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Gender Roles

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Gender Roles

A gender role is a set of social and behavioral norms that are generally considered appropriate for either a man or a woman in a social or interpersonal relationship. There are differences of opinion as to which observed differences in behavior and personality between genders are entirely due to innate personality of the person and which are due to cultural or social factors, and are therefore the product of socialization, or to what extent gender differences are due to biological and physiological differences.[1]

Gender roles differ according to cultural-historical context, and while most cultures express two genders, some express more. Androgyny, for example, has been proposed as a third gender.[2] Others societies have been claimed to have more than five genders,[3] and some non-Western societies have three genders – man, woman and third gender.[4] Gender expression refers to the external manifestation of one's gender identity, through "masculine," "feminine," or gender-variant or gender neutral behavior, clothing, hairstyles, or body characteristics.[5]

Theories of the social construction of gender

Main article: Social construction of gender difference

Some philosophies claim that gender behavior is mostly due to social conventions, although opposing theories contest this (see Social construction of gender difference). Children learn to categorize themselves by gender usually by the age of 3.[6] It is claimed that boys learn to manipulate their physical and social environment through physical strength or other skills, while girls learn to present themselves as objects to be viewed.[7] Social constructionists claim for example that Gender-segregated children's activities create the appearance that gender differences in behavior reflect an essential nature of male and female behavior.[8]

Gender role theory “treats these differing distributions of women and men into roles as the primary origin of sex-differentiated social behavior, their impact on behavior is mediated by psychological and social processes” (Eagly, 1997)[full citation needed] According to Gilbert, Gender roles arrised from correspondent inference, meaning that general labor division was extended to gender roles. Socially constructed gender roles are considered to be hierarchical and characterized as a male-advantaged gender hierarchy by social constructionists (Wood & Eagly, 2002)[full citation needed] The term defined by researcher Cherlin defines when "a social order based on the domination of women by men, especially in agricultural societies as patriarchy. (Cherlin, 2010. p.93)[full citation needed] According to Eagly et al., the consequences of gender roles and stereotypes are sex-typed social behavior (Eagly et al., 2004)[full citation needed]because roles and stereotypes are both socially shared descriptive norms and prescriptive norms.

Judith Butler,[9] in works such as Gender Trouble and Undoing Gender, contends that being female is not "natural" and that it appears natural only through repeated performances of gender; these performances in turn, reproduce and define the traditional categories of sex and/or gender.

Talcott Parsons' view

Working in the United States, Talcott Parsons[10] developed a model of the nuclear family in 1955, which at that place and time was the prevalent family structure. It compared a strictly traditional view of gender roles (from an industrial-age American perspective) to a more liberal view.

The Parsons model was used to contrast and illustrate extreme positions on gender roles. Model A describes total separation of male and female roles, while Model B describes the complete dissolution of gender roles.[11] (The examples are based on the context of the culture and infrastructure of the United States.)

Model A – Total role segregation Model B – Total integration of roles
Education Gender-specific education; high professional qualification is important only for the man Co-educative schools, same content of classes for girls and boys, same qualification for men and women.
Profession The workplace is not the primary area of women; career and professional advancement is deemed unimportant for women For women, career is just as important as for men; equal professional opportunities for men and women are necessary.
Housework Housekeeping and child care are the primary functions of the woman; participation of the man in these functions is only partially wanted. All housework is done by both parties to the marriage in equal shares.
Decision making In case of conflict, man has the last say, for example in choosing the place to live, choice of school for children, buying decisions Neither partner dominates; solutions do not always follow the principle of finding a concerted decision; status quo is maintained if disagreement occurs.
Child care and education Woman takes care of the largest part of these functions; she educates children and cares for them in every way Man and woman share these functions equally.

However, these structured positions become less common in a liberal-individualist society; actual behavior of individuals is usually somewhere between these poles.

According to the interactionist approach, roles (including gender roles) are not fixed, but are constantly negotiated between individuals. In North America and southern South America, this is the most common approach among families whose business is agriculture.

