Gender role

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A gender role is a set of societal norms dictating what types of behaviors are generally considered acceptable, appropriate or desirable for a person based on their actual or perceived sex. These are usually centered around opposing conceptions of femininity and masculinity, although there are myriad exceptions and variations. The specifics regarding these gendered expectations may vary substantially among cultures, while other characteristics may be common throughout a range of cultures. There is extensive but mostly political debate as to what extent gender roles and their variations are biologically determined, and to what extent they are socially constructed.

Left-wing activists, most notably the feminist movement, and most western governments have led efforts to change aspects of those prevailing gender roles that they believe are oppressive or reactionary.

The term 'gender role' was first coined by John Money in 1955 during the course of his study of intersex individuals to describe the manners in which these individuals express their status as a male or female, in a situation where no clear biological assignment exists.

In the twenty-first century, gender roles became unbalanced through an increasing male surplus in most Western countries. This has increased conflicts and competition between men, and reduced female incentives to marry and adopt their traditional gender roles. Under the influence of women's liberation and other types of feminism, resulting dysgenic trends have included an increase in genetic diseases, and worldwide declines in average intelligence among most populations. In the pursuit of sexual relations for pleasure, women generally reject boring "beta males" for a relatively small percentage of more aggressive "alpha males", who make poor or indifferent providers for the resulting offspring. This has caused a massive increase in single mothers supported by welfare. Changing gender roles enforced by political correctness increasingly criminalize the behavior of lower-status men pursuing women who are not interested in them.

Transsexuals have sought to redefine the mutability of gender roles. They have increasingly been accused of "contaminating" or "polluting" the dating or marriage pool of prospective partners, by concealing their identity as transsexuals to gain sexual partners. Man-to-woman transsexuals often attempt to date men while pretending to be biological women,[1][2] a major cause of the violence perpetrated against them.[3] This criticism applies even more strongly to the dating pools of dating sites,[4] where gender roles have to be over-emphasized in user profiles and photos to attract attention.


The World Health Organization (WHO) defines gender roles as "socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women".[5] However debate continues as to what extent gender and its roles are socially constructed (i.e. non-biologically influenced), and to what extent "socially constructed" may be considered synonymous with "arbitrary" or "malleable".[6][7][8][9][10] Therefore, a concise authoritative definition of gender roles or gender itself is elusive.

Some systems of classification, unlike the WHO, are non-binary or gender queer, listing multiple possible genders including transgender and intersex as distinct categories.[11][12] Gender roles are culturally specific, and while most cultures distinguish only two (boy and girl or man and woman), others recognize more. Androgyny, for example, has been proposed as a third gender.[13] Other societies have claimed to see more than five genders,[14] and some non-Western societies have three genders – man, woman and third gender.[15] Some individuals identify with no gender at all.[16]

Gender role, referring in some sense to cultural expectations according to an understood gender classification, should not be confused with gender identity, the internal sense of one's own gender, which may or may not align with categories offered by societal norms. The point at which these internalized gender identities become externalized into a set of expectations is the genesis of a gender role.[17][18]

Gender roles are usually referenced in a pejorative sense, as an institution that restricts freedom of behavior and expression, or are used as a basis for discrimination. Due to the prevailing gender role of general subordination, women were not granted the right to vote in many parts of the world until the 19th or 20th centuries, some well into the 21st.[19] Women throughout the world, in myriad respects, do not enjoy full freedom and protection under the law (see Women's rights). Due to the prevailing perception of men as primarily breadwinners, they are seldom afforded the benefit of paternity leave.[20]

Gender roles may also be experienced negatively by those who are, or are perceived to be members of a group, but who do not conform to established norms. For example, Morgan examines the plight of homosexuals seeking political asylum from homophobic persecution who have been turned away by US customs for not being "gay enough", that is, not sufficiently conforming to the standard western conception of the gender roles occupied by gays and lesbians.[21] Mohammad, a gay man from Iran, was asked by his immigration officer "how she was supposed to believe he was gay when he was 'not feminine in any way'". His application was initially denied but later granted on appeal. Conversely, heterosexual men and women who are not sufficiently masculine or feminine may be persecuted for being homosexual.

Despite this, and for at least some individuals, gender roles may provide a positive effect and the absence of them may prove difficult. Whilst gender roles may be used as deleterious gender stereotypes, they can offer a clear avenue to verify and structure socially accepted behavior. Additionally, holding the view of one's self as fulfilling prescribed gender roles has been correlated with increased self-esteem.[22] As Kelsey, who self identifies as gender neutral phrased it:

"It just makes me feel separated from society, when we have to keep talking about it. It’s like — am I even human?...I mean, I know I’m not normal."[23]

Theories of the social construction of gender

Changing norms of socialization: Louis XV in 1712, wearing the customary clothes of unbreeched boys, would be considered cross-dressed in the 21st century.

Children learn to categorize themselves by gender usually by the age of 3.[24] From birth, children learn gender stereotypes and roles from their parents and environment. In a traditional view, males learn to manipulate their physical and social environment through physical strength or dexterity, while girls learn to present themselves as objects to be viewed.[25] Social constructionists claim for example that gender-segregated children's activities create the appearance that gender differences in behavior reflect an essential nature of male and female behavior.[26]

Gender role theory “treats these differing distributions of women and men into roles as the primary origin of sex-differentiated social behavior, their impact on behavior is mediated by psychological and social processes”[27] According to Gilbert, gender roles arose from correspondent inference, meaning that general labor division was extended to gender roles. Socially constructed gender roles are considered to be hierarchical and characterized as a male-advantaged gender hierarchy by social constructionists.[28] The term patriarchy defined by researcher Cherlin defines "a social order based on the domination of women by men, especially in agricultural societies".[29] According to Eagly et al., the consequences of gender roles and stereotypes are sex-typed social behavior [30] because roles and stereotypes are both socially shared descriptive norms and prescriptive norms.

