Gender Roles

I just don’t understand why gender roles persist. I don’t get why our society as a whole perpetuates gender roles or how gender roles are helpful to all parties involved. I understand individual motivations to perpetuate gender roles (especially when it is a role that gives power to one in exchange for another benefit), but I don’t understand why gender roles continue based on, well, gender.

Definition of gender roles

To be clear, a definition:

gender roles are the set of perceived behavioral norms associated particularly with males or females, in a given social group or system. It can be a form of division of labour by gender. To put it simply, it refers to the attitudes and behaviors that class a person’s stereotypical identity, e.g. women cook and clean, men fix cars. Gender is one component of the gender/sex system, the set of arrangements by which a society transforms biological sexuality into products of human activity, and in which these transformed needs are satisfied.

So, to be clear, is the the transformation of biological sexuality into product of human activity that I don’t understand/accept.

Gender Roles in Division of Labor

Let’s take the first type of gender role — those that form a division of labour. Other than jobs that require specific physical capability (i.e. fireman, birthing babies), I’m at a huge loss to understand why gender should play a role in a job. I’m not going to buy that males are better at math, because I’m unable to accept that a Y chromosome definitely provides enhanced cognitive capabilities for that field. There is way too much chicken and egg going on here — perhaps the improved capabilities are due to the way the human was raised and encouraged their entire life, either by the parents, family, or society? I’m not going to buy that women are better at raising kids. Is that lack of y-chromosome making someone more empathetic, nurturing, or is this a self-fulling prophecy?

And, wait a darn minute, who is to say that raising kids is best served by commonly-held female gender qualities?

Gender Roles in the Household

So let’s take this to a bit more of gray area — gender roles in the relationship. Why is one of the people in a relationship, as defined as whether they possess or lack a primary sexual characteristic, supposed to take out the trash, fix things, initiative romance, bring home the bacon, or be the spiritual leader?

All of these things because one has or doesn’t have a penis!

Doesn’t this seem limiting — why should my gender specify what I can and can not do? Perhaps unfair — like you had a choice in the matter of your original sex? Or at least questionable — wake up ladies that’s probably your religion oppressing you!

Gender Roles in Homosexuality

Ever hear someone say “Sue and Betsy are a gay couple. Sue is the “butch” of the relationship”. Even gays can escape gender roles! Apparently there is a term for this:

The heteronormative view is that physical sex, gender identity, and gender roles should, in any given person, align to either all-male or all-female cultural norms

Seriously folks, stop limiting others by projecting your gender-view of the world on other people, especially those that renounce your sexual preference roles.

I hope that my kids, or at least my grandkids (either of which maybe I’ll stay home with to raise, or not) can live in a world free of gender roles. It will probably be a lot of confusing for them, but life is usually long enough to figure it out.


6 thoughts on “Gender Roles

  1. I agree with the spirit of the post. Whether by gender or age, I feel people are often disadvantaged in our society and that is unfortunate. However, related specifically to gender, I ask: Do you not agree that specific characteristics of a gender, whether physical or emotional, provide strengths that tend to align certain genders to certain roles? I feel there’s a great deal of beauty and importance in the fact that men and women are inherently wired in different ways. I think that should be embraced and the strengths provided in that uniqueness should be applauded. It’s only when those qualities are exploited, or when people are forced (or expected) to adhere to them when they otherwise would choose not to, that there is a true problem.

  2. So, that is the challenge to me — what traits, outside of primary sexual characteristics, are specific or inherent to a gender? For every trait you say is inherent to a gender, I will ask if it was the chicken, or the egg — did one’s gene’s make it so, or was it their environment, or was it some quirky cosmic mix?

    And if you are able to pinpoint a gender’s inherent difference, there is the issue of generalization. Do *all* members of that gender possess those traits? To what degree, more or less?

    And then a third point — are their *any* instances in which the opposite gender possesses the trait in greater strength? So how reliable is gender as a predictor of a trait?

    I agree that utilizing one’s strength is usually a great idea. I just am not buying that gender differentiates them.

    You should hear me when I get scotch in me.

  3. When it comes to who does what in the household there is a predicting factor called strength. When a couple have been out shopping the male will (probably) take in the groceries and the female will put them where they belong in the kitchen. This because of the males being stronger and tend to be able to carry more heavy weights.
    When it comes to changing the tiers on the car or drill a whole in the wall or put together furniture from IKEA the men tend to step in.

    When it comes to IKEA there is scientific data supporting the fact that males tend to have a greater spatial understanding and a keener interest in mechanics. When tested in one day old children they put a woman on one side of the crib and a mobile on the other side. The female was dressed in bright colors and the mobile was not spinning (if I remember the study correct). Girls tended to at a significantly greater rate than boys look at the woman and boys looked at the mobile. There was overlapping but still a significant different.

    The question shouldn’t be what came first the chicken or the egg but what does my child want? If I present a truck to my daughter will she play with it as a truck or tuck it in like a child? Studies have shown here that girls tend to be more divers in how they play than boys which I do have a reason for but it would take just as long of a post to explain as I’ve already written down!

    • Holman: I encourage you to attend a Crossfit. You will quickly see that while male DNA may support additional muscle mass and development, by no means is that an absolute nor, in this day and age, to be expected.

      Please share your scientific data stating men hoave great spatial understanding and keener interest in mechanics. Also, please only provide a sample size that includes genetic males that were raised as women, and vice versa, to control for social influences of gender roles (a male would surely be better with spatial reasoning if this skill-set is taught and reinforced throughout their childhood).

      At what age are you presenting the truck to your daughter? Is it not possible that every and any day prior to that day of presentation could have served as reinforcing social cues on gender roles? How much “free-will” did your child really have in the selection, when they have been wearing pink and treated differently by you, family, and friends ever since birth?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s