Gender roles can influence all kinds of behaviors, such as choice of clothing, choice of work and personal relationships, e.g., parental status (See also Sociology of fatherhood).

Geert Hofstede's views

Geert Hofstede is a Dutch researcher and social psychologist who dedicated himself to culture study. Hofstede sees culture as "broad patterns of thinking, feeling and acting" in a society[12] In Hofstede’s view, Masculinity and Femininity differ in the social roles that are associated with the biological fact of the existence of the two sexes. Masculinity and Femininity refer to the dominant sex role pattern in the vast majority of both traditional and modern societies: that of male assertiveness and female nurturance.[13]

Femininity: “Femininity stands for a society in which social gender roles overlap: Both men and women are supposed to be modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life”[14]

Masculinity: “Masculinity stands for a society in which social gender roles are clearly distinct: Men are supposed to be assertive, tough, and focused on material success; women are supposed to be more modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life”[14]

Hofstede's Feminine and Masculine Culture Dimensions: “Masculine cultures expect men to be assertive, ambitious and competitive, to strive for material success, and to respect whatever is big, strong, and fast. [Masculine cultures] expect women to serve and care for the non-material quality of life, for children and for the weak. Feminine cultures, on the other hand, define relatively overlapping social roles for the sexes, in which, in particular, men need not be ambitious or competitive but may go for a different quality of life than material success; men may respect whatever is small, weak, and slow".[15][full citation needed] In feminine cultures, modesty and relations are important characteristics. This differs from in masculine cultures, where self-enhancement leads to self-esteem. Masculine cultures are individualistic, and feminine cultures are more collective because of the significance of personal relationships. “The dominant values in a masculine society are achievement and success; the dominant values in a feminine society are caring for others and quality of life”.[16][page needed]

Gender roles in family violence

The ‘Family Violence Framework’ applies gender dynamics to family violence. “Families are constructed around relationships that involve obligations and responsibilities, but also status and power”.[17][page needed] According to Hattery and Smith, when “masculinity and femininity are constructed…to generate these rigid and narrow gender roles, it contributes to a culture of violence against women”[17][page needed] “People with more resources are more likely to be abusive towards those without resources,” meaning that the stronger, older people abuse their weaker, younger family members to exert their powerful roles[17][page needed]. However, the fight for power and equality remains – “Intimate partner violence in same-sex couples reveals that the rates are similar to those in the heterosexual community”[17] ).[page needed]


Main article: Socialization

Socialization refers to people adapting ideas about social roles from other members of their society. Some theories of socialization emphasize how society sanctions what is considered inappropriate behavior, while other theories such as the socialization approach suggest that gender identification and behavior is learned by the child by rewarded for behaviors that are seen as appropriate towards their sex; in other words, gender is socially taught and acquired.[18][full citation needed] Children are socialized through various channels besides their families. A child's material world (i.e. toys, cards, bed sets) reinforces their gender, as well as the movies they watch and the books they read.[19]

Another aspect to consider on the topic of socialization would be the influence of peer groups on children. It has been argued, by psychologist Eleanor Maccoby, that peer groups strongly influence the behavior patterns of boys and girls Researcher Jan Hoffman discussed how Dr. Menville, Director of Gender and Sexuality Psychosocial program at Children's National Medical Center at Washington D.C., suggested that the observed behavior exhibited by very young children doesn't necessarily result as a predictor of adult gender orientation (Hoffman, 2011). Tying all of this together, Cherlin discusses the idea of the interactionist approach as gender identity and behavior is based on a day-to-day behavior that reinforces gender distinctions.[18]

Homogenization vs. ethnoconvergence difference

It is claimed[by whom?] that even in monolingual, industrial societies like much of urban North America, some individuals do cling to a "modernized" primordial identity, apart from others and with this a more diverse gender role is recognized or developed. Some intellectuals, such as Michael Ignatieff, argue that convergence of a general culture does not directly entail a similar convergence in ethnic, social and self identities.[full citation needed] This can become evident in social situations, where people divide into separate groups by gender roles and cultural alignments, despite being of an identical "super-ethnicity", such as nationality.