Judith Butler,[31] in works such as Gender Trouble and Undoing Gender, contends that being female is not "natural" and that it appears natural only through repeated performances of gender; these performances in turn, reproduce and define the traditional categories of sex and/or gender.

Talcott Parsons' view

Working in the United States, Talcott Parsons[32] developed a model of the nuclear family in 1955, which at that place and time was the prevalent family structure. It compared a strictly traditional view of gender roles (from an industrial-age American perspective) with a more liberal view.

The Parsons model was used to contrast and illustrate extreme positions on gender roles. Model A describes total separation of male and female roles, while Model B describes the complete dissolution of gender roles.[33] (The examples are based on the context of the culture and infrastructure of the United States.)

Model A – Total role segregation Model B – Total integration of roles
Education Gender-specific education; high professional qualification is important only for the man Co-educative schools, same content of classes for girls and boys, same qualification for men and women.
Profession The workplace is not the primary area of women; career and professional advancement is deemed unimportant for women For women, career is just as important as for men; equal professional opportunities for men and women are necessary.
Housework Housekeeping and child care are the primary functions of the woman; participation of the man in these functions is only partially wanted. All housework is done by both parties to the marriage in equal shares.
Decision making In case of conflict, man has the last say, for example in choosing the place to live, choice of school for children, buying decisions Neither partner dominates; solutions do not always follow the principle of finding a concerted decision; status quo is maintained if disagreement occurs.
Child care and education Woman takes care of the largest part of these functions; she educates children and cares for them in every way Man and woman share these functions equally.

However, these structured positions become less common in a liberal-individualist society;[citation needed] and the actual behavior of individuals is usually somewhere between these poles.

According to the interactionist approach, roles (including gender roles) are not fixed, but are constantly negotiated between individuals. In North America and southern South America, this is the most common approach among families whose business is agriculture.

Gender roles can influence all kinds of behaviors, such as choice of clothing, choice of work and personal relationships, e.g., parental status (See also Sociology of fatherhood).

Geert Hofstede's views

In Greek mythology, Heracles is synonymous with Apollonian masculinity.

Geert Hofstede is a Dutch researcher and social psychologist who dedicated himself to the study of culture. Hofstede sees culture as "broad patterns of thinking, feeling and acting" in a society[34] In Hofstede’s view, masculinity and femininity differ in the social roles that are associated with the biological fact of the existence of the two sexes. Masculinity and femininity refer to the dominant sex role pattern in the vast majority of both traditional and modern societies: that of male assertiveness and female nurturance.[35]

Femininity: “Femininity stands for a society in which social gender roles overlap: Both men and women are supposed to be modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life”[36]

Masculinity: “Masculinity stands for a society in which social gender roles are clearly distinct: Men are supposed to be assertive, tough, and focused on material success; women are supposed to be more modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life”[36]

Hofstede's Feminine and Masculine Culture Dimensions:“Masculine cultures expect men to be assertive, ambitious and competitive, to strive for material success, and to respect whatever is big, strong, and fast. Masculine cultures expect women to serve and care for the non-material quality of life, for children and for the weak. Feminine cultures, on the other hand, define relatively overlapping social roles for the sexes, in which, in particular, men need not be ambitious or competitive but may go for a different quality of life than material success; men may respect whatever is small, weak, and slow".[37] In feminine cultures, modesty and relations are important characteristics.[citation needed] This differs from in masculine cultures, where self-enhancement leads to self-esteem. Masculine cultures are individualistic, and feminine cultures are more collective because of the significance of personal relationships. “The dominant values in a masculine society are achievement and success; the dominant values in a feminine society are caring for others and quality of life”.[38][page needed]

Albert Ellis' views

In the 1940s, Albert Ellis studied eighty-four cases of mixed births and concluded that "while the power of the human sex drive may possibly be largely dependent on physiological factors... the direction of this drive does not seem to be directly dependent on constitutional element." In other words, in the development of masculinity, femininity, and inclinations towards homosexuality or heterosexuality, nurture matters a great deal more than nature.[39]

John Money's views

In the 1950s John Money, along with colleagues took up the study of intersexuals, who, Money realized, "would provide invaluable material for the comparative study for bodily form and physiology, rearing, and psychosexual orientation." Money and his colleagues used their own studies to state in the extreme what these days seems extraordinary for its complete denial of the notion of natural inclination.[40] They concluded that gonads, hormones, and chromosomes did not automatically determine a child's gender role.[39] Among the many terms he coined was gender role which he defined in a seminal 1955 paper as "all those things that a person says or does to disclose himself or herself as having the status of boy or man, girl or woman".[41]

In recent years, the majority of Money's theories regarding the importance of socialization in the determination of gender have come under intense criticism, especially in connection with the false reporting of success in the 'John/Joan' case (see David Reimer).[42][43][44]

Anthropology and evolution

From approximately 1700 through 1900 women served as soldiers for the kingdom of Dahomey, a slave-trading nation.

