Contemporary Gender Roles
Understanding Gender and Gender
• Sex-refers to male and female in a biological
• Gender-refers to male or female, often in a
• Role-refers to the culturally defined expectations
that an individual is expected to fulfill in a given
situation in a particular culture.
• Gender roles-are the roles that a person is
expected to perform as a result of being male or
female in a particular culture.
• Gender-role stereotype-a rigidly held and
oversimplified belief that all males and females,
as a result of their sex, possess distinct
psychological and behavioral traits.
• Gender-role attitudes-refer to the beliefs we
have of ourselves and others regarding
appropriate male and female personality traits
• Gender-role behaviors-refer to the actual
activities or behaviors we engage in as males
• Gender identity is based on genitalia, and learned at a
very young age.
• Cultures determine the content of gender roles in their
• We acquire gender identities at a very young age.
• Gender identity is perhaps the deepest concept we hold
• Our gender script determines the role you will fulfill
during your lifetime.
• Gender identity-The psychological sense of whether one
is male or female.
Contemporary Gender Roles
• Until the last generation, the bipolar gender role was the
• model used to explain male-female differences.
• 1. According to this model, males and females are polar
• 2. Males possess exclusively instrumental traits.
• 3. Females possess exclusively expressive ones.
• 4. While sociologists no longer use this model, American
beliefs related to gender roles have changed little.
• The problem with the view that men and women are
opposites is that it is erroneous. Men and women are
more alike than different.
• Gender schema is one way culture exaggerates
existing gender differences or creates
differences where none otherwise exist.
• Gender schema-is a set of interrelated ideas that
help us process information by categorizing it in
useful ways according to gender.
• Bipolar gender roles-in this model, males and
females are seen as polar opposites, with males
possessing exclusively instrumental traits and
females possessing exclusively expressive
• Gender theory is based on two assumptions:
– a. Male-female relationships are characterized by
– b. Society is constructed in such a way that males
• Gender theory focuses on:
– How specific behaviors or roles are defined as male
• The key to the” creation of gender inequality” is
the belief that men and women are "opposite"
• Social learning theory, from behaviorist
psychology, suggests that we learn attitudes and
behaviors as a result of social interaction with
• The cornerstone of social learning theory is the
belief that consequences control behavior.
• 2. Positive reinforcement rewards behavior,
while negative reinforcement makes it less likely
• Cognitive development theory focuses on
the child's active interpretation of
messages from the environment.
• Cognitive development theory stresses the
idea that we learn differently depending on
• Gender-role learning in childhood and adolescence is
influenced primarily by parents, teachers, peers, and the
• During infancy and early childhood, a child's most
important source of learning is the primary caretaker,
usually their parent(s).
• Immediately after birth, parents differentiate in treatment
between boys and girls.
• Children are socialized in gender roles through four
• Through manipulation, certain behaviors are reinforced
until children accept their parents' views.
• Through channeling, children's attention is
directed to specific objects.
• Through verbal appellation, parents use different
words to describe the same behavior by boys or
• Through exposure to different activities or
• Teachers, as socializing agents, become
influential as children enter day care or
kindergarten-the child's first experience in the
wider world outside the family.
• Peers, a child's age-mates, become especially important
when the child enters school.
• Peers reinforce gender-role norms through play activity
• Peers react with approval or disapproval to other's
• Peers influence the adoption of gender-role norms
through verbal approval and disapproval.
• Children's perceptions of their friends' gender-role
attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs encourage them to
adopt similar ones in order to be accepted.
• During adolescence, peers continue to have a strong
influence, but parents can be more influential than peers.
• Gender role learning continues in adulthood and takes
place in contexts outside the family of origin.
• College-encourages young people to think critically and
to sometimes consider alternatives to traditional gender
• Marriage-is an important source of gender role learning,
with our partner's expectations shaping our behavior.
• Parenthood-tends to alter women's lives more than it
alters men's lives; when children are born roles tend to
become more traditional.
• The workplace-has different expectations and
opportunities for men and for women creating different
attitudes toward achievement.
Gender Matters in Family
• Traditional gender-role stereotypes ascribe traits to one
gender but not the other, with men showing instrumental
traits and women showing expressive traits.
• Central features of the traditional male role, regardless of
ethnicity, include dominance, work, and family.
• Males are generally regarded as more power oriented
and demonstrate higher degrees of aggression.
• Traditional men see their primary family function as that
of provider and are more often confused by their
spouse's expectations of intimacy.
• Traditional white female gender roles center around
women's roles as wives and mothers.
• The traditional female gender role did not extend to
African- American women because employment and
self-reliance are integral components of their roles of
wife and mother. Black women do not see working
outside the home and motherhood as mutually exclusive.
• In traditional Latino gender roles, women subordinated
themselves to males out of respect for the male's role as
• Contemporary gender roles are evolving from
traditionally hierarchical gender roles to more egalitarian
and androgynous gender roles.
• Women are increasingly taking on the roles of employed
workers and professionals, although these may conflict
• Record numbers of women are choosing not to have
children because of the conflicts it creates; this is less
true for women from ethnic and minority status groups.
• Women have greatly increased their power in decision-
making, but husbands continue to have more power in
• The mutually exclusive division of traits as either male
(instrumental) or female (expressive) is breaking down.
• Men are expanding their family roles beyond
"breadwinning": Many of those in the evolving Men's
Movement share the beliefs of feminism.
• Although substantially more flexibility is offered to men
and women today, contemporary gender roles and
expectations continue to limit our potential.
• Men are required to work and support their families
rather than have the same role freedom to choose to
work as women have.
• When the man's roles of worker and father come into
conflict, it is usually the father role that suffers.
• Men continue to have greater difficulty in expressing
their feelings and may be out of touch with their inner
• Contemporary men still expect, and in many cases are
expected, to be dominant in relationships.
• Research suggests that the traditional
female gender role does not foster self-
confidence or mental health: Both men
and women tend to see women as less
competent then men.
• Differences in gender roles have created
what Bernard calls the "his" and "her"
marriage: Each gender experiences
• Androgyny refers to the state of combining male and
• Androgynous gender roles are characterized by flexibility
and a unique combination of instrumental and
• Individuals who are rigidly both instrumental and
expressive, despite the situation, are not considered
• Androgynous individuals and couples appear to have a
greater ability to form and sustain intimate relationships
and adopt a wider range of behaviors and values.
• Contemporary gender roles are still in flux: Few men or
women are entirely egalitarian or traditional.
• Gender reform feminisms: are geared toward
giving women the same rights and opportunities
that men enjoy.
• Gender-resistant feminisms: advocate more
radical, separatist strategies for women out of
the belief that their subordination is too
embedded in the existing social system.
• Gender-rebellion feminisms: tend to emphasize
overlapping and interrelated inequalities of
gender, sexual orientation, race, and class.