Gender roles are both personal and cultural. The use of gender roles regulates how females and males should speak, think, interact and dress within society context. Studying and influencing plays key roles in gender roles shaping. Gender roles are highly entrenched to perceptive frameworks concerning what describes feminine and masculine. Social agents such as teachers, parents, peers, films, music, religion, books and televisions equip and reinforce genders roles to individuals in their entire life. Parents play the greatest role in influencing their children.
Traditional Gender Roles
Sociologists acknowledge that adults treat and perceive male and female infants distinctively. Parents perhaps do this in reaction to the gender expectations in young child. Historically, fathers taught young men on how to construct and fix things whilst mothers taught young women on how to prepare meals, keep house clean and stitch. Young people then received approval from the Parents after they kowtow to the expectations of their gender and adapt to the accepted conventional and cultural roles. Other socializing agents such as media in most cases only reinforced gender roles acquired from parents. Therefore, gender roles are always learnt within the context of the society. The values of gender roles are successfully passed from one generation to another within the similar context of the society.
Gender roles adopted during childhood are usually carried on into adulthood. In a family set up, people have specific presumptions on practices on child rearing, responsibilities on finance and in making decisions. In place of work, people have different views on the labor division, the structure of the organization as well as authority. However, this does not depict that are bad or good but they naturally exist. Almost in life of every person, gender roles are realities.
Gender Roles in Western Culture
In western culture, gender roles have been altering very fast over the last decade. The evolution of the society is the main reason behind the change in gender roles in western culture. The change has seen more women entering the work. For instance, jobs which were previous dominated by men such as construction and security have seen increase in number of women in the field. On the other hand, men have venture into women dominated jobs such as cooking in the recent past. More interesting, women have started dressing up in men’s clothes.
The traditional values of the gender roles taught to the young people have entered a state of unrest in the western society in the near past. The roles of women and men have expanded from the traditional structure enabling individuals to venture into fields formerly dominated by the other gender.
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Traditional Gender Roles
The events of the past decade of the millennium have had a significant influence on the gender roles. Study of gender has emerged as a central trend in sociology. Sociologists must account for effects of the millennium recession and the global patterns. This paper documents the evidence for the traditional gender roles (Aalberg& Jenssen, 2007). It is important to link sociological explanation of gender with other disciplines such as sexuality in order to understand the traditional concepts of gender.
Sociology is concerned with the human behavior and how it is shaped by the group life. Research on gender indicates that the social interactions in the society are influenced by gender. Explanation of gendering has formed a foundation of the theoretical and empirical studies (Morris, 2006). The paper will provide evidence of constant reinforcement of the gender roles. Additionally, the paper will explain the changing gender roles in the society.
A role is an expected behavior, which is associated with the social status. Societal norms dictate the gender roles since they are the rules that determine the privileges and responsibilities that the social status accords to a person. Female and males, daughters and sons, and mothers and fathers are statuses that are attached to the gender roles. The social status of the mother calls for a certain set of roles such as loving, nurturing, home making and self-sacrifice. The social status of the father calls for the expected role of the breadwinner or the main provider for the family.
Fathers are also disciplinarians, hands on person and the highest decision making authority. The society allows for some levels of flexibility of the gender roles such that in times of rapid change, the clarity of the society-imposed gender roles is always at a flux (Morris, 2006). The most important change in the United States labor market is the increase of women in the labor force.
Mothers are moving towards employment and the traditional gender roles are always changing. The changes in gender roles leads to a situation whereby the society becomes normless since the traditional gender roles have changed and new norms are yet to be developed. For instance, the change in gender roles from home based unpaid role to permanent employment in organizations led to a norm less situation. This was particularly aggravated since the mothers with preschool children were on the forefront of the change.
Before the onset of the modern colonial family, the gender roles were specifically different from the usual. Families were larger and the concept of the nuclear family was nonexistent. Working was done in the communal manner whereby the families would work towards a common goal. If it were construction, all members of the extended family would play their role in the project (Aalberg& Jenssen, 2007). Everyone’s input was set even though the men were the main technical people as it is today.