The idea that differences in gender roles originate in differences in biology has found support in parts of the scientific community. 19th-century anthropology sometimes used descriptions of the imagined life of paleolithic hunter-gatherer societies for evolutionary explanations for gender differences.[weasel words] For example, those accounts maintain that the need to take care of offspring may have limited the females' freedom to hunt and assume positions of power.[weasel words]

Because of the influence of (among others) Simone de Beauvoir's feminist works and Michel Foucault's reflections on sexuality, the idea that gender was unrelated to sex gained ground during the 1980s, especially in sociology and cultural anthropology.[45] This view asserts that the relationship between gender and sex (presence of genitals/gonads) is not causally determinate. That is, that one may have the genitals of one sex while having the gender of another.[46] Maria Lugones observes that among the Yoruba people there was no concept of gender and no gender system whatsoever before colonialism. She argues that colonial powers used a gender system as a tool for domination and fundamentally changing social relations among the indigenous.[47] However, there continues to be debate on the subject. Simon Baron-Cohen, a Cambridge Univ. professor of psychology and psychiatry, claims that "the female brain is predominantly "hard-wired" for empathy, while the male brain is predominantly "hard-wired" for understanding and building systems."[48]

Several studies have been conducted on situations where a child was either raised believing that he or she was of opposite sex, or in conditions where the sex was changed using medical procedure at a young age. One study looked at female infants that suffered from adrenal hyperplasia, and who had excess male hormone release, but were thought to be females and raised as such by their parents. These girls expressed higher than normal masculine behavior.[49][50] Another study looked at 18 male infants with a genetic disorder where their genitals are disformed so that their parents believed them to be girls. At adult age only one of these attempted to adapt a female role and express female behavioral patterns, but she was in psychiatric care because of gender-roles issues, all the others being stereotypically male.[51] In a third study, 14 male children born with cloacal exstrophy and reassigned female at birth by gender change operations were looked at. Upon follow-up between the ages of 5 to 12, eight of them identified as boys, and all of the subjects had at least moderately male-typical attitudes and interests.[52]

Traditional Adyghe male and female clothing

Dr. Sandra Lipsitz Bem is a psychologist who developed the gender schema theory to explain how individuals come to use gender as an organizing category in all aspects of their life. It is based on the combination of aspects of the social learning theory and the cognitive-development theory of sex role acquisition. In 1971, she created the Bem Sex Role Inventory to measure how well you fit into your traditional gender role by characterizing your personality as masculine, feminine, androgynous, or undifferentiated. She believed that through gender-schematic processing, a person spontaneously sorts attributes and behaviors into masculine and feminine categories. Therefore, an individual processes information and regulate their behavior based on whatever definitions of femininity and masculinity their culture provides.[53]

The current trend in Western societies toward men and women sharing similar occupations, responsibilities and jobs suggests that the sex one is born with does not directly determine one's abilities.[54][55] While there are differences in average capabilities of various kinds (E.g. better average balance and endurance in females or greater average physical size in males) between the sexes,[56] the capabilities of some members of one sex will fall within the range of capabilities needed for tasks conventionally assigned to the other sex.

In addition, research at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center has also shown that gender roles may be biological among primates. Yerkes researchers studied the interactions of 11 male and 23 female Rhesus monkeys with human toys, both wheeled and plush. The males played mostly with the wheeled toys while the females played with both types equally.[57] Study co-author Kim Wallen has, however, warned against overinterpeting the results as the color and size of the toys may also have been factors in the monkey's behavior.[58]


File:90Israhel van Meckenenem Verkehrte Welt.jpg
The world turned upside down, by Israhel van Meckenem the Younger. The wife is holding the sceptre and the man is spinning.

Ideas of appropriate behavior according to gender vary among cultures and era, although some aspects receive more widespread attention than others. R.W. Connell in Men, Masculinities and Feminism[59] claims:

"There are cultures where it has been normal, not exceptional, for men to have homosexual relations. There have been periods in 'Western' history when the modern convention that men suppress displays of emotion did not apply at all, when men were demonstrative about their feeling for their friends. Mateship in the Australian outback last century is a case in point."

There are huge areal differences in attitudes towards appropriate gender roles. For example, in the World Values Survey, responders were asked if they thought that wage work should be restricted to only men in the case of shortage in jobs. While in Iceland the proportion that agreed was 3.6%, in Egypt it was 94.9%.[60] Attitudes have also varied historically, for example, in Europe, during the Middle Ages, women were commonly associated with roles related to medicine and healing.[61] Due to the rise of witch-hunts across Europe and the institutionalization of medicine, these roles eventually came to be monopolized by men.[61] In the last few decades, however, these roles have become largely gender-neutral in Western society.[62]

Vern Bullough stated that homosexual communities are generally more tolerant of switching gender roles.[63] For instance, someone with a masculine voice, a five o'clock shadow (or a fuller beard), an Adam's apple, etc., wearing a woman's dress and high heels, carrying a purse, etc., would most likely draw ridicule or other unfriendly attention in ordinary social contexts.[64][65][66] Because the dominant class sees this form of gender expression as unacceptable, inappropriate, or perhaps threatening, these individuals are significantly more likely to experience discrimination and harassment both in their personal lives and from their employer.[67]

Gender roles may be a means through which one expresses their gender identity, but they may also be employed as a means of exerting social control, and individuals may experience negative social consequences for violating them.[68]



I Corinthians, 11:14 and 15 indicates that it is inappropriate for a man to wear his hair long, and good for a woman to wear her hair long.

The roles of women in Christianity can vary considerably today as they have varied historically since the first century New Testament church. This is especially true in marriage and in formal ministry positions within certain Christian denominations, churches, and parachurch organizations.

Many leadership roles in the organized church have been restricted to males. In the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, only men may serve as priests or deacons; only males serve in senior leadership positions such as pope, patriarch, and bishop. Women may serve as abbesses. Most mainstream Protestant denominations are beginning to relax their longstanding constraints on ordaining women to be ministers, though some large groups are tightening their constraints in reaction. Charismatic and Pentecostal churches have embraced the ordination of women since their founding.

