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Gender Roles Essay

gender roles essay

Example #1 – Gender Roles: The Discrimination Against Men

The world today must deal with many problems. Our society has been struggling to cope with difficulties ranging from environmental problems to economic problems. Solutions to these problems, however, are not too hard to find.

There is one problem, however, that our society has been dealing with for a very long time. The problem is sexual discrimination. When thinking of discrimination, one tends to think mostly of sexism directed against women.. Sexism against women has become a noticeable part of our society and it is slowly on it’s way to a solution. That is only part of the problem. Discrimination against men is a problem that rarely goes noticed.

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As William Farrell states, “With all the focus on discrimination against women, few understand the sexism directed against men.” (249) Women and men should be treated as equals, however, more attention is directed towards discrimination towards women. In the 1990s, the men’s movement arose in society to try and deal with the problem of sexism against men. This movement came about due to a medley of factors: women’s criticisms of men’s shortcomings as husbands, fathers, and lovers; the debilitating pressures of the economy and men’s unequal responsibility to succeed in the workplace, to prove their worth by making money; and men’s confusion over what it means to be a man today.

There are many stereotypes about men and women that are heard every day. The most common, however, is how men are considered jerks. That is one of the most popular ideas in our society today. Women have come to accept this idea as an excuse or answer to their problems with the opposite sex.

How do they get this idea? It is unknowingly slipped into women’s subconscious by a variety of forces. One of the strongest forces, however, is the media. “The complaints about men, the idea that “men are jerks” have become so integrated into our unconscious that even advertisers have caught on.” (Farrell 249) Advertisers have used this very common and influential fact to make money.

They negatively portray men in their products in order to attract women consumers. Examples of making men look like the “bad guys” are prominent in greeting cards. An excerpt from a card reveals, “If they can send one man to the moon, why can’t they send them all?” Another example would be the titles of certain books. Titles such as, “No Good Men.” and, “Men Who Can’t Love.” (Farrell 250) These are examples of negative stereotypes against men and are a huge part of the problem. Men are unfairly portrayed as monsters and women end up believing that all men are heartless and uncaring. The media is a strong influence, and if it continues to produce negative stereotypes against men, then women will continue to believe them.

Another factor that is a part of male sexism is the pressure that men feel to be successful. Men have come to see it as their obligation to have a good education, get a high-paying job, get married and have kids, and be the sole-bread winner of the family. They are the ones who have to support their family, and they are looked down upon if they fail to do so. Men are literally not worth as much without money. As stated by Ian Harris: “The media and society as a whole need to bury the popular myth that male

success consists of making money.” (588) The pressures on males and females to be successful are highly unequal. Men see becoming successful as a responsibility and obligation, whereas for women, becoming successful is a choice. It is normal in our society for a woman to marry a successful man and not work, but it is definitely seen as strange when a man marries a successful woman and does not work. He is accused of marrying her for her money, whereas she is not accused of anything.

Being a successful male has become society’s rule. “Occupational achievement, measured by job status and financial success, has become the yardstick of contemporary masculinity for middle-aged and upper-class America.” (Master, Johnson, and Kolodny 554) Without having a successful career, or at least a high education, men are seen as disappointments. They have no use. How successful or how highly educated a man is not a basis to see how valuable he is to our society.

With all the pressures that men have today, it is clear to see that they may not know what it means to be a man in our society. Our society has produced many confusing expectations of what men should do to be “real men.” A man must be a good provider to his family, he must be a good father, and he must be sensitive and gentle. Other characteristics include being cool, collected, and controlled. (Goldberg 160) Men must be the providers in our society, however in order to be accepted by the women, they not only have to be successful, but they also have to be good looking.

Men have learned that in order to succeed in relationships, they must succeed in their occupation. They learn from high school that: “Good-looking boy does not equal good-looking girl.” (Farrell 251) Women possess superior qualities and power if they are attractive. If men want to reach that level, they must be both attractive and successful. Society has made requirements for both men and women, and the men are struggling to cope with these pressures.

Discrimination is a problem that must be solved. What was thought as first just as a “women’s problem,” has also become known as a “man’s problem.” There are many ways in which women are treated unfairly towards men, however, this should not mean that the treatment of men should be ignored. If men and women are fighting to be equals, they must realize that they both have problems. Men and women both experience unfair treatment, and the only way to stop it, is for both sexes to take time to see how and why the discrimination happens.

The attention surrounding sexism directed towards females has become so prominent that it has left the male movement trailing behind, unnoticed. Equality of the sexes will begin with equal attention to both movements. The society must realize that focusing on discrimination of women is only creating discrimination against men.

The more attention women receive, the more power they receive over men, which leaves men powerless. Robert Moore, a psychoanalyst at the C.G Jung Institute in Chicago, states that it is ridiculous to conclude that “the empowerment of women means the disempowerment of men.” (qt. in Allis 256) Men and women should receive equal treatment, and the only way that it will happen is if our society realizes that there is no such thing as “better sex.”


Example #2 – The Development of Gender Roles in Children

In a society filled with gender stereotypes and biases, children often adopt gender roles which are not always equal to both males and females. As children move on through childhood and later into adolescence many factors influence their views and behaviors towards gender roles.

These attitudes and behaviors are learned initially in the home and later reinforced by many other outside influences such as their school experiences, friends, teachers, and television. Children turn out to internalize many of the gender stereotypes and behaviors of the past. Where are these stereotypes coming from? The strongest influence on gender development occurs in the home, with parents passing on many of the beliefs they have about gender roles.