However, the colonial and Christian backed notion of the family unit led to the creation of a new norm in the society, which placed the men as main providers for their family. The extended family was increasingly becoming annihilated from the decision making process since most of the economic changes did not permit them to work in a certain manner. Creation of the ideal family was solely dependent on the newly formed norms. These norms of the patriarchal society have dominated the society leading to the development of a certain perception of the gender roles until recently when their fundamental foundations have been tested.
Key concepts in gender
Statuses and roles in the society allow the people to live in consistent and predictable manner (Aalberg& Jenssen, 2007). The roles and statuses work hand in hand with the established norms to prescribe the behavior of the society and ease the interaction between the people that occupy different social statuses and roles regardless of whether the interacting parties have prior encounters with each other.
Predictability is insidious since when the normative roles are too rigid, the freedom of action is greatly hindered. Rigid definition of the social roles has led to the development of stereotypes concerning the gender roles whereby the oversimplification of the conceptions of the people that belong to the same social statuses leads to the discrimination of other people. However, in rare occasions, the stereotypes can include positive aspects.
Traditional stereotypes of the gender roles are developed according to the traits that the social groups are supposed to possess. Women are presented as flighty and beyond the control. This assertion is mainly developed due to biological fact that they possess ranging hormones that predisposes them to unpredictable emotional based judgments. The assignment of the aforementioned stereotypes is uncalled for since there is a tendency of developing sexist attitudes towards the women (Aalberg& Jenssen, 2007).
The society is at risk of assuming that the women are inferior due to the inability of acting rationally. It is important to note that not only women experience negative gender based stereotypes. The prominence of the negative stereotypes on women comes from the fact that the social statuses occupied by women are more stigmatized than the ones occupied by men. For instance, women are more likely to occupy statuses inside and outside the home setting that are deemed inferior compared to the men. The beliefs of inferiority of women due to their biological make up are traditionally reinforced and later used as a basis for sexist discrimination.
Sexism thrives on the patriarchal systems, which have male dominance and overt discrimination of women. Patriarchy exhibits male centered norms hence it is androcentric. Sexist beliefs are reinforced when patriarchy and androcentricism combine to propel the notion that the gender norms are biological and permanent. For instance, the belief those women are unsuitable for any other role apart from the domestic chores has been a major hindrance of development among the societies in the developing world. This is the case mainly because there is a preference of the male children when it comes to education opportunities. The perception has led to the installation of the male members of the society as the authors, disseminators and enforcers of the gender based roles.
Gender vs. Sex
There has always been a considerable level of confusion regarding the differences between sex and gender. However, increasing research has led to the development of more awareness on the major aspects that distinguish sex from gender. Sex is biological since it focuses on the anatomical features that distinguish a male from female and vice versa. The biological definition of the females and males focuses on the genetically make up, hormones, anatomy and other features that come from the physiology.
Gender is a social construct. It is the social and cultural aspects of the male and female that have been propounded though the different social contexts. Sex only applies in the distinction of the male and female while gender determine who is masculine or feminine. Sex is ascribed to the person at the time of birth while gender has to be learnt from the norms and practices of the society.
Evidence reinforcing traditional gender roles
Gender roles are evident in the mainstream media. Media prays women as nurturing and gentle since they have to take care of other members of the society. They are often concerned with their appearance and that have to ensure that they have the right appearance and poise since it is required of them to ascribe to the norms imposed on them by the society. Women are also depicted as emotional and they make their decisions according to how they feel even when the evidence points out that the decision based on feelings is unattainable.
Men are depicted as logical since they try to attain the best outcome out of the situation that they are undergoing. Competitiveness is a major aspect of the male gender role that comes out in the media. For instance, men watch and participate in rough sports to display their competitiveness. Men are also displayed as aloof in that they work alone towards the attainment of a certain goal. However, when they work in a group, there is always a high degree of dominance of the group decisions by a certain member. This member is the alpha male and is independent. The media also sells the proposition that men are more dominant over the women. The media portrays the women as emphatic more than it portrays their male counterparts.