Within each smaller ethnicity, individuals may tend to see it perfectly justified to assimilate with other cultures including sexuality and some others view assimilation as wrong and incorrect for their culture or institution. This common theme, representing dualist opinions of ethnoconvergence itself, within a single ethnic or common values groups is often manifested in issues of sexual partners and matrimony, employment preferences, etc.[jargon] These varied opinions of ethnoconvergence represent themselves in a spectrum; assimilation, homogenization, acculturation, gender identities and cultural compromise are commonly used terms for ethnoconvergence which flavor the issues to a bias.[jargon]

Often it is[weasel words] in a secular, multi-ethnic environment that cultural concerns are both minimalized and exacerbated; Ethnic prides are boasted, hierarchy is created ("center" culture versus "periphery") but on the other hand, they will still share a common "culture", and common language and behaviors. Often the elderly[weasel words], more conservative-in-association of a clan, tend to reject cross-cultural associations, and participate in ethnically similar community-oriented activities.

Anthropology and evolution

Main article: Sex differences in humans

The idea that differences in gender roles originate in differences in biology has found support in parts of the scientific community. 19th-century anthropology sometimes used descriptions of the imagined life of paleolithic hunter-gatherer societies for evolutionary explanations for gender differences.[weasel words] For example, those accounts maintain that the need to take care of offspring may have limited the females' freedom to hunt and assume positions of power.[weasel words]

Because of 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[20] and concluded that there were none. However, there continues to be debate on the subject. Simon Baron-Cohen, a Cambridge Univ. professor of psychology and psychiatry, claims that "the female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy, while the male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems.[21] ".

Several studies have been conducted on situations where a child was either raised believing that they were of opposite sex, or in conditions where the sex was changed using medical operations at young age. One study looked a female infants that suffered from adrenal hyperplasia, and who had excess male hormone release, but were thought to be females and raised as such by their parents. These girls expressed higher than normal male-like behavior.[22][23] Another study looked at 18 male infants with a genetic disorder where their genitals are disformed so that their parents believed them to be girls. At adult age only one of these attempted to adapt a female role and express female behavioral patterns, but she was in psychiatric care because of gender-roles issues, all the others being stereotypically male.[24] In a third study, 14 male children born with cloacal exstrophy and reassigned female at birth by gender change operations were looked at. Upon follow-up between the ages of 5 to 12, eight of them identified as boys, and all of the subjects had at least moderately male-typical attitudes and interests.[25]

Dr. Sandra Lipsitz Bem is a psychologist who developed the gender schema theory to explain how individuals come to use gender as an organizing category in all aspects of their life. It is based on the combination of aspects of the social learning theory and the cognitive-development theory of sex role acquisition. In 1971, she created the Bem Sex Role Inventory to measure how well you fit into your traditional gender role by characterizing your personality as masculine, feminine, androgynous, or undifferentiated. She believed that through gender-schematic processing, a person spontaneously sorts attributes and behaviors into masculine and feminine categories. Therefore, an individual processes information and regulate their behavior based on whatever definitions of femininity and masculinity their culture provides.[26]

The current trend in Western societies toward men and women sharing similar occupations, responsibilities and jobs suggests that the sex one is born with does not directly determine one's abilities.[27][page needed][dubious ] While there are differences in average capabilities of various kinds (E.g. physical strength) between the sexes,[28] the capabilities of some members of one sex will fall within the range of capabilities needed for tasks conventionally assigned to the other sex.

