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Gender refers to various meaning, beliefs, and characteristics that are attached to different sexes. When talking about gender, the value of masculinity and femininity is emphasized based on social valuation as indicated in Blackstone, (2003). Gender roles are constructed socially by how individuals interact with themselves and their environment. Based on the sex of each gender roles are created making the aspect a social construct, since it is established on a social ground, during interactions in the environment as shown by Blackstone, (2003). So Gender roles are the duties that male and female are expected to perform based on their sexual orientation. The paper will focus the gender role based on various perspectives including psychology, biology/physiology, and cultural and ethnic studies.
Human beings are differentiated by their sex that affects almost of life, ranging from economic, political, social and even academic terms. Psychological studies in defining gender, dwell on interpreting intrapsychic activities that determine the development of gender and gender role. In psychology, gender is defined within the familial realms by considering cognitive construction behavioral patterns by different gender as explained by Bussey & Bandura, (1999). One of the theories explaining the gender role and how it is developed is the psychoanalytic theory. Before age two, both boys and girls identify with their mother. At age three to five, the children become more gender stereotyping than even adults and strongly identify with a parent of the same gender. During this period of transitioning from identifying with the mother to identifying with same-sex parent, the child adopts gender-specific characteristic like being aggressive for boys and being affectionate for girls. Boys are stronger in the same-sex identification and hence become more sex-typed as compared to girls as expressed by Bussey & Bandura, (1999). In psychoanalytic theory, children exhibit high chances of developing behavior and learning roles from the person they are looking up to if they are having a good relationship. Those sharing a rivalry relationship with the child, are most probably not going to nurture specific behavior and gender role notion in the child during their transition. Girls are similar to their mothers and tend to connect faster and get to learn to become like mothers, which explains why girls would want to mother dolls at a young age Beal, (1994). They have already started to develop gender role attitude at the phallic level. Boy realizes they are different from their mothers and tend to form their gender role as masculine oriented and seek a different definition from girls.
From cognitive theory perspective in psychological studies, children both boys and girls, form gender role from visual and audio perception from the adults. Once they have stereotyped gender and have identified with one, they tend to pursue it, since they subconsciously realize it’s an element that cannot be reversed in them. They engage in roles that define their gender, and this continues to be stronger in later years.
Biology help determines the sex of a person while gender is a culturally formed idea that a particular sex is expected to behave and act in a given manner. Long ago each was expected to behave and act in a socially defined way, and the one acting opposite was considered defiant which prompted a punitive measure. Currently, a lot of diversity is welcomed, and gender is assumed to be just a continuum as indicated by McLeod, (2014). In male and female, same sex hormones flow in their bodies and the difference is the amount that leads to a development of either masculine or feminine nature. The chromosomes which are DNA strands that identify male and female are XY and XX respectively. The absence of sex-determining region Y chromosome makes the development of gonads of an embryo into ovaries, and the resultant child will be a female. Evolutionary theory is a biological perspective that suggest that adaptation to the environment made human beings develop gender-specific role and skills. For instance men would hunt for food and bring home women to cook. They would go out and protect animals and the homestead while women would remain to perform house chores and care for the children. That way boys and girls grew knowing their place in the society hence developing gender role as indicated by McLeod, (2014). As children grow, for boys they develop stronger visual receptors and skills for aiming at things and loving adventure than girls. For this reason, boys became the best for hunting activities.
The biosocial perspective suggests that nature nurtures gender. After birth and during growth and development for both girls and boys, the society exhibits differential treatment and children get to become what the society tells them they are as shown in McLeod, (2014). This treatment of different gender differently, is harmonized with their biological makeup, which will lead to a development of gender and consequently gender roles.
Cultural and Ethnic Studies
African American have a culture that identify men and women and defines the role of the different gender. African American are promoters of kinship relationship where they consider members of extended family as part of a nuclear family as contrasted by white’s who only consider members of a nuclear family as the real family members as shown in Lee & Ashcraft, (2005). In such African American culture, men and women have specific roles and characteristic, which keep the kinship ties stronger. For instance, a woman is assumed to care, givers of the children and home caretaker, since they are assumed to possess aspects of nurturance. The understanding of the interconnectedness of members in this cultural context, help to expose the gender role for the woman like the ones who ensure than the family well-being is promoted. With instances of ethnic discrimination, the African American culture recognizes that women are weak and vulnerable for abuse Lee & Ashcraft, (2005). The kingship tie ensures that men promote security for the ladies at any instance. This makes men in this culture protectors of the society. Men are also expected to pro for the family, and this keeps men responsible and opens minded to opportunities. Some African American women serve as household’s heads, and their families are prone to poverty as compared to when they are headed by men. For this reason, women allow men to lead families as they support them. This clearly defines the gender role in this culture.
The African American men and women in their kinship ties culture and relationship get to learn the gender roles through the socialization process. They develop gender specific roles as a result of sociological interactions leads to a development of such gender-specific roles. Those who does not conform to the set gender characteristics are considered defiant and would end up divorced and land in anguished poverty especially for the case of women in this cultural context Lee & Ashcraft, (2005). In the kinship ties, women and men learn how they are expected to conduct themselves and maintain the expected standards.
In my society boys and girls had defined status. Undertaking some activities as a boy would be a shame since they were considered feminine. The society tolerates women who occasionally or consistently act like boys, but strongly rebuke boys who act like girls. Boys who act like girls are considered weak and would most probably become failures. Boys who act like girls are not aggressive, an attribute of successful people. Girls who acted like boys were considered to be powerful cognitive wise, and would become successful although they may become bad mothers or may not keep a family intact Oakley, (2015). I used to express my emotions when hurt by someone, but I was told boys are supposed to be stable emotionally and that only girls should show their tears frequently. This made it difficult for me to express my emotions to the public for I never wanted to show any sign of weakness
With the current physiological studies and finding, stress can be relieved when the stressing event is share. I have learned to share my worries with friends and families who have shown emotional support and now I am leaving a better life, and a better person for the future.
In Conclusion, gender role represents the cultural set characteristics and beliefs that a particular sex is identified with. Physiological perspective explains gender role as it is socially constructed and learned by children as they grow. Biological studies illustrate the biological constitution that determines the appropriate role for each gender. For instance, men with their good visions and aiming skills as they grow made them hunters during an evolutionary period. In a cultural perspective, culture defines which sex takes up a given role as shown in the study of the kinship ties of the African American society. Gender is constructed and can be changed to fit a given situation and meet a need. But still there are things men and women distinctly irrespective of the current notion of gender equality. For instance, a father is naturally a family head and in most cases is considered them family breadwinner as a mother is more of a nurturer and in that case, a good nurture of the children than a father.
Bussey, K., & Bandura, A. (1999). Social cognitive theory of gender development and
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Blackstone, A. (2003). Gender Roles and Society. Retrieved November 6, 2015, from http://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=soc_facpub
Beal, C. R. (1994). Boys and girls: The development of gender roles (Vol. 1). McGraw-Hill Humanities, Social Sciences & World Languages.
Lee, J. W., & Ashcraft, A. M. (2005). Gender roles. Nova Publishers.
McLeod, S. (2014). Biological Theories of Gender | Simply Psychology. Retrieved November 6, 2015, from http://www.simplypsychology.org/gender-biology.html
Oakley, A. (2015). Sex, gender and society. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd..
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