The media is more likely to display women as sex objects as opposed to the men. Media is awash with necessary images of women that create a surreal expectation. The female body is normally used to advertise things that are sexual in nature. For instance, the video games display women with large breasts and attractive. Their role to the development of the plot is usually limited since they are only in the video game for their sexual aspects (Aalberg& Jenssen, 2007).
There is also constant pressure among the women to attain certain standards of beauty due to the constant reinforcement of some perceptions of what makes one beautiful. Some of the media content places pressure on women on not only their bodies but also their attractiveness and marital status through content full of beautiful, young and single women (Morris, 2006). Women often dress in a provocative manner compared to men due to the media imposed stereotype that the women have to maintain a certain appearance.
Media programs display the teenage girls as overtly passive. The teenage girl in the media is concerned with her appearance, shopping or relationships, which are superficial topics. The teenage girls that stray from the norm always end up being outlasted since they chose better topics such as career development. The irony of this stereotype is that the girls are the ones that are responsible for hindering their own development while the society seems innocent (Morris, 2006). The reality is that the society has engineered the societal norms with accuracy and there is no way that one can distance the society role in the media stereotype creation.
Media also reinforces the traditional roles of the women and men by indicating the men as the better-paid employees in the organization. The media has the ability to come up with the right approach to the women but it seeks to propound the real life experiences of the women. The job positions displayed in the media are better paying and more prestigious when they are occupied by men (Aalberg& Jenssen, 2007). The occasional strong woman figure is juxtaposed with a lower cadre employee with a sense of amiability and social acceptance. The media will make the lower cadre employee look better in the audience compared to the executives. The executives are always displayed as sad members of the society whose life rotates around the work situation.
Their distinction from the job is highly unlikely since they exist only to work since they cannot fulfill the traditional roles (Morris, 2006). The conspicuous effort of the media to display the women in certain manner has led to the propulsion of the notion that there are some roles that the women have to fulfill failure of which they have to accept the description accorded to them as empty mechanistic people (Morris, 2006). The homemakers in the media are lauded for their selfless efforts in the sustenance of the family unit and their knack for performance. This leads to the reinforcement of the traditional gender role for the women as the homemakers due to their nurturing role. Downplaying the input of the single executive in the workplace is a sexist move meant to propound the notion that women re inferior to men.
Effects of exposure to media
Media is a major influencer among the young generation members. The children that are exposed to multiple gender images will most likely adopt the stereotype since it is a norm. Fewer children will work with the counter stereotype. The stereotypes have negative effects of lowering the self-esteem and dignity of women. Some of them are changing their outlook since they have mounting dissatisfaction with their bodies (Aalberg& Jenssen, 2007). Images of lonely and isolated executives have the effect of hindering the career development among women.
The media reinforced gender roles regarding the behavior of men and women leading to entrenchment of the practices of the society along the gender roles. Studies indicate that TV viewership can reinforce the attitudes of the women towards themselves and subjects such as career. The consistent messages passed through the mainstream media have two effect, in the first instance; the consistent messages can reinforce the traditional beliefs such that the women that were trying to work against the grain are forced to conform to the traditional perceptions of the gender roles. The second effect of the media is the creation of new perceptions of gender whereby there are new aspects of gender that all the women learn. Changing perceptions can alter the gender roles if they are strong enough.
In conclusion, traditional gender roles persist due to the increasing reinforcement of the said roles by the media. Media depiction of the two genders leads to the reinforcement of the traditional gender roles whereby the boys are termed to be different from the girls. The media also portrays what becomes of the women or men that do not work according to the gender roles since they become pariahs in the society (Aalberg& Jenssen, 2007). In order to be a member of the society, a person is forced to conform to the gender roles.
Aalberg, T. & Jenssen, A.T. (2007). Gender stereotyping of political candidates: An experimental study of political communication, Nordicom Review, 28, 17-32.
Morris, P. (2006,). Gender in print advertisements: A snapshot of representations from around the world. Media Report to Women, 34, 13-20.