Christian traditions that officially recognize saints as persons of exceptional holiness of life do list women in that group. Most prominent is Mary, mother of Jesus who is highly revered throughout Christianity, particularly in Roman Catholicism where she is considered the "Mother of God". Women prominent in Christianity have included contemporaries of Jesus, subsequent theologians, abbesses, mystics, doctors of the church, founders of religious orders, military leaders, monarchs and martyrs, evidencing the variety of roles played by women within the life of Christianity. Paul the Apostle held women in high regard and worthy of prominent positions in the church, though he was careful not to encourage disregard for the New Testament household codes, also known as New Testament Domestic Codes or Haustafelen, of Greco-Roman law in the first century.


Muhammad described the high status of mothers in both of the major hadith Collections (Bukhari and Muslim). One famous account is:

"A man asked the Prophet: 'Whom should I honor most?' The Prophet replied: 'Your mother'. 'And who comes next?' asked the man. The Prophet replied: 'Your mother'. 'And who comes next?' asked the man. The Prophet replied: 'Your mother!'. 'And who comes next?' asked the man. The Prophet replied: 'Your father'"


Hindu deities are more ambiguously gendered than deities of other world religions, such as Christianity, Islam, and others. This informs female and males relations, and informs how the differences between males and females are understood[69]

Image of Ardhanarishvara

However, in a religious cosmology like Hinduism, which prominently features female and androgynous deities, some gender transgression is allowed. This group is known as the hijras, and has a long tradition of performing in important rituals, such as the birth of sons and weddings. Despite this allowance for transgression, Hindu cultural traditions portray women in contradictory ways. On one hand, women’s fertility is given great value, and on the other, female sexuality is depicted as potentially dangerous and destructive.[70]

Studies on marriage in the U.S.

In the U.S., single men are outnumbered by single women at a ratio of 100 single women to every 86 single men,[71] though never-married men over age 15 outnumber women by a 5:4 ratio (33.9% to 27.3%) according to the 2006 U.S. Census American Community Survey. This very much depends on age group, with 118 single men per 100 single women in their 20s, versus 33 single men to 100 single women over 65.[72]

The numbers are different in other countries. For example, China has many more young men than young women, and this disparity is expected to increase.[73] In regions with recent conflict such as Chechnya, women may greatly outnumber men.[74]

In a cross-cultural study by David Buss, men and women were asked to rank certain traits in order of importance in a long-term partner. Both men and women ranked "kindness" and "intelligence" as the two most important factors. Men valued beauty and youth more highly than women, while women valued financial and social status more highly than men.

Changing roles

A woman publicly witnessing at a Quaker meeting seemed an extraordinary feature of the Religious Society of Friends, worth recording for a wider public. Engraving by Bernard Picart, ca 1723.

Societies can change such that the gender roles rapidly change. The 21st century has seen a shift in gender roles due to multiple factors such as new family structures, education, media, and several others. A 2003 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that about 1/3 of wives earn more than their husbands.[75] With the importance of education emphasized nationwide, and the access of college degrees (online, for example), women have begun furthering their education. Family structures are changing, and the number of single-mother or single-father households is increasing.

Fathers are also becoming more involved with raising their children, instead of the responsibility resting solely with the mother. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of stay-at-home fathers in the US nearly doubled in the period from 1989 to 2012, from 1.1 million to 2.0 million.[76] This trend appears to be mirrored in a number of countries including the UK, Canada and Sweden.[77][78][79] However, Pew also found that, at least in the US, public opinion in general appears to show a substantial bias toward favoring a mother as a care-taker verses a father, regardless of any shift in actual roles each plays.[80]

Gender equality allows gender roles to become less distinct and according to Donnalyn Pompper, is the reason "men no longer own breadwinning identities and, like women, their bodies are objectified in mass media images."[81] The LGBT rights movement has played a role increasing pro-gay attitudes, which according to Brian McNair, are expressed by many metrosexual men.[82]

East vs. west

According to Chang, Lei, the gender attitudes along both domains of work and domestic roles can be measured through the development and validation of a cross-cultural gender role attitudes test. The psychological processes of the East have been supervised through a Western instrument after a translation of the instrument into an Eastern language. The North American instruments of gender role attitudes include the Attitudes Towards Women Scale, the Sex-Role Egalitarian Scale, and Sex-Role Ideology Scale. Through the test, it is known that even American Southerners "lag behind their northern counterparts in egalitarian gender views."[83] It is inevitable for the gender views to be not affected from one’s culture, even if it is just few hundred miles away. Although there were existing studies that have focused on the general gender views or gender attitudes that are work related, there has not been a study of specific domestic roles. Supporting the findings of Hofstede (1980), which explained that the “high masculinity cultures are associated with low percentages of women holding professional and technical employment,” the test values of the work-related gender role egalitarian was less for the Chinese than the Americans.[84] The population proportion of women who held professional job in China was far less than that of America, which also justifies this test data. The test data is a clear portrayal of women’s limitations in our current society in the Eastern culture.

As Hofstede mentioned, high masculinity cultures are associated with low percentages of women holding professional and technical employment; The Matter of Seggri is a great tool that exaggerates the women’s lack of power, and it gives lucid visualizations for the readers. Considering the domestic gender roles, there were surprisingly no difference between the viewpoint of Chinese and that of Americans. From these studies, one may conclude that the Chinese women would have higher expectations of men than American women, assuming their domestic roles.

Not only there exist regional differences among people's cultural differences, but also emotional differences among cultural distinctions. The study, according to Richard Bagozzi, Nancy Wong, and Youjae Yi, proves the direct relationship between the culture and gender that interact to produce distinct patterns of association between positive and negative emotions. During the research, United States is considered more “independent-based culture,” while China is considered “interdependent-based culture.” People in the U.S. generally experience emotion in oppositional ways, whereas Chinese people are closer to experience emotion in dialectal way. The study has continued with sets of psychological tests among university students in Beijing, and those in Michigan. The fundamental goals of the research were to show the "gender differences in emotions are adaptive for the differing roles that males and females play in the culture.” The evidence for differences in gender role is found during the socialization in work experiment: the research proves that "women are socialized to be more expressive of their feelings and to show this to a greater extent in facial expressions and gestures, as well as by verbal means."[85] This is a pure instance of the gender differences between men and women, and the study extends to the biological characteristics of both men and women to discuss and justify the hypothesis that they made.