Children learn at a young age what it means to be a boy or a girl in our society. Through opportunities, encouragement and discouragement, obvious behaviors, covert suggestions, and various types of guidance, children experience the formation of their gender role socialization. It is hard for children to grow into adults without experiencing some form of gender bias or gender stereotyping, whether it be that boys are supposed to be tough or better at math, or that females can only play with dolls.

Sex Roles: A Journal of Research states, parents, especially fathers, tend to reward boys more than girls for displaying gender-congruent forms of play. They also tend to punish boys more harshly than girls for deviations from prescribed gender role norms (McCreary 519). Often times this punishment is mental, with boys being teased by their fathers for acting like a sissy, or not being tough.

A child s earliest exposure to what it means to be male or female comes from parents. From the time they are babies, parents treat sons and daughters differently, dressing infants in gender-specific colors and clothing, and giving toys based on gender. One study indicated that parents have different expectations of sons and daughters as early as 24 hours after they are born (Thorne 1993).

Children internalize parental messages at a young age. Sex role differences have been found in children as young as two years old. Developmental Psychology states, children at two and a half years of age use gender stereotypes in negotiating their world and are likely to generalize gender stereotypes to a variety of activities, objects, and occupations (Fagot 226).

Children many times will even deny that something is real when it does not fit into their gender expectations. For example, a young child might believe only a male could be a police officer or firefighter, even if their mother holds that position.

Children s toy preferences can be directly related to parental influence, with parents providing gender-specific toys. Parents encourage participation in sex-typed activities, including doll playing and housekeeping for girls, and playing with action figures and taking part in sports activities for boys. Parents reward play that is gender-stereotyped and encourages these behaviors and attitudes. While both mothers and fathers contribute to the gender stereotyping of their children, fathers have been found to reinforce gender stereotypes more often than do mothers (Fagot 225-230).

For example, fathers tend to reward their sons for behavior that show signs of strength and dominance. A study of children s rooms reports that girls’ rooms have more pink, dolls, and domestic playsets; boys’ rooms have more blue, sports equipment, tools, building blocks, and vehicles (Pomerleau 359-367). Girls are more likely to take part in domestic chores, such as house cleaning, laundry, and washing dishes, while boys are more likely to be given maintenance chores like mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage, and fixing a broken fence. These types of household chores lead children to link types of work to gender, thus enforcing gender stereotypes.

Parental attitudes toward children have a strong impact on developing their sense of self and self-esteem. Often times, parents send subtle messages regarding what is acceptable for each gender. These messages are internalized by the child and are strongly established in early childhood.

Sex Roles: A Journal of Research states, messages about what is appropriate based on gender are so strong, that even when children are exposed to different attitudes and experiences, they will revert to stereotyped choices (McCreary 520). For example, boys would avoid an activity like dancing because they see it as a traditionally feminine activity. Boys would engage in more aggressive forms of play like football or baseball.

While there may be some benefits to strict gender role stereotypes, there are also some costs. These costs include limiting opportunities for both boys and girls, ignoring talent, and maintaining a level of unfairness in our society. Children whose mothers work outside the home do not fit into the gender stereotype as much as those whose mothers stay at home.

In fact, preschool children whose mothers work outside the home experience the world with a sense that everyone in the family gets to become a member of the outside world. Their sense of self includes the knowledge that they have the ability to make choices that are not hindered by gender (Lytton 267-296).

Parents that do not fit the mold for gender stereotyping tend to offer more parental warmth and support. These parents tend to be highly encouraging regarding achievement and self-worth in their children. One study reports, androgynous individuals have been found to have higher self-esteem, higher levels of identity achievement, and more flexibility in dating and love relationships (Lytton 292). Those parents who wish to be gender fair encourage the best out of their sons and daughters, and their children are more likely to adopt an androgynous parental style.

Other elements in a child s environment help to reinforce the gender stereotypes they are exposed to in the home and are continued throughout their childhood into their adolescence. A child s sense of self, or self-concept, is a result of the various ideas, attitudes, behaviors, or beliefs, which he or she may be exposed to.

When children start school many of these gender-based ideas and beliefs are reinforced by their peers. Boys influence other boys through forms of punishment and reward. A boy that acts in a particularly feminine manner is likely to be teased and ridiculed for acting like a girl. Ultimately, these kids will be rejected by their peer groups and looked upon as outcasts. For example, one study reports boys displaying cross-gender behaviors tend to play alone almost three times more frequently than boys who act in a gender-congruent manner (Fagot 225-230).

Another study in the same journal reports that males described as having feminine attitudes or acting in feminine ways were seen as less attractive and less popular than those boys portraying traditionally masculine traits or attitudes.

The avoidance of femininity seems to be a huge factor in attempting to understand male gender and masculinity. Peer reaction to girls who deviate from the traditionally feminine role is quite different; their behavior tends to be ignored and sometimes even rewarded with elevated social status in their female peer groups (Fagot 225-230).

During my research I found as children move on through childhood and later adolescence, many factors influence their views and behaviors towards gender roles. These attitudes and behaviors are initially learned in the home and are later reinforced by outside influences. The strongest influence seems to occur in the home where parents covertly pass on gender bias stereotypes to their children.

Fathers seem to have a greater impact than do mothers on gender roles in their children, especially young males. In a society filled with male dominance, I was not surprised at the outcome of my research. Children raised to be androgynous have been found to have higher self-esteem, higher levels of identity achievement, and more success in personal relationships.

Parental influence on gender role socialization is so strong that those parents who want to be gender fair would do well to adopt an androgynous gender role orientation and encourage the same in their children. We are a society of those who should know better, however, we turn out children that develop stereotypical gender roles. If we do not take steps to teach our children individuality, we will continue to mask the biased opinions that continue to arise in our society.


