Gender roles, their characteristics, origin, and development are discussed in the framework of various sociological, psychological, and biosocial theories. The existing studies suggest that their formation and development is mainly affected by the society and culture (Lippa 44). It is worth noting that despite the fact that a person is born with a certain sex and inherent physiological characteristics according to this gender, social environment defines the role of men and women and it is undergoing significant changes at present.
Gender Roles Background
In psychology, gender is defined as a socially biological characteristic by which people give a definition of the terms a man and a woman. It can be assumed that there are two main reasons due to which people try to meet the expectations related to their gender, they are the normative and informational pressure. Quite often, people are forced to adapt to the community or group expectations so that it would not reject them (Lippa 46). Looking at the way men and women perform different work, and the emphasis made by the media on how great the difference between men and women is, one can conclude that it is necessary to meet these expectations. However, people, in this way, supersede their social behavior to bring it in line with social norms, even if, in fact, they do not approve of them.
Gender is constantly influenced by both cultural norms that establish men – women roles and social information that imposes the beliefs of the existing difference between them. Specialists involved in developmental psychology denote the process by which people recognize that there are things that are peculiar or alien depending on the gender as differential socialization (Miville 16). Over the course of life, the gender roles are built on the information proposed by the entire social and cultural systems and their assumptions of what is associated with masculinity and femininity. Teachers, other children, parents, relatives, toys and TV form the understanding of gender roles since early childhood; from all these sources, the child learns about the behavior that is regarded by society as appropriate to a particular sex. Recent studies have shown that gender descriptions in the books published after 1980 have sufficiently changed, but the literature of earlier years emphasized the difference between roles of men and women. Thus, many factors affect the role socialization of a person starting from birth and throughout life.
In term of the modern gender roles and functions, it is believed that women have become more flexible in their activities and men have taken over a part of the functions that were previously carried out mainly by women. However, the working women still perform an average of 70% of the housework (Miville 101). The increased percentage of time that women devote to working has only led to a small reduction in their domestic responsibilities and the amount of time spent on their care for the children. Accordingly, it can be concluded that despite the fact that there has been a significant shift towards a less rigid division of gender roles the community still has a long way to overcome the conservatism in this matter.
When I traveled to Central Africa and Latin America, I was able to notice that there are clear differences in gender roles, and attitudes towards them vary by country and culture (Lippa 68). For instance, in Central Africa, mostly women were engaged in agriculture and in Latin America just the reverse. In each country, there is a specific dominance of male and female stereotypes. It is crucial to note that social changes can occur more quickly in those countries where the obedience to authority and loyalty to group norms is not so high. In individualistic societies, people are more interested in career opportunities, personal rights, and independence. Collectivist societies like the Japanese give the increased value to the subordination of the individual to collective goals, which is manifested in a higher concern for the needs of others (Miville 299). Such cultures, which encourage obedience to elders, are more resistant to social changes, and a shift in gender roles takes place more slowly. In general, the path to achieving gender equality has its own characteristics depending on the particular culture, and the factors that led to the changes in one country may differ from those that lead to alterations in another.
The culture of each country is individual, and people have their own cultural practices. Despite the fact that some societies are more open to changes, it is essential to honor and respect the perceptions of people with different backgrounds. Gender equality and cultural diversity can sometimes come into conflict with each other, but the respect for cultural diversity requires the unconditional acceptance of all cultural practices. However, there are some universal values such as gender and racial equality, which should make people meticulously relate to certain cultural practices and seek to change them smoothly through understanding and tolerance (Miville 161).
The negative impact of gender roles is reflected in the fact that they can have a negative influence on human’s self-realization and act as a barrier to individual development because gender roles are often associated with mechanisms of obligation. It is not appropriate to state that gender differences are justified by biological realities. The gender role is defined and influenced by a large number of external factors since the person is born. In addition, the media create social stereotypes of femininity and masculinity. There are many restrictions imposed by the male or female roles. These limitations suggest that the roles have to be changed and to become more flexible, which will be possible if different sexes are perceived as equal.
Lippa, Richard. Gender, Nature, and Nurture, New York: Psychology Press, 2014. Print.
Miville, Marie. Multicultural Gender Roles, Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2013. Print.