Due to the higher association between PA and NA hormones in memory for women, cultural patterns described above becomes more evident for women than men. In addition to the two studies above, another research, according to Jin, Jiafei, Patricia Fosh, and Chih-Chieh Chen, proves exactly the same point through some different sets of test. The gender theories are explained, and through the case-study investigation, where Chinese workers join the Western partners, the research includes the worker's attitudes to Western MNC's that demonstrate different HR practice. The pure goal of the research is to prove that the gender played an intervening role between organizational structure and worker's attitude. Through physiological questionnaire responses, the attitudes towards their jobs and companies became moderately positive when working for a foreign direct investment (FIE) compared with their attitudes when working for non-FIEs.[86] Because the result, through a different set of test, shows an instance of Bagozzi’s research, it can be considered an inferable proof of his research.


Gender communication is viewed as a form of intercultural communication, and gender is both an influence on and a product of communication. Communication takes a large part in the process in which we become male or female because males and females are taught difference linguistic practices. For example, females are often more expressive and intuitive in their communication, while males tend to be instrumental and competitive. In addition, there are differences in accepted communication behaviors for males and females. To improve communication between genders, one must understand these differences found in the opposite sex.[87]

Nonverbal communication

Hall published an observational study on nonverbal gender differences and discussed the cultural reasons as to those differences.[88] In her study, she noted women as smiling and laughing more, as well as having a better understanding of others’ nonverbal cues. She believed that women were encouraged to be more emotionally expressive in their language, thus better developed in nonverbal communication. Men, on the other hand, were taught to be less expressive, to suppress their emotions, and thus be less nonverbally active in communication and more sporadic in their use of nonverbal cues. Most studies researching nonverbal communication described women as being more expressively and judgmentally accurate in nonverbal communication when it was linked to emotional expression; other nonverbal expressions were similar or the same for both genders.[89] McQuiston and Morris also noted a major difference in men and women’s nonverbal communication; men tended to show body language linked to dominance, like eye contact and interpersonal distance, more than women.[90]

Communication and gender cultures

Words, phrases, and topics most highly distinguishing English-speaking females and males in social media in 2013

According to Julia Wood, there are distinct communication "culture" for women and men in the US.[91] Wood believes that in addition to female and male communication cultures, there are also specific communications cultures for African Americans, older people, Indian Native Americans, gay men, lesbians, and people with disabilities. According to Wood, it is generally thought that biological sex is behind the distinct ways of communicating, but in reality the root is "gender".[92]

Maltz and Broker’s research suggested that the games children play may contribute to socializing children into masculine and feminine gender roles.[93] For example, girls being encouraged to play "house" may promotes stereotypically feminine traits, and may promote interpersonal relationships as playing house does not necessarily have fixed rules or objectives. Boys, however, tended to play more competitive and adversarial team sports with structured, predetermined goals and a range of confined strategies.

Communication and sexual desire

Mets, et al.[94] explain that sexual desire is linked to emotions and communicative expression. Communication is central in expressing sexual desire and "complicated emotional states," and is also the "mechanism for negotiating the relationship implications of sexual activity and emotional meanings." Gender differences appear to exist in communicating sexual desire.

For example, masculine people are generally perceived to be more interested in sex than feminine people, and research suggests that masculine people are more likely than feminine people to express their sexual interest.[95] This may be greatly affected by masculine people being less inhibited by social norms for expressing their desire, being more aware of their sexual desire or succumbing to the expectation of their gender culture.[96] When feminine people employ tactics to show their sexual desire, they are typically more indirect in nature. On the other hand, it is known masculinity is associated with aggressive behavior in all mammals, and most likely explains at least part of the fact that masculine people are more likely to express their sexual interest. This is known as the Challenge hypothesis.

Various studies show different communication strategies with a feminine person refusing a masculine person's sexual interest. Some research, like that of Murnen,[97] show that when feminine people offer refusals, the refusals are verbal and typically direct. When masculine people do not comply with this refusal, feminine people offer stronger and more direct refusals. However, research from Perper and Weis[98] showed that rejection includes acts of avoidance, creating distractions, making excuses, departure, hinting, arguments to delay, etc. These differences in refusal communication techniques are just one example of the importance of communicative competence for both masculine and feminine gender cultures.

Gender stereotypes

File:Glaspalast München 1883 064.jpg
An 1883 German illustration of children playing house

A 1992 study tested gender stereotypes and labeling within young children.[99] The researchers divided this into two different studies. The first study investigated how children identified the differences between gender labels of boys and girls. The second study looked at both gender labeling and stereotyping in the relationship of mother and child.

Within the first study, 23 children between the ages of 2 and 7 underwent a series of gender labeling and gender stereotyping tests. These tests consisted of showing the children either pictures of males and females or objects such as a hammer or a broom and identifying or labeling those to a certain gender. The results of these tests showed that children under 3 years could make gender-stereotypic associations.[99]

The second study looked at gender labeling and stereotyping in the relationship of mother and child using three separate methods. The first consisted of identifying gender labeling and stereotyping, essentially the same method as the first study. The second consisted of behavioral observations, which looked at ten-minute play sessions with mother and child using gender specific toys. The third was a series of questionnaires such as an "Attitude Toward Women Scale", "Personal Attributes Questionnaire", and "Schaefer and Edgerton Scale" which looked at the family values of the mother.[99]