Example #3

Judith Fetterly coined the term “immasculation” in her 1978 book “The Resisting Reader,” using it to define the process by which “women are taught […] to identify with a male point of view and to accept as normal and legitimate a male system of values” (3). In the short stories “Boys and Girls,” by Alice Munro, and “The Yellow Wall-paper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the narrators can be thought of as immasculated readers of themselves.

Munro’s unnamed speaker—a young girl who initially finds more joy outdoors assisting with man’s archetypal work than in a “hot dark kitchen” with her mother—“[would] not evolve naturally into [a] gendered adult” if she did not accept her femaleness and embrace femininity (Goldman 62). Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-paper” is an unreliable narration that conveys gender oppression in the form of “[the female protagonist’s] well-meaning but insensitive husband” (Martin 736). At times, both Munro’s and Gilman’s narrators defy gender conventions; the young girl’s is a story of growth that features a symbolic rite of passage, while the oppressed woman seeks meaning and independence despite the deterioration of the mind.

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Munro introduces the protagonist as impressionable and deferential to her patriarchal father. The young girl views her mother in stark contrast to her father insofar as gender roles and “ritualistically important” work is concerned: “I felt my mother had no business down here and I wanted [my father] to feel the same way” (Munro 4). The main reason for the speakers differing from feminine ideologies concerns her great respect and admiration for her father and his grueling, meaningful job. She “rake[s] furiously, red in the face with pleasure” when her father introduces her as his “new hired hand” to a feed salesman, to which the salesman jokingly responds, “‘Could have fooled me’ […] ‘I thought it was only a girl’” (Munro 3). For most of the story, the narrator disregards the conventional gender role for a girl of her age, instead of remaining steadfast and content as a fox farmer’s assistant. Her mother, wishing to “use [the girl] more in the house,” resents the position, although Munro makes clear the girl’s aversion for her mother as well: “It seemed to me she would [try to keep me working with her in the house] simply out of perversity, and to try her power.”

As her story progresses, Munro symbolizes boys and girls with two horses named Mack and Flora. Mack is described as “slow and easy to handle,” while Flora, a mare, is more unruly and spontaneous, though the family “love[s] her speed and high-stepping” (Munro). During the winter of the horses’ arrival, and in the speaker’s eleventh year, she comes to newfound self-realization regarding her atypically-gendered state: “A girl was not, as I had supposed, simply what I was; it was what I had to become” (Munro). When she learns of the impending death of Mack, she, along with her younger brother, Laird, locates a spot from which to witness the shooting.

Afterward, the girl’s legs are shaky and she is grateful to be down from their vantage point. This disquieting state is in clear contrast to Laird, who she finds to be “not frightened or upset;” her father, who shot the horse in such an “easy, practiced way;” and Henry, her father’s hired help, who laughed at Mack’s post-shot convulsions (Munro 6).

This further perpetuates her reduction of masculine ideologies, as she reflects on the shooting with feelings of shame and begins to view her father and his work with “a new wariness” (Munro 6). Later on, during the botched shooting of Flora, the girl unconsciously throws the gate to the farm open for the horse to run free. Following this act, the girl finds herself “trying to make [her] part of [her bedroom] fancy” and “concern[ing herself] at great length with what [she looks] like” (Munro 7). Here, Munro is instilling feminine ideologies into the speaker, making it seem as though Flora’s freedom, however temporary, serves to represent the young girl’s transition into a more archetypal role.

In “The Yellow Wall-paper,” Gilman creates a character isolated from “society and stimulus” by way of her controlling husband, John (2). The narrator displays a sense of naivety or ignorance to John’s dominant, oppressive ways: “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage” (Gilman 1).

Because he is “a physician of high standing, and [her] own husband,” the narrator is coerced into following his orders, which, in this case, keep her confined to one small room in their new mansion (Gilman 1). Initially, she “disagree[s] with [his] ideas,” desiring “less opposition and more society and stimulus,” but John forbids it, and “hardly lets [her] stir without special direction” (Gilman 2; 3). This blind faith in what is essentially man’s oppression over his wife is an example of her being emasculated.

Gradually, the woman’s mind slips into psychosis. The solitary, forcedly bland confinement worsens her state of mind, until, eventually, she sees herself as an apparition inside the “repellent” yellow pattern which adorns the walls. She continues to dream of escaping but describes “bars […] too strong to even try” to jump from the window, making for a prison-like atmosphere and further illustrating her total entrapment (Gilman 15).

Despite the woman’s state of insanity, she is able to achieve individualistic freedom. Her mind deteriorates further while she remains transfixed on this woman in the wallpaper until the climax. John, the man chiefly responsible for his wife’s state of mind, arrives to check on her and faints when he sees the torn wallpaper and his wife “creep[ing] smoothly on the floor” (Gilman 15). Exemplifying women’s liberty from oppression, the narrator exclaims, “‘I’ve got out at last’ […] ‘you can’t put me back!’” (Gilman 16). Similarly, within the last line of the story, Gilman conveys a sense of achievement and a sort of progress in the narrator, as she “‘had to creep over [her collapsed husband] every time!’” (16).

The emasculation of the protagonists is evident in both Alice Munro’s “Boys and Girls” and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-paper.” Munro crafts a storyline that witnesses the growth of a child and the opposing gender roles that come with it, while Gilman creates a woman’s journal which implies that a tyrannical, abusive husband is chiefly responsible for her mental collapse. Gender ideologies are referenced throughout either short story: “Boys and Girls” details a young girl’s change from masculine to feminine; “The Yellow Wall-paper” deals in gender oppression and, thus, women’s rights.