In addition, research at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center has also shown that gender roles may be biological among primates. Yerkes researchers studied the interactions of 11 male and 23 female Rhesus monkeys with human toys, both wheeled and plush. The males played mostly with the wheeled toys while the females played with both types equally.[29] Psychologist Kim Wallen has, however, warned against overinterpeting the results as the color and size of the toys may also have been factors in the monkey's behavior.[30]


Ideas of appropriate behavior according to gender vary among cultures and era, although some aspects receive more widespread attention than others. R.W. Connell in Men, Masculinities and Feminism.[31] claims:

"There are cultures where it has been normal, not exceptional, for men to have homosexual relations. There have been periods in 'Western' history when the modern convention that men suppress displays of emotion did not apply at all, when men were demonstrative about their feeling for their friends. Mateship in the Australian outback last century is a case in point."

There are huge areal differences in attitudes towards appropriate gender roles. For example, in the World Values Survey, responders were asked if they thought that wage work should be restricted to only men in the case of shortage in jobs. While in Iceland the proportion that agreed was 3.6%, in Egypt it was 94.9%.[32] Attitudes have also varied historically, for example, in Europe, during the Middle Ages, women were commonly associated with roles related to medicine and healing.[33] Due to the rise of witch-hunts across Europe and the institutionalization of medicine, these roles eventually came to be monopolized by men.[33] In the last few decades, however, these roles have become largely gender-neutral in Western society.[34] In the United States, physicians have traditionally been men, and the few people who defied that expectation received a special job description: "woman doctor". Similarly, there were special terms like "male nurse", "woman lawyer", "lady barber", "male secretary," etc. But in the former Soviet Union countries, medical doctors are predominantly women. Other jobs, like clerical jobs used to be considered a men's jobs, but when several women began filling men's job positions due to World War II, clerical jobs quickly became dominated by women. It became more feminized, and women workers became known as "typewriters" or "secretaries".

Some claim[weasel words] that homosexual communities are more tolerant of and do not complain about switching gender roles.[35] For instance, someone with a masculine voice, a five o'clock shadow (or a fuller beard), an Adam's apple, etc., wearing a woman's dress and high heels, carrying a purse, etc., would most likely draw ridicule or other unfriendly attention in ordinary social contexts (the stage and screen excepted[36])[opinion]. It is seen by some in that society[weasel words] that such a gender role for a man is not acceptable.[37] In recent years, many people have strongly challenged the social forces that would prevent people from taking on non-traditional gender roles, such as women becoming fighter pilots or men becoming stay-at-home fathers. Men who defy or fail to fulfill their expected gender role are often called effeminate. In modern western societies, women who fail to fulfill their expected gender roles frequently receive only minor criticism for doing so.


Main article: Gender and religion

Religion can to play a significant part in how ideas of gender roles are created and perceived. Religions have a large impact on those who practice and follow them, and those practices and beliefs filters down into our everyday lives, which can inevitably alter our view on topics such as gender. Here are specific examples throughout different religions, which can be seem to create a basis of gender beliefs:


Some 1 Corinthians 11:4 and 5 that, in praying or prophesying, no man should cover his head, but that every woman should cover hers.

I Corinthians, 11:14 and 15 indicates that it is inappropriate for a man to wear his hair long, and good for a woman to wear her hair long.

Islam Muhammad described the high status of mothers in both of the major hadith Collections (Bukhari and Muslim). One famous account is:

"A man asked the Prophet: 'Whom should I honor most?' The Prophet replied: 'Your mother'. 'And who comes next?' asked the man. The Prophet replied: 'Your mother'. 'And who comes next?' asked the man. The Prophet replied: 'Your mother!'. 'And who comes next?' asked the man. The Prophet replied: 'Your father'"

In Islam, the primary role played by women is to be mothers, and mothers are considered the most important part of the family. A well known Hadith of the prophet says: "I asked the Prophet who has the greatest right over a man, and he said, 'His mother'". While a woman is considered the most important member of the family, she is not the head of the family. Therefore, it is possible to conclude that importance has no relevance with being the head of the family.[opinion]