The results of these studies showed the same as the first study with regards to labeling and stereotyping. They also identified in the second method that the mothers positive reactions and responses to same-sex or opposite-sex toys played a role in how children identified them. Within the third method the results found that the mothers of the children who passed the “Gender Labeling Test”, had more traditional family values. These two studies, conducted by Beverly I. Fagot, Mar D. Leinbach and Cherie O'Boyle, showed that gender stereotyping and labeling is acquired at a very young age, and that social interactions and associations play a large role in how genders are identified.[99]

Virginia Woolf, in the 1920s, made the point: "It is obvious that the values of women differ very often from the values which have been made by the other sex. Yet it is the masculine values that prevail".[100] Sixty years later, psychologist Carol Gilligan was to take up the point, and use it to show that psychological tests of maturity have generally been based on masculine parameters, and so tended to show that women were less 'mature'. She countered this in her ground-breaking work, In a Different Voice, holding that maturity in women is shown in terms of different, but equally important, human values.[101]

Stereotype content model, adapted from Fiske et al. (2002): Four types of stereotypes resulting from combinations of perceived warmth and competence.

Gender stereotypes are extremely common in society.[102][103] One of the reasons this may be is simply because it is easier on the brain to stereotype (see Heuristics). The brain has limited perceptual and memory systems, so it categorizes information into fewer and simpler units which allows for more efficient information processing.[104] Gender stereotypes appear to have an effect at an early age. In one study, the effects of gender stereotypes on children's mathematical abilities were tested. In this study of American children between the ages of six and ten, it was found that the children, as early as the second grade, demonstrated the gender stereotype that math is for boys. This may show that the math self-concepts are influenced before the age in which there are actual differences in math achievement.[105] In another study about gender stereotypes, it was found that parents' stereotypes interact with the sex of their child to directly influence the parents' beliefs about the child's abilities. In turn, parents' beliefs about their child directly influence their child's self-perceptions, and both the parents' stereotypes and the child's self-perceptions influence the child's performance.[106]

Stereotype threat is the implicit belief in gender stereotype that women perform worse than men in math, which is proposed to lead to lower performance by women. A recent review article of stereotype threat research related to the relationship between gender and math abilities concluded "that although stereotype threat may affect some women, the existing state of knowledge does not support the current level of enthusiasm for this as a mechanism underlying the gender gap in mathematics."[107]

In another study, Deaux and her colleagues found that most people think women are more nurturant, but less self-assertive than men. Also, it is indicated universally. However, this awareness is related to women's role. That is, women do not have the nurturant personality by nature, but that personality is acquired by being in charge of the housework.[108]

According to the study of Jean Lipman-Blumen, women who grew up following traditional gender roles from childhood were less likely to want to be highly educated; women who were brought up with the view that men and women are equal were more likely to want higher education. This result shows that gender roles that have been passed down traditionally can influence stereotypes about gender.[109]

Implicit gender stereotypes

A magazine feature from Beauty Parade from March 1952 stereotyping women drivers. It features Bettie Page as the model.

Gender stereotypes and roles can also be supported implicitly. Implicit stereotypes are the unconscious influence of attitudes a person may or may not be aware that they hold. A person is influenced by these attitudes even though they are not aware. Gender stereotypes can also be held in this manner. These implicit stereotypes can often be demonstrated by the Implicit-association test (IAT).

One example of an implicit gender stereotype is that males are seen as better at math than are females. It has been found that men have stronger positive associations with math than do women. Women have stronger negative associations with math, and the more strongly a woman associated herself with the female gender identity, the more negative her association with math is.[110] This stereotype has been found in American children in as early as second grade.[111] The same was tested with Singaporean children, and it was found that the strength of their math-gender stereotype and their gender identity predicted their association between the self and math.[112]

It has been shown that this stereotype also reflects performance in math. A study was done on the worldwide scale and it was found that the strength of this math-gender stereotype in varying countries correlates with 8th graders' scores on the TIMSS, a standardized math and science achievement test that is given worldwide. The results were controlled for general gender inequality and still came out significant.[113]

Gender Inequality Online

An example of gender stereotypes is one which assumes those of the male gender are more "tech savvy" and in tune with the online web. However, a study done by Hargittai & Shafer,[114] shows that many women also typically have lower self-perceived abilities when it comes to web use and online navigation skills. Because this stereotype is so well known, many women automatically think that they lack such technical skills. However, in reality the technological skill level between men and women is significantly less than what women think.

The concept of gender inequality is often perceived as something that is non-existent within the online community due to the anonymity element of the online world. By being online, there is typically a reduction in the amount of information one gives compared to being face-to-face,[115] giving less opportunities for unequal treatment. However, the notion of power and privilege is being reformed, just as it was in the offline world. People who choose to take up different identities in the online world are still discriminated for their roles. This is evident through online gaming as users get to customize and make their own characters in many cases. This freedom allows the user to create characters and identities with a different appearance than their own in reality, essentially allowing them to create a new identity. This gives room for gender inequality because those who still play as girls are still treated differently due to their gender. In contrary to the traditional stereotype, a study shows that 52% of the gaming audience is made up of women.[116] Despite this, there also appears to be a lot more male characters in game in comparison of women. Surprisingly, only 12% of game designers in Britain and 3% of all programmers are women[116] exemplifying the lack of female gender working in this industry despite the growing number of females who actually partake in these online communities. Although the Internet was originally meant to be an anonymous space which got rid of many issues such as gender inequality, it is clear this issue has been transferred offline to online.

Politics and gender issues

Feminism and gender politics

Cmdr. Adrienne Simmons speaking at the 2008 ceremony for the only women's mosque in Khost City, a symbol of progress for growing women's rights in the Pashtun belt.

