girls. Whereas sons are told that "real boys don't cry" and are encouraged to control their softer emotions, girls are taught not to fight and not to show anger or aggression. In general, girls are taught to engage in expressive, or emotion-oriented, behaviors, while boys are taught to engage in instrumental, or goal-oriented, behaviors. When the disparity between the way they teach and treat their daughters and sons is pointed out to many parents, they often respond that the sexes are naturally different not only biologically but behaviorally as well.
The teaching of gender roles does not only come through obvious verbal teaching from parents and other elders in society; it also occurs in more subtle ways as well. Many people have observed that children's toys are strongly gender-typed. Girls are often given "girl" toys such as dolls, play kitchens, and similar toys that teach them traditional, socially approved gender roles for when they grow up. Boys, on the other hand, are often given sports equipment, tools, and toy trucks, all of which help prepare them to act within traditional male gender roles. Even if nothing is ever said to children about the gender-appropriateness of these toys, research has shown that by the time they reach school age, many children have already come to believe that professions such as physician, pilot, and athlete are the domain of men, while women are supposed to have careers as nurses, secretaries, or mothers (Coon, 2001).
To investigate the influence of gender-specific toys on the development of gender roles, Caldera and...
Since prehistoric times, women have been looked at unequally. For instance, historically, women were not only viewed as intellectually inferior, but also a major source of evil and temptation to men. For instance, in Greek mythology, it is believed that it was a woman who opened the prohibited box, thus bringing unhappiness and plagues to humanity. Women have also been described as children and inferior to men in early Roman law.
Women have, therefore, long being considered naturally weaker than men. This explains the reason why during the preindustrial times, domestic chores were left for women, while heavier labor such as plowing and hunting were given to men. This trend of social inequality is evident especially during the 18th and 19th centuries. Generally, the 18th and 19th century was an extremely difficult time for women in Britain (Waters 11). They were rated as second-class people, and were kept from such things as voting and education, among other things. This paper shall focus on the role of women during this historic period.
The 18th and 19th centuries have been defined as the Romantic and Victorian eras. The romantic era was that time between 1780 and 1850, which was characterized by enlightenment. The Victorian era, on the other hand, is that period between 1837 and 1901. The Victorian era was characterized by cultural reform, industrial reforms, gracious living, wars, scientific progress, and grinding poverty. It is arguable that the 18th and 19th centuries can be defined as the Romantic and Victorian eras. The life of women during both the Romantic and Victorian era was mostly centered on commitments within the family. They were viewed as clean and pure, and could, therefore, not be used for physical exertion, and their bodies would not be ornamented with jewelry (Mary 123). They would also not be used for such things as pleasurable sex. Their most important role was to tend the house and have children, unlike the men, in accordance with Victorian masculinity.
Roles of Women in the 18th Century
During the 18th century, the life of married women revolved largely, around managing the house. This was a role which mostly included partnership in home businesses and running farms. Women also performed such duties as milking, poultry, brewing beer, and making butter. They would also make and mend clothing for the family. Moreover, they were expected to act as family doctors, making home remedies for sicknesses. They grew trees for herbs and curved various ornaments. Single women, on the other hand, worked for a living in domestic services and various trades. The textile trade, catering trade, and shops employed a large number of women. The onset of war and defiance of English rule disrupted the patterns of life such as the manner in which women responded to activities around them. Although the most essential role of women remained the maintenance of households, this took political overtones. With the onset of war, everyone was affected; resources became scarce, which led to high inflation. Invading troops led to the destruction of farms, and the absence of fathers and husbands led to starvation and danger. While some women still managed their homes, shops, and farms, some were not able to survive, abandoned their homes, and followed their husbands in the army. Those women that abandoned their homes to follow their husbands were known as camp followers and did this for such reasons as fear of attack, inability to make food available at home, desire to see their husbands, and eviction by troops, among other reasons. Historians have documented that over 20000 women followed the armies and changed camps into small towns…
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