Example #4

Until recently, the words sex roles and gender roles were used interchangeably to describe female and male characteristics, attitudes, and inclinations. Now, at least in an academic environment, a distinction has been drawn between these terms.

Sex roles can be defined as the biological differences between the sexes, such as the ability to become pregnant or nurse a child. Gender roles, on the other hand, refer to culturally-derived, socially-created assumptions about what it means to be masculine or feminine. The unfortunate braiding together of these two roles has been termed the Sex-Gender System.

Author Jean Lipman-Blumen argues that this system sets up an unevenly-sided power struggle between the sexes and that this relationship has become the blueprint for all other power relationships. The inability to control or foresee the future causes a great feeling of helplessness and insecurity in both women and men. We struggle to gain some measure of control over our lives, and it is within these methods of maintaining the illusion of control that the Sex-Gender System comes into play.

The Sex-Gender System combines biological sex roles and socially-created gender roles to form a set of rules or guidelines for human behavior. Over time, this makes determining the differences between sex and gender roles much more difficult. Gender begins to exaggerate our biological differences so that eventually it becomes difficult to realize that a characteristic attributed to female or male behavior is not biological, but a culturally derived notion.

Inside gender roles, we find accepted wisdom about self-concepts, psychological traits, family roles, occupational and political roles, and expectations of behavior. Gender roles tell women to be passive, nurturing, and dependent, while men are expected to be aggressive and independent. While some of these roles may have been useful in the earliest civilizations, technology has rendered them obsolete.

For example, it may have been necessary for a mother to stay close to home and protected when she was the only source of nourishment for her child, but with the development of formulas, this is no longer true. Unfortunately, the existence of gender roles over time becomes evidence that these differences are biological, and are therefore just for the sexual stratification in which they result.

Evidence that the Sex-Gender System is not a biological imperative can be found by examining gender roles in other cultures or times. Concurrently, roles assigned to women in one society are considered masculine in another. Further evidence is the existence of individual choice.

Even in biological roles, we have choices; a woman may choose not to rear a child. Our choices are limitless beyond gender roles, yet the pressure from family and society to follow the rules is powerful. Being confined to these artificial roles, however, puts women at a significant disadvantage because male traits such as competitiveness and aggression are considered much more valuable than female characteristics. As differences are interpreted as more or less valuable, this notion of difference becomes the rationale for the power differential between the sexes.

The perceived differences set in place by with the Sex-Gender system results in a power relationship between the sexes; a relationship that, according to author Jean Lipman-Blumen, has become a blueprint for all other power relationships. The struggle for control between women and men is the original power struggle.

Relationships divided by race, religion, and political issues are all derived from this blueprint. Lipman-Blumen argues that gender roles are guarded because of these other power roles dependent upon their existence. What is unique to the male-female power struggle is that it is the only situation where one would fall in love and live with one s oppressor. But why is this struggle for power so important?

The human need for power and control stems from the uncertainty of life. We want to control the unforeseeable future, and our inability to do so causes feelings of helplessness and anxiety. The uncertainty of our ability to control our own future causes us to seek out ways to bring some measure of order or control into our lives. We want to know that our future awaits good things, or we want to learn how to improve ourselves to gain more control.

Even if all control is an illusion, studies have shown that part of maintaining good mental health is feeling in control of one’s life. Therefore it is no wonder we seek relief from this anxiety. Typically, there are four methods we turn to in an attempt to relieve our fears: entrusting ourselves to an all-powerful deity, submitting to secular institutions, submitting to a more powerful person or control over others.

We entrust our lives to an all-powerful, unseen, and irrefutable deity in order to feel safe in an uncertain world. Paradoxically, we feel better about our lack of control by giving it up to god. He rewards us for following certain rules, and by following these rules our ultimate destiny becomes known to us. With religion comes comfort that the future is secure.

When religion involves participation in a church this further enforces this feeling of protection. This belief in a greater power sets up the first requirement of a power relationship. Shrouding this relationship in religion gives it a sacredness many are much too frightened to protest.

Many of us, however, need a more tangible solution to our fears, and therefore we turn to secular institutions such as the economy or family. When we submit to the economy s rules we are rewarded with a paycheck and, supposedly, job security. When we sign a contract for employment we are convincing ourselves that we have some control over our future, and we feel our anxiety lower.

Women, in particular, are likely to submit to marriage for safety and security. Within these institutions, roles are enacted that promise security and order. With these roles come certain rules, and these rules are designed to maintain the power of the secular institution.

If this is not enough security, we will often submit our lives to the control of a seemingly benign human ruler. We are protected by this more powerful entity, whom we feel has more wisdom and understanding about our lives. The trade-off for this protection is unquestioning loyalty and faith in this ruler. Sometimes our ruler is not our own choice. As children, we put our complete faith and trust in our parents, but as we grow older we begin to question their ultimate authority, and the security crumbles.

In traditional marriages, the wife submits to her husband for his protection. Again, if she comes to realize he is not the wisest of rulers the relationship is in danger of falling apart. When choosing our spouse our choices are limited to the available candidates. Individuals who have more power are a natural choice. We seek a husband who is taller, richer, and smarter – all qualities that reflect power and wisdom.

For many of us, submitting our lives to others is simply not enough security, and we seek to ease our anxiety by wielding control over other people. This is characteristically a male strategy. The protector convinces himself (along with his protectors) that he is in control. He is given the incredible power to define and label, and to rank order and behavior. Women are often coerced into supporting their controlled status. They are convinced by the male authority that he is filled only with good intentions. But even if the dominant male truly has his spouse s best interests are heart, he may not know what those best interests are.

