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Contemporary Gender Roles Understanding Gender and Gender Roles • Sex-refers to male and female in a biological sense. • Gender-refers to male or female, often in a social sense. • 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 and activities. • Gender-role behaviors-refer to the actual activities or behaviors we engage in as males and females. • Gender identity is based on genitalia, and learned at a very young age. • Cultures determine the content of gender roles in their own ways. • We acquire gender identities at a very young age. • Gender identity is perhaps the deepest concept we hold of ourselves. • 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 dominant • model used to explain male-female differences. • 1. According to this model, males and females are polar opposites. • 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 ones. Gender Theory • Gender theory is based on two assumptions: – a. Male-female relationships are characterized by power issues. – b. Society is constructed in such a way that males dominate females. • Gender theory focuses on: – How specific behaviors or roles are defined as male or female. • The key to the” creation of gender inequality” is the belief that men and women are "opposite" sexes. • Social learning theory, from behaviorist psychology, suggests that we learn attitudes and behaviors as a result of social interaction with others. • 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 to recur. • 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 our age. • Gender-role learning in childhood and adolescence is influenced primarily by parents, teachers, peers, and the media. • 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 processes: • 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 by girls. • Through exposure to different activities or chores. • 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 and toys. • Peers react with approval or disapproval to other's behavior. • 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 roles. • 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 Experiences • 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 provider. • 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 with parenting. • 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 actual practice. • 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. CONSTRAINTS OF CONTEMPORARY GENDER ROLES • 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 lives. • 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 marriage differently. ANDROGYNOUS GENDER ROLES • Androgyny refers to the state of combining male and female characteristics. • Androgynous gender roles are characterized by flexibility and a unique combination of instrumental and expressive traits. • Individuals who are rigidly both instrumental and expressive, despite the situation, are not considered androgynous. • 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.
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