Throughout the 20th century women in the United States saw a dramatic shift in social and professional aspirations and norms. Following the Women’s Suffrage Movement of the late 19th century, which resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment allowing women to vote, and in combination with conflicts in Europe, WWI and WWII, women found themselves shifted into the industrial workforce. During this time, women were expected to take up industrial jobs and support the troops abroad through the means of domestic industry. Moving from “homemakers” and “caregivers”, women were now factory workers and “bread winners” for the family.

However, after the war, men returned to the States and women, again, saw a shift in social and professional dynamics. With the reuniting of the nuclear family, the ideals of American Suburbia boomed. Throughout the 1950s and '60s, middle-class families moved in droves from urban living into newly developed single-family homes on former farm land just outside major cities. Thus established what many modern critics describe as the “private sphere.”[117] Though frequently sold and idealized as “perfect living”,[118] many women had difficulty adjusting to the new “private sphere.” Writer Betty Friedan described this discontent as “the feminine mystique.” The “mystique” was derived from women equipped with the knowledge, skills, and aspirations of the workforce, the “public sphere”, who felt compelled whether socially or morally to devote themselves to the home and family.[119]

One major concern of Feminism is that women occupy lower-ranking job positions than men, and do most of the housekeeping work.[120] A recent (October 2009) report from the Center for American Progress, "The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything" tells us that women now make up 48% of the US workforce and "mothers are breadwinners or co-breadwinners in a majority of families" (63.3%, see figure 2, page 19 of the Executive Summary of The Shriver Report).[121]

Louise Weiss along with other Parisian suffragettes in 1935. The newspaper headline reads "The Frenchwoman Must Vote."

Another recent article in The New York Times indicates that young women today are closing the pay gap. Luisita Lopez Torregrosa has noted, "Women are ahead of men in education (last year, 55 percent of U.S. college graduates were female). And a study shows that in most U.S. cities, single, childless women under 30 are making an average of 8 percent more money than their male counterparts, with Atlanta and Miami in the lead at 20 percent.".[122] While this study concerned American cities, a global trend is developing, and has now been termed "the reverse gender gap."

Feminist theory generally defines gender as a social construct that includes ideologies governing feminine/masculine (female/male) appearances, actions, and behaviors. An example of these gender roles would be that males were supposed to be the educated breadwinners of the family, and occupiers of the public sphere whereas, the female’s duty was to be a homemaker, take care of her husband and children, and occupy the private sphere. According to contemporary gender role ideology, gender roles have been and still are constantly changing. This can be seen in Londa Schiebinger's Has Feminism Changed Science in which she states that, "Gendered characteristics - typically masculine or feminine behaviors, interests, or values-are not innate, nor are they arbitrary. They are formed by historical circumstances. They can also change with historical circumstances."[123]

One example of the contemporary definition of gender was depicted in Sally Shuttleworth’s Female Circulation in which the, “abasement of the woman, reducing her from an active participant in the labor market to the passive bodily existence to be controlled by male expertise is indicative of the ways in which the ideological deployment of gender roles operated to facilitate and sustain the changing structure of familial and market relations in Victorian England.”[124] In other words, this shows what it meant to grow up into the roles (gender roles) of a female in Victorian England, which transitioned from being a homemaker to being a working woman and then back to being passive and inferior to males. In conclusion, gender roles in the contemporary sex gender model are socially constructed, always changing, and do not really exist since, they are ideologies that society constructs in order for various benefits at various times in history.

Men's rights and gender politics

Protest in New Delhi for men's rights organized by the Save Indian Family Foundation.

The men's rights movement (MRM) is a part of the larger men's movement. It branched off from the men's liberation movement in the early 1970s. The men's rights movement is made up of a variety of groups and individuals who are concerned about what they consider to be issues of male disadvantage, discrimination and oppression.[125][126] The movement focuses on issues in numerous areas of society (including family law, parenting, reproduction, domestic violence) and government services (including education, compulsory military service, social safety nets, and health policies) that they believe discriminate against men.

Scholars consider the men's rights movement or parts of the movement to be a backlash to feminism.[127] The men's rights movement denies that men are privileged relative to women.[128] The movement is divided into two camps: those who consider men and women to be harmed equally by sexism, and those who view society as endorsing the degradation of men and upholding female privilege.[128]

Men's rights groups have called for male-focused governmental structures to address issues specific to men and boys including education, health, work and marriage.[129][130][131] Men's rights groups in India have called for the creation of a Men's Welfare Ministry and a National Commission for Men, as well as the abolition of the National Commission for Women.[129][132][133] In the United Kingdom, the creation of a Minister for Men analogous to the existing Minister for Women, have been proposed by David Amess, MP and Lord Northbourne, but were rejected by the government of Tony Blair.[130][134][135] In the United States, Warren Farrell heads a commission focused on the creation of a "White House Council on Boys and Men" as a counterpart to the "White House Council on Women and Girls" which was formed in March 2009.[131][136]

Related to this is the Father's Rights Movement, whose members seek social and political reforms that affect fathers and their children.[137] These individual contest that societal institutions such as family courts, and laws relating to child custody and child support payments, are gender biased in favor of mothers as the default caregiver. They therefore are systemically discriminatory against males regardless of their actual caregiving ability, because males are typically seen as the bread-winner, and females as the care-giver.[138]

Gender neutrality

Gender neutrality is the movement to end discrimination of gender altogether in society through means of gender neutral language, the end of sex segregation and other means.