These methods of relieving anxiety about our future are more often than not used in tandem with one another. Rarely does one turn to religion or family exclusively for security. These methods are intertwined and, within each of them, are rules regarding sex and gender roles.

Within our refuge, we are bombarded with the fallout of the Sex-Gender System, in which women are made to feel of lesser importance than men. And, as Lipman-Blumen argues, these roles will always be fiercely protected as the blueprint for all power relationships.


Example #5

A secret agent. A professional football player. A firefighter. These would have been my responses when asked that inevitable question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Family, Media, and Peers are said to have influenced my views concerning the role I am to play society. All of these factors had one thing in common. They all were influencing me to behave according to my gender. Everything from the clothes I wore to the toys I played with contributed to this. Even now as a young adult my dreams and aspirations are built around the gender roles that were placed on me.

There were several instances in my childhood when my family had a direct influence on me according to my gender. Right from birth my role as an individual was predestined. The gifts I was to receive at a baby shower were all based around my gender. It would have been unheard of for someone to give me pink clothes or flowery decorations at my baby shower. Young boys have always been told not to cry when they fall and scrape their knees. Comments like these from family members definitely had an impact on my aspirations. My dream to be a firefighter was most likely related to those comments to not cry.

Being a firefighter would definitely be an occupation where stress would be high. If I could be a firefighter I would definitely have the opportunity to prove to my parents that I could be strong and not cry. The media was also a factor that had a large impact on my childhood ambitions. Television is a great example of this. In almost all Television shows the gender roles are very prominent.

Things such as male characters being strong or in positions of authority are prevalent. Even the simplest of programs such as cartoons use dominant males to impress upon children’s gender roles. The “Flinstones” is a perfect example of media influencing children.

The main character Fred Flinstone is the head of the family. He is the one who earns the money to support the family. His wife Wilma takes care of things such as housework and raising the children. Finally, my peers as a child also had a large influence on me. Because other children my age were also being raised with gender roles, when they came to school or over to my house to play, the toys they brought would be results of gender roles.

When we interacted socially we would play with trucks and army men. Parents would not give their sons dolls or dress-up games, because they were trying to teach us to become the stereotypical adult male. As you can see, my childhood dreams were greatly influenced by my family, media, and peers in a way that is a direct result of gender roles.

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As I enter my early years of college, I am forced to deal with the fact I should know what I want to do with the rest of my life or at least have a solid plan. I wish I could say that I have totally matured from my childish dreams of professional athleticism, but I haven’t. Currently, my aspirations for life not only include becoming successful in academics but athletics as well.

Now that I know the sociological theories behind gender roles I can pick out things that are still pushing me towards that stereotypical male figure I was raised to become. Now the influences have matured from cartoons to the government. Upon reaching the age of 18, males must register for the selective service.

This is truly gender roles at its finest. Instead of making this registration open to females and males alike, our government has excluded females. This proves that no matter how close our society comes to equal gender treatment, there are still ways in which gender roles will be impressed upon the sexes. “Promise Keepers” are another of the many ways my peers continue to influence me with gender roles. At the church I attend, “Promise Keepers” are abundant.

The “Promise Keepers” is a national society of men where thousands of men gather to celebrate and reinforce their male responsibilities. In the conferences, the speakers talk about being the head of the household. This is a group that excludes women and homosexuals. It is fair to say that my current aspirations to succeed in college and become successful in life, are still results of the gender roles that were taught to me as a child and are still being shown to me now.

Gender roles are unavoidable at any stage of your life. They are taught to you by parents, conveyed in the media, practiced and honored in organizations and supported by our government. No matter how many feminist groups attempt to bring the two sets of gender roles for males and females together, there will always be the unwritten expectations that males and females are taught.

Boys will always play with guns and girls will always play with dolls. As long as this occurs, the ambitions for boys and girls will be directly related to the stereotypical form we are taught. It is up to the families, media, and peers to use gender roles appropriately.


Example #6 – Gender Roles In Star Trek Next Generation

In 1966 a series called “Star Trek” was created. It’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, did not create the show to be a science fiction series. The series was much deeper than that. It wasn’t just about discovering new planets and civilizations. It was about controversial issues. Even though the series’ take place in the 23rd and 24th century the issues struck with the times and related current issues.

Through each series, The Original, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, there has been progression with the times and the issues. The issues that surround the episodes of Star Trek include race, religion, sexuality, the depiction of science and gender roles. The central focus being talked about in this paper will be gender roles. Gender roles in Star Trek deal with leadership and sexuality.

Men and women have had different roles in Star Trek as well as different progressions. Men in Star Trek have always had a leadership role. In the original series, the four main characters are men. The captain, Kirk, the second in command, Spock, the doctor, Bones or McCoy, and the head engineering officer Scotty are all men. In the Next Generation series, there is Captain Picard, the second in command, Riker, and there are other engineering roles played by Warf and Data who are all men.

In the Deep Space Nine series, Captain Sisko and the head engineer is male. In Voyager the second in command, Chakotay, as well as Tuvok, a Vulcan Spock like character, and Neelix, the cook is all men. Women in Star Trek have made a real progression, at least more then Men have. When men are already at the top having leadership roles there’s no place to go but down.

This isn’t necessarily there work performance or merit is going down but the women’s performance, merit, and acceptance going up. The women of Star Trek started at the bottom and could only go up. The original series did have one woman in a starring role. Uhura was the head communication officer, however, her role was really more of a secretary and didn’t really have many lines and if she did they weren’t very lengthy, nothing much more than, “Yes captain.” In the Next Generation series, the women started to move farther up the leadership ladder.