Hindu deities are more ambiguously gendered than deities of other world religions, such as Christianity, Islam, and others. For example, Shiva, deity of creation, destruction, and fertility, can appear entirely or mostly male, predominately female, and ambiguously gendered. Despite this, females are more restricted than males in their access to sacred objects and spaces, such as the inner sanctums in Hindu temples. This can be explained in part because women’s bodily functions, such as menstruation, are often seen by both men and women as polluting and/or debilitating.[dubious ] Males are therefore more symbolically associated with divinity and higher morals and ethics than females are.[dubious ] This informs female and males relations, and informs how the differences between males and females are understood.[dubious ] However, in a religious cosmology like Hinduism, which prominently features female and androgynous deities, some gender transgression is allowed. For instance, in India, a group of people adorn themselves as women and are typically considered to be neither man nor woman, or man plus woman. This group is known as the hijras, and has a long tradition of performing in important rituals, such as the birth of sons and weddings. Despite this allowance for transgression, Hindu cultural traditions portray women in contradictory ways. On one hand, women’s fertility is given great value, and on the other, female sexuality is depicted as potentially dangerous and destructive.[38]

On July 2012 Gopi Shankar, a Gender activist and a student from The American College in Madurai coined the regional terms for genderqueer people in Tamil, Gopi said apart from male and female, there are more than 20 types of genders, such as transwoman, transmen, androgynous, pangender, trigender,, etc., and ancient India refers it as Trithiya prakirthi. After English, Tamil is the only language that has been given names for all the genders identified so far. "[39][40][41]

Studies on marriage in the U.S.

In the U.S., single men are greatly outnumbered by single women at a ratio of 100 single women to every 86 single men,[42] though never-married men over age 15 outnumber women by a 5:4 ratio (33.9% to 27.3%) according to the 2006 U.S. Census American Community Survey. This very much depends on age group, with 118 single men per 100 single women in their 20s, versus 33 single men to 100 single women over 65.[43]

The numbers are different in other countries. For example, China has many more young men than young women, and this disparity is expected to increase.[44] In regions with recent conflict such as Chechnya, women may greatly outnumber men.[45]

In a cross-cultural study by David Buss, men and women were asked to rank certain traits in order of importance in a long-term partner. Both men and women ranked "kindness" and "intelligence" as the two most important factors. Men valued beauty and youth more highly than women, while women valued financial and social status more highly than men.

Changing roles

Societies can change such that the gender roles rapidly change. According the article by M.P. Dunleavey, the number of households with the wife being the sole earner rose from 4.1 percent to over 7 percent from 1970 to 2000 and is still on the rise. This new statistic doesn't acknowledge women who are the primary earners in their families (Dunleavey, 2007). Also from 2003 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that about 1/3 of wives earn more than their husbands (Dunleavey, 2007).

The masculine gender role in the West has become more malleable since the 1950s. An example is the metrosexual, a male who adopts or claims to be born with similarly "female" grooming habits. One cause for the recent metrosexual phenomenon is believed to be the 1980s U.S. women's movements promoting gender equality. Gender equality allows gender roles to become less distinct and according to Donnalyn Pompper, is the reason "men no longer own breadwin-ning identities and, like women, their bodies are objectified in mass media images."[46] Another major influence is believed to be the gay rights movements that occurred around the same time.[dubious ] These movements increased pro-gay attitudes, which according to Brian McNair, are expressed by many metrosexual men.[47] Some have argued that such new roles are merely rebelling against tradition more so than forming a distinct role .

According to sociological research, traditional feminine gender roles have become less relevant in Western society since industrialization started.

Some famous people known[by whom?] for their androgynous appearances in the 20th and 21st century include Otep Shamaya Brett Anderson, Gladys Bentley, David Bowie, Pete Burns, Boy George, Norman Iceberg, k.d. lang, Annie Lennox, Jaye Davidson, Marilyn Manson, Freddie Mercury, Marlene Dietrich, Mylène Farmer, Gackt, Mana (musician), Michael Jackson, Grace Jones, Marc Bolan, Brian Molko, Julia Sweeney (as Pat), Genesis P-Orridge, Prince and Kristen McMenamy.