Dr. Camille Cabral, a transgender activist at a demonstration for additional transgender rights in Paris, October 1, 2005

Transgender is the state of one's gender identity or gender expression not matching one's assigned sex.[139] Transgender is independent of sexual orientation; transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, etc.; some may consider conventional sexual orientation labels inadequate or inapplicable to them. The definition of transgender includes:

  • "Of, relating to, or designating a person whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender roles, but combines or moves between these."[140]
  • People who were identified as being members of a specific sex, usually at birth and based on their genitals, but who feel that this is a false or incomplete description of themselves.[141]
  • "Non-identification with, or non-presentation as, the sex (and assumed gender) one was assigned at birth."[142]

While people self-identify as transgender, the transgender identity umbrella includes sometimes-overlapping categories. These include transsexual; transvestite or cross-dresser; genderqueer; androgyne; and bigender.[143] Usually not included are transvestic fetishists (because it is considered to be a paraphilia rather than gender identification), and drag kings and drag queens, who are performers who cross-dress for the purpose of entertaining. In an interview, celebrity drag queen RuPaul talked about society's ambivalence to the differences in the people who embody these terms. "A friend of mine recently did the Oprah show about transgender youth," said RuPaul. "It was obvious that we, as a culture, have a hard time trying to understand the difference between a drag queen, transsexual, and a transgender, yet we find it very easy to know the difference between the American baseball league and the National baseball league, when they are both so similar."[144]

In Canada, a private members bill enforcing the rights of freedom of gender expression and gender identity passed in the House of Commons on February 9, 2011. It amends the Canada Human Rights code to help empower gender-variant people from discrimination by including gender identity and expression in the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination, as well as including gender identity and expression in the description of identifiable group, so that offences deliberately against gender-variant people will be punished to a similar extent as a racial-based crime.[145] The bill was not passed by the Senate before it had to dissolve.[146] In June 2017, the Canadian Parliament passed the bill C-16 and received royal assent a week later. The law went into effect immediately.

In the U.S., a federal bill to protect workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity – called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act – has stalled and failed several times over the past two decades.[147] Still, individual states and cities have begun passing their own non-discrimination ordinances. In New York, for example, Governor David Paterson passed the first legislation to include transgender protections in September 2010.[148]

In April 2014, the Supreme Court of India declared transgender to be the 'third gender' in Indian law.[149][150][151] Justice KS Radhakrishnan noted in his decision that, "Seldom, our society realizes or cares to realize the trauma, agony and pain which the members of Transgender community undergo, nor appreciates the innate feelings of the members of the Transgender community, especially of those whose mind and body disown their biological sex".

Sexual orientation

File:20140321 Dancing Stars Conchita Wurst 4187.jpg
Conchita Wurst, self described gay male and drag queen, winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest

Generally, when sexual orientation is discussed it is broken into the three categories of heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual. However, some argue that sexual orientation is better defined as a continuum with those three categories represented.[152]

Sexual orientation is developed based on the three components of sexual identity, sexual behavior and sexual attraction [153] Each component is independent of the other disallowing conclusions to be drawn based solely on one dimension.

An active conflict over the cultural acceptability of non-heterosexuality rages worldwide.[154][155][156][157][158] The belief or assumption that heterosexual relationships and acts are "normal" is described – largely by the opponents of this viewpoint – as heterosexism or in queer theory, heteronormativity. Gender identity and sexual orientation are two separate aspects of individual identity, although they are often mistakenly conflated in the media.[159]

Perhaps it is an attempt to reconcile this conflict that leads to a common assumption that one same-sex partner assumes a pseudo-male gender role and the other assumes a pseudo-female role. For a gay male relationship, this might lead to the assumption that the "wife" handled domestic chores, was the receptive sexual partner during sex, adopted effeminate mannerisms, and perhaps even dressed in women's clothing.[160] This assumption is flawed, as many homosexual couples tend to have more equal roles, and the effeminate behavior of some gay men is usually not adopted consciously, and is often more subtle.[161]

Cohabitating same-sex partners are typically egalitarian when they assign domestic chores.[162] Though sometimes these couples assign traditional female responsibilities to one partner and traditional male responsibilities to the other, generally same-sex domestic partners challenge traditional gender roles in their division of household responsibilities, and gender roles within homosexual relationships are flexible.[163] For instance, cleaning and cooking, traditionally both female responsibilities, might be assigned to different people. Carrington observed the daily home lives of 52 gay and lesbian couples and found that the length of the work week and level of earning power substantially affected the assignment of housework, regardless of gender or sexuality.[164][165]

Criminal justice

A number of studies conducted since the mid-90s have found direct correlation between a female criminal’s ability to conform to gender role stereotypes, particularly murder committed in self-defense, and the severity of their sentencing.[166][167][168][169] "...In terms of the social realities of justice in America, the experiences of diverse groups of people in society have contributed to the shaping of the types of criminals and victims that we have had. Like Andersen and Hill Collins (1998: 4) in their discussion of what they refer to as a 'matrix of domination,' we too conceive that class, race, and gender represent "multiple, interlocking levels of domination that stem from the societal configurations of these structural relationships. These patterned actions, in turn, affect [ing] individual consciousness, group interaction, and individual and group access to institutional power and privileges.'"[170] "Patterns of offending by men and by women are notable both for their similarities and for their differences. Both men and women are more heavily involved in minor property and substance abuse offenses than in serious crimes like robbery or murder. However, men offend at much higher rates than women for all crime categories except prostitution. This gender gap in crime is greatest for serious crime and least for mild forms of lawbreaking such as minor property crimes." [171]

Gender roles in family violence

The ‘Family Violence Framework’ applies gender dynamics to family violence.[172][173] “Families are constructed around relationships that involve obligations and responsibilities, but also status and power”.[174][page needed] According to Hattery and Smith, when “masculinity and femininity are constructed…to generate these rigid and narrow gender roles, it contributes to a culture of violence against women”[172] “People with more resources are more likely to be abusive towards those without resources,” meaning that the stronger, older people abuse their weaker, younger family members to exert their powerful roles.[174] However, the fight for power and equality remains – “Intimate partner violence in same-sex couples reveals that the rates are similar to those in the heterosexual community”.[175]

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