The women starring roles were Beverly Crusher, the doctor, and Diana Troy, the counselor. In Deep Space Nine, the second in command was female, Kira Nerys. The Voyager series was a big step for women in Star Trek. There was the captain, Janeway, Kes and Seven of Nine. This series brought women into leadership roles. The progression of women in Star Trek has been appropriately timed and has even pushed a little bit past the time. Even though Uhura basically played the role of a secretary her role still pushed the envelope for the time because of her race. She was a black actress during or right after the civil rights movement. She even thought of quitting the role because she felt that she wasn’t used enough for her role in the series.

However, after Martin Luther King, Jr. talked to her and told her how important it would be for her to stay on the show, she did. Women in Star Trek have progressed from a secretary type to a doctor and counselor, to the second in command and eventually the first in command or the captain. Their progress allows them to be more influential.

Let’s talk more specifically about the Next Generation series. The Original series showed the four starring male roles to provide everything for the crew. This is not the case in Next Generation. The Next Generation is more like a family with a father, a mother, and children. But who were the biggest members of the family? There are four characters, which give the presence of a family on the Next Generation.

First, you have a father. This is actually quite simple. You have Captain Picard who plays the father. He is much older than any of the other crew seen on the series and therefore has seniority as well as he is the captain of the ship. For the time, when thinking of fathers we still were in the father must provide for his family phase.

Women were working and coming into keys roles in the workforce and Star Trek, however there was still this importance about the father. Picard doesn’t have to go out and work hard so he can put food on the table. This is not the job he is doing to provide for his family. Picard provides direction for the crew and the ship. He tells them what they are going to do to solve a problem and how they are going to do it. He will make decisions for what is best for the family.

After that, you have two mothers on Next Generation. This is not to say that the series is saying that polygamy is all right, it just happens that there are two women in the series that fall into a mother role. There is Beverly Crusher, who is the doctor. She is not a nurse but the head doctor, which is a big step. Since she is the doctor she has to heal patients and this is very nurturing.

The other mother is Deanna Troi, the counselor. She is just meant to be there. She is someone who will listen and ask the questions to help you figure things out. Troi will also give the advice to help you. This is also a nurturing and consoling role. Both of them are healers. Crusher is for the physical needs and Troi is for emotional needs.

Lastly, you have the children of the crew. The second command Riker, or Number One to Picard, is the eldest son. Picard is much older and Riker is much younger, so he is the eldest son. As the eldest son Riker looks up to Picard and wants to follow in his footsteps. He has a lot of power but also is sitting back taking notes of how Picard runs things for Riker will be eventually promoted. Riker has to know what to do when he takes over the family business.

Another big part of gender roles, in any situation, not just Star Trek, is sexuality. Although sexuality in gender roles is not a big part of Next Generation, it is clearly seen in an episode called “Perfect Mates”. In this episode, a diplomat is carrying cargo for a peace conference between two worlds. This cargo is an empathic metamorph, a highly valued female mate. They come along once every several hundreds of years and that’s why they are so valuable and she will be given as a gift in this peace conference. The empathic metamorph, Camala, comes out of her stasis early and causes some problems to arise.

Camala is very sexual in nature and is pleased by pleasing others. When first shown to her quarters she puts the moves on Riker. He however finds it inappropriate and ceases it. One of the biggest questions that the episode offers is if you are born a certain way. Crusher states the argument that she has been conditioned to believe certain things, that she only gets pleasure by pleasing others and her only purpose in life is to please her mate. Camala, however, says that this is the way she is.

She was born this way and can’t change. She also says that asking her to change would be like asking a Vulcan to change and be illogical. The diplomat confines her to her quarters for fear that she might go off and do something that would upset the peace. Picard later revokes this and allows her to move about the ship but with an escort, Data. Data and Camala go to 10 Forward, which is like a bar and restaurant. Immediately non-crew member men in the bar hit on and try to pick up Camala. Data takes her away and offers her a drink. She asks the men what they are having and then says she’ll have one of those. Camala says she promised Captain Picard that she wouldn’t cause any trouble but just wants to have fun like everybody else.

The men start to get rowdy and suggest that they get rid of Data. Data fears that, in his words, the crowd of men is much too ebullient for comfort. Worf comes in to stop the problem that the men are causing. As Camala and Data leave, Camala makes a cat-like purr directed towards Worf. Worf, without thinking about it, purrs back and finds that he has fallen for the same woman like the rest of the men. Camala is a much different woman because of how she’s been brought up. She has been brought up with very sexual intentions and therefore is more forward as to her intentions.

Women usually aren’t as forward and her forwardness gives the essence of a male fantasy, the female making the moves on the male. Males and females are almost in pursuit of a mate, however, males are usually the gender that makes the first move. When the female shows immediate and obvious signs of interest, males, in general, think of it as something with no real challenge and therefore no real commitment. This presents a good time for the crowd of men in 10 Forward. Sexuality plays a big part in gender roles.

In Star Trek Next Generation one of the biggest issues is gender roles. Sexuality has played a little role in Star Trek. It showed a woman who’s the only purpose in life was for procreation. Although her actions were abnormal for a woman, it is the only real purpose of both genders. Survival is the goal of both genders and that is done through procreation.

Also, men have always had leadership roles in Star Trek since the beginning of the series. Women, however, have had to work there way up the leadership ladder. Their roles have been equal to the times or slightly pushing forward a bit, which has been the most important part of gender roles in Star Trek.