Nonverbal communication

Hall[48] published an observational study on nonverbal gender differences and discussed the cultural reasons as to those differences. In her study, she noted women as smiling and laughing more, as well as having a better understanding of others’ nonverbal cues. She believed that women were encouraged to be more emotionally expressive in their language, thus better developed in nonverbal communication. Men, on the other hand, were taught to be less expressive, to suppress their emotions, and thus be less nonverbally active in communication and more sporadic in their use of nonverbal cues. Most studies researching nonverbal communication described women as being more expressively and judgmentally accurate in nonverbal communication when it was linked to emotional expression; other nonverbal expressions were similar or the same for both genders.[49] McQuiston and Morris[50] also noted a major difference in men and women’s nonverbal communication; men tended to show body language linked to dominance, like eye contact and interpersonal distance, more than women.

Communication and gender cultures

According to Julia Wood, there are distinct communication "culture" for women and men in the US.[51] Wood believes that in addition to female and male communication cultures, there are also specific communications cultures for African Americans, older people, Indian Native Americans, gay men, lesbians, and people with disabilities. According to Wood, it is generally thought that biological sex is behind the distinct ways of communicating, but in reality the root is "gender".[51] Julia T. Wood's studies explain that "communication produces and reproduces cultural definitions of masculinity and femininity."[51]

Communication styles

Julia T. Wood[51] describes how "differences between gender cultures infuse communication." Maltz and Broker’s[52] research showed that the games children play contribute to socializing children into masculine and feminine cultures.[dubious ] For example, girls playing house promotes personal relationships, and playing house does not necessarily have fixed rules or objectives. Boys, however, tended to play more competitive team sports with different goals and strategies.

Communication and sexual desire

Mets, et al.[53] explain that sexual desire is linked to emotions and communicative expression. Communication is central in expressing sexual desire and "complicated emotional states," and is also the "mechanism for negotiating the relationship implications of sexual activity and emotional meanings." Gender differences appear to exist in communicating sexual desire.

For example, masculine people are generally perceived to be more interested in sex than feminine people, and research suggests that masculine people are more likely than feminine people to express their sexual interest. This can be attributed to masculine people being less inhibited by social norms for expressing their desire, being more aware of their sexual desire or succumbing to the expectation of their gender culture. When feminine people employ tactics to show their sexual desire, they are typically more indirect in nature. On the other hand, it is known masculinity is associated with aggressive behavior in all mammals, and most likely explains at least part of the fact that masculine people are more likely to express their sexual interest. This is known as the Challenge hypothesis.

Various studies show different communication strategies with a feminine person refusing a masculine person's sexual interest. Some research, like that of Murnen,[54] show that when feminine people offer refusals, the refusals are verbal and typically direct. When masculine people do not comply with this refusal, feminine people offer stronger and more direct refusals. However, research from Perper and Weis[55] showed that rejection includes acts of avoidance, creating distractions, making excuses, departure, hinting, arguments to delay, etc. These differences in refusal communication techniques are just one example of the importance of communicative competence for both masculine and feminine gender cultures.

Gender stereotypes

A study done by Beverly I. Fagot, Mar D. Leinbach and Cherie O'Boyle, tested gender stereotypes and labeling within young children. The researchers divided this into two different studies. The first study looked at how children identified the differences between gender labels of boys and girls through using materials. The second study looked at both gender labeling and stereotyping in the relationship of mother and child. Within the first study 23 children between the ages of 2 and 7 underwent a series of tests, those tests being a “Gender Labeling Test” and “Gender Stereotyping Test”. These tests consisted of showing the children either pictures of males and females or objects such as a hammer or a broom and identifying or labeling those to a certain gender. The results of these tests showed that children under 3 years could make gender-stereotypic associations. The second study looked at gender labeling and stereotyping in the relationship of mother and child using three separate methods. First consisted of identifying gender labeling and stereotyping, essentially the same method as the first study. Second consisted of behavioral observations, which looked at ten-minute play sessions with mother and child using gender specific toys. Third was a series of questionnaires such as an "Attitude Toward Women Scale", "Personal Attributes Questionnaire", and "Schaefer and Edgerton Scale" which looked at the family values of the mother. The results of these studies showed the same as the first study with regards to labeling and stereotyping. They also identified in the second method that the mothers positive reactions and responses to same-sex or opposite-sex toys played a role in how children identified them. Within the third method the results found that the mothers of the children who passed the “Gender Labeling Test”, had more traditional family values. These two studies, conducted by Beverly I. Fagot, Mar D. Leinbach and Cherie O'Boyle, showed that gender stereotyping and labeling is acquired at a very young age, and that social interactions and associations play a large role in how genders are identified.[56]