Example #7

The phrases “boys will be boys” and “girls should act more like ladies” are the common misconception of gender stereotypes that we are socialized into learning at a young age, whether it was from our parents, peers, teachers or the media. Throughout the life of an individual, men and women develop differently and mold different expectations of the identified biological gender because of the different socialization an individual encounter.

Ferris and Stein (2016) say that there are “four major agents of socialization” that include families, schools, peers, and the media. Socialization is important to the development of gender identity because of how an individual can interpret and analyze the world to break away from these stereotypical roles that can harm one psychologically.

It is important to understand the difference between sex and gender to understand the feminine and masculine stereotypes influenced by society because many people confuse these two words as the same thing. According to Ferris and Stein (2016) sex is identified in two categories, male or female, based on their biological factors.

While gender is the “physical, behavioral and personality traits that a group considers to be normal, natural, right and good for its male and female members” (Ferris and Stein, pg. 243). Research shows that we are raised into gender roles through a process called gender-typing (Ferris and Stein, pg. 243). As children grow up, they easily absorb behaviors and beliefs that society deems to be culturally acceptable for each biological sex.

Children are quick to observe and play out the stereotypical behavior of one’s gender. By the age of two, “children are aware of what their gender and others’ gender, and by the age of three they start to identify specific traits that are associated with each gender” (Ferris and Stein, pg. 248) Families are usually the primary source of socialization, their own beliefs and perceptions of gender are influenced based on the society around them and from traditions beforehand. Parents treat sons and daughters differently from one another. Berk (2000) states that before children can express their own preferences, parents choose the environment for boys or girls to follow.

The bedrooms are decorated with colors and themes with gender-specific color, primarily pink or blue along with infant clothing. Parents encourage their sons and daughters to participate in gender-typed activities, girls are encouraged to play with dolls and tea sets and boys are encouraged to play with cars or to play any physical sports (Berk, 2000). At such a young age, these babies and children have yet to completely understand what is being asked from them and they are simply following along with what their parent envisions for them.

As the son/daughter begins to reach the grade-schooler age, it becomes crucial for the parent to expand the child’s perceived stereotypical role. Berk (2000) observed the interaction of mothers and fathers with their school-age children that revealed boys were expected to have more independence and a tougher exterior than the girls. Girls were treated very fragile and sheltered from the “harsh reality” of the other kids, girls would be watched more carefully and when explaining what is wrong, the parents would sugar-coat the truth. Parents also hold different expectations for their children in school subjects.

During this age, it becomes more apparent how gender plays in the role of the development and shapes one’s belief and outlook of the other gender. Boys are more likely to have maintenance and/or physical chores around the house that include taking out the trash or mowing the lawn, while girls are more likely to do domestic chores like cleaning or cooking (Berk, 2000).

These household chores are categorized and influence the children to define certain chores/activities as masculine or feminine, which can heavily influence one’s outlook on the future occupation. It is crucial to socialize both genders with the different tasks of simple household tasks in order to break away from the stereotypical gender role. Although it seems it has been done this way for years, the acknowledgment of where the socialization of gender roles stem from can break away the dividing line that creates inequality and the fragile concept of the word masculine.

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The threat to a man’s masculinity can impact his mental health and self-esteem. There are so many different societal pressures to conform to what it means to be masculine. In the study, Pasick found that men are more than four times likely than women to committing suicide in 1999, fortunately in 2007 the number reduced to three times as many men. The numbers are still quite at large with the number of suicide rates compared to women and it is shocking.

Examples of the social rules that men are supposed to conform and comply to according to, Pasick’s (1992) critical mandates for men include: we must be competitive in all endeavors, we should be in control of ourselves at all times and we should never allow ourselves to be weak or to act like a girl. These “rules” are taught to boys at a young age from parents, peers, and media that can cause psychological stress that men must endure and perform to be perceived as masculine.

Since media is constantly surrounding us, the high consumption media represents a major source of information and entertainment for all Americans. Information received from media whether it is accurate or inaccurate is an important part of our knowledge of how individuals act, behave, look, and feel (Hammermeister, Brock, Winterstein, & Page, 2005).

The constant exposure to the media content being presented to the viewers creates specific beliefs and attitudes of other people, allowing people to unconsciously shape their thought processes and behavior based on what they consume. Gender roles are prominent in media that often portray females as beautiful, caring, sensitive and reserved and males are portrayed as assertive, strong, and analytic (Ferris and Stein, 2016). However, women in media like television or movies, women are seen more negatively than men (Rouner et al., 2003) because men are perceived as hard workers, respectful and directive, women are displayed as likable, submissive or too authoritative and bossy (Aubrey and Harrison, 2004).

This depiction of men and women gender roles shows the divide in gender stereotypes that has been socialized into many people at a young age, it started at a young age through parents and families and influenced the way one aligns the belief to the television or movie is portraying. By having these perceived thoughts about what type of characteristics that are involved with the gender having a certain occupation, this limits the capabilities that others have to offer.

In video games, women are almost always portrayed as sex objects. Rouner et al. (2003) conducted an experiment that had school-age children evaluate advertisements based on gender and found that there were many unnecessary displays of the female body that were unrealistic of women in real life. In these advertisements and female characters, the female body is hyper-sexualized by having features of large breasts, tiny waist, and an attractive face who are hardly ever the main character (Dill and Thill, 2007). These unrealistic images of the female body hold women to a different standard of what is “sexy” that leads many females to have a lot of self-esteem issues and disorders.