According to Niedenthal et al.:

Virginia Woolf, in the 1920s, made the point: "It is obvious that the values of women differ very often from the values which have been made by the other sex. Yet it is the masculine values that prevail" (A Room of One's Own, N.Y. 1929, p. 76). Sixty years later, psychologist Carol Gilligan was to take up the point, and use it to show that psychological tests of maturity have generally been based on masculine parameters, and so tended to show that women were less 'mature'. She countered this in her ground-breaking work, In a Different Voice, (Harvard University Press, 1982), holding that maturity in women is shown in terms of different, but equally important, human values. Gender stereotypes are extremely common in society. One of the reasons this may be is simply because it is easier on the brain to stereotype. The brain has limited perceptual and memory systems, so it categorizes information into fewer and simpler units which allows for more efficient information processing.[57] Gender stereotypes appear to have an effect at an early age. In one study, the effects of gender stereotypes on children's mathematical abilities were tested. In this study of American children between the ages of six and ten, it was found that the children, as early as the second grade, demonstrated the gender stereotype that math is for boys. This may show that the math self-concepts are influenced before the age in which there are actual differences in math achievement.[58] In another study about gender stereotypes, it was found that parents' stereotypes interact with the sex of their child to directly influence the parents' beliefs about the child's abilities. In turn, parents' beliefs about their child directly influence their child's self-perceptions, and both the parents' stereotypes and the child's self-perceptions influence the child's performance.[59]

Stereotype threat is the implicit belief in gender stereotype that women perform worse than men in math, which is proposed to lead to lower performance by women. A recent review article of stereotype threat research related to the relationship between gender and math abilities concluded "that although stereotype threat may affect some women, the existing state of knowledge does not support the current level of enthusiasm for this as a mechanism underlying the gender gap in mathematics."[60]

Politics and gender issues


Main article: Feminism

For approximately the last 100 years women have been fighting for the same rights as men (especially around the turn from 19th to 20th century with the struggle for women's suffrage and in the 1960s with second-wave feminism and radical feminism) and were able to make changes to the traditionally accepted feminine gender role.

One major concern of Feminism is that women occupy lower-ranking job positions than men, and do most of the housekeeping work.[61] There are several reasons for the wage disparity.

A recent (October 2009) report from the Center for American Progress, "The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything" tells us that women now make up 48% of the US workforce and "mothers are breadwinners or co-breadwinners in a majority of families" (63.3%, see figure 2, page 19 of the Executive Summary of The Shriver Report).[62]

Another recent article in The New York Times indicates that young women today are closing the pay gap. Luisita Lopez Torregrosa has noted, "Women are ahead of men in education (last year, 55 percent of U.S. college graduates were female). And a study shows that in most U.S. cities, single, childless women under 30 are making an average of 8 percent more money than their male counterparts, with Atlanta and Miami in the lead at 20 percent.".[63] While this study concerned American cities, a global trend is developing, and has now been termed "the reverse gender gap."

Gender neutrality

Main article: Gender neutrality

Gender neutrality is the movement to end discrimination of gender altogether in society though means of gender neutral language, the end of sex segregation and other means.


Main article: Transgender

As long as a person's perceived physiological sex is consistent with that person's gender identity, the gender role of a person is so much a matter of course in a stable society that people rarely even think of it. Only in cases where an individual has a gender role that is inconsistent with his or her sex will the matter draw attention. Some people mix gender roles to form a personally comfortable androgynous combination or violate the scheme of gender roles completely, regardless of their physiological sex. People who are transgender have a gender identity or expression that differs from the sex which they were assigned at birth.[5] The Preamble of The Yogyakarta Principles cite the idea of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women that "States must take measures to seek to eliminate prejudices and customs based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of one sex or on stereotyped roles for men and women." for the rights of transgender people. A national report including the experiences of 6,450 transgender individuals (and individuals who do not identify themselves by gender) found that 29% had experienced harassment from police officers.[64]

Sexual orientation

Studies have suggested that heterosexual men are only aroused by images of women, whereas some women who claim to be heterosexual are aroused by images of both men and women.[65] However, different methods are required to measure arousal for the anatomy of a man versus that of a woman.

Traditional gender roles include male attraction to females, and vice versa. Homosexual and bisexual people, among others, usually don't conform to these expectations. An active conflict over the cultural acceptability of non-heterosexuality rages worldwide. The belief or assumption that heterosexual relationships and acts are "normal" is described – largely by the opponents of this viewpoint – as heterosexism or in queer theory, heteronormativity. Gender identity and sexual orientation are two separate aspects of individual identity, although they are often mistakenly conflated in the media.[5]

Perhaps it is an attempt to reconcile this conflict that leads to a common assumption that one same-sex partner assumes a pseudo-male gender role and the other assumes a pseudo-female role. For a gay male relationship, this might lead to the assumption that the "wife" handled domestic chores, was the receptive sexual partner during sex, adopted effeminate mannerisms, and perhaps even dressed in women's clothing. This assumption is flawed, as many homosexual couples tend to have more equal roles, and the effeminate behavior of some gay men is usually not adopted consciously, and is often more subtle.[66] Feminine or masculine behaviors in some homosexual people might be a product of the socialization process, adopted unconsciously due to stronger identification with the opposite sex during development. The role of both this process and the role of biology is debated.

Cohabitating couples with same-sex partners are typically egalitarian when they assign domestic chores.[67] Though sometimes these couples assign traditional female responsibilities to one partner and traditional male responsibilities to the other, generally same-sex domestic partners challenge traditional gender roles in their division of household responsibilities, and gender roles within homosexual relationships are flexible.[68] For instance, cleaning and cooking, traditionally both female responsibilities, might be assigned to different people. Carrington (1999) observed the daily home lives of 52 gay and lesbian couples and found that the length of the work week and level of earning power substantially affected the assignment of housework, regardless of gender or sexuality.[69]

External social pressures may lead some people to adopt a persona which is perceived as more appropriate for a heterosexual (for instance, in an intolerant work environment) or homosexual (for instance, in a same-sex dating environment), while maintaining a somewhat different identity in other, more private circumstances. The acceptance of new gender roles in Western societies, however, is rising.[70]

Criminal justice

Main article: Gender and crime

A number of studies conducted since the mid-90s have found direct correlation between a female criminal’s ability to conform to gender role stereotypes, particularly murder committed in self-defense, and the severity of their sentencing.[71][72][73][74]

See also


External links

  • International Foundation (For) Gender Education,
  • Gender PAC.
  • Career advancement for professional women returners to the workplace
  • Men and Masculinity Research Center (MMRC), seeks to give people (especially men) across the world a chance to contribute their perspective on topics relevant to men (e.g., masculinity, combat sports, fathering, health, and sexuality) by participating in Internet-based psychological research.
  • The Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity (Division 51 of the American Psychological Association): SPSMM advances knowledge in the psychology of men through research, education, training, public policy, and improved clinical practice.
  • Gender Stereotypes - Changes in People's Thoughts, A report based on a survey on roles of men and women.
eo:Genro (sociologio)

fr:Genre (sciences sociales) nl:Geslachtsrol

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