Morris (2006) summarizes that teenage girls being portrayed on television are vain and obsessed with superficial topics such as gossip, celebrity relationships, shopping, and appearances. It is more common to see someone neglecting or making fun of someone who does not take those superficial topics seriously and focus on one’s academic and future career. The inequality goes way beyond gender roles itself, but how one gender perceives the people in it. It is hard enough to try and fit in with the ever so fast-changing technology and fashion that it is easy to leave someone behind and cast them aside.

Media usage can have different meanings depending on each individual. People’s beliefs and stereotypical views are different because of personal experience of how it is portrayed through friends, family, or media. The occupational status between men and women in the media are unequal, however, some people do not believe so because of their socialization.

Males are shown to have higher-paying and prestigious jobs than women (Ellis and Armstrong, 1989). In Morris’s study (2006), he found that women were twice as unlikely to be portrayed in a career setting in popular interest magazines worldwide, but rather women were seen in more domestic scenes that show the inferiority of women.

Women in popular prime time television shows are more likely than men to be portrayed in marital roles, relying on the male with an occupational job (Lauzen et al., 2008). It is also important to understand that women are more likely to have parental responsibilities (Glass, 2001) while the men are portrayed as bachelors, living without as many responsibilities. By portraying these types of gender roles and how much they do not differentiate from one another, it sets the limitations of what a person can and cannot do.

Women will see themselves as nothing more than doing domestic work, and men who do not want an occupational role must have that type of job. The damage of gender roles and stereotypes is deeply rooted in us because that is the traditional view of how it has been for hundreds of years. It causes psychological damage to an individual because one may want to go beyond what is expected of their gender role, but unfortunately cannot because of the mentality that one is not the opposite gender to fulfill the role.

Pasick (1992) states that males feel the need to suppress their emotions in order to be adequately society appropriate with masculinity to appear strong and not weak or vulnerable. But by suppressing their emotions to conform to what society perceives is masculine, boys are more prone to depression, suicidal behaviors and get into more physical fights than girls.

Males are at constant war with one another to prove that one is more superior to masculinity than the other is. This also degrades women because women find out that they are viewed lowly on the social ladder and men are expecting approval of other men rather than the women, themselves. By refusing the approval of women, women can take this as a sign that there might be something wrong with themselves although it has nothing to do with them, but rather men and their need to prove something. Ata, Ludden, and Lally’s (2007) research shows that females who view media as a means of comparison for body image are likely to experience body dissatisfaction.

The girls who are raised in loving homes with supportive parents are exposed to the media’s negativity of the female body, influencing the girls to believe they are not beautiful which raises eating disorders and addictions (Ata, Ludden, Lully 2007). Ata, Ludden, Lully’s research has shown that a third of the girls around the age of 12 and 13 are actively trying to lose weight by taking diet pills, vomiting, or starving themselves.

Their girls know that something is wrong with the media and how it is portraying the female gender, but instead of looking for the source of the problem these girls try to find the fault in themselves and think that they will never be beautiful enough to societal standards. The constant comparison will take a toll on the mind and body because we know that the models are all photoshopped beyond reality but it still appeals to beauty standards.

The socialization of the stereotypical gender roles is very important to understand to break away from the “societal norms” that are limiting us to what we know we can excel in. However, the pressure to conform is keeping individuals from eliminating the problem.


Example #8 – Gender Roles In Modern Advertisements

Commercials on television tend to portray stereotypical roles of gender. |The effect of television imagery can be particularly consequential in modern industrial societies like the United States, where 98% of households have at least one television set and the average American watches over 30 hours of television each week X (Coltrone, Adams 1997, 325). These images do not create an accurate image of the modern woman, often demeaning their role in society. Females are depicted as attractive sexual objects, obsessed with appearance and dating; while men are more likely to be shown as aggressive and powerful, accomplishing some all-important tasks (Ruth 1995, 388).

Different gender stereotypes are portrayed at different times of the day and evening in order to target certain audiences. All of these images portray different levels of traditional gender roles. Often these differences are not discrete, |Men are generally thought of as independent, objective, active, competitive, self-confident, and ambitious; while women are seen as dependent, subjective, passive, not competitive, lacking self-confidence and ambition X(Coltrane, Adams 1997, 325).

Women/mothers are more likely to be watching television during the day, therefore advertisements tend to target the typical American housewife(Craig 1992, 209). During soap operas commercials go beyond matching a product aimed at a housewife particular needs, they portray stereotypical roles they should sustain. Daytime advertisements on television tend |to portray men in stereotypical roles of authority and patriarchal dominance X, while women are associated with traditional roles of the American housewife(Craig 1992, 209). Females are shown maintaining the perfect household, with their primary goal being to take care of their husband and or family(Nemi 1997).

Housewives are seen as happy to serve others and to relinquish their spare time and personal needs; all in an effort to ensure that their families feel loved and cared for(Niemi 1997). Throughout out day time commercials, there are never any connotations of single families(Niemi 1997), which in reality being a single parent is a common occurrence.

Some advertisements may even play on a women’s guilt and insecurities, showing them that by using their product it will help them maintain the perfect household(Niemi 1997). These advertisements tend to be conservative, showing a female’s existence completely dependent on her family(Niemi 1997). During the day women are completely defined by the services they provide; a clean home, prompt meals, and a caretaker(Niemi 1997).

Females are never defined by their intellectual skills outside the home(Taflinger 1996). These commercials generally show women in a position of cooking, cleaning, child care, and maintaining an attractive appearance( Craig 1992, 209). | Men are portrayed as the primary charter in less than half of these commercials…when they do appear…[they are shown] as a celebrity spokesperson, husband, or professionals (Craig 1992, 209). These images may be unconsciously internalized by women, giving them the mental image of the ideal housewife they should strive to be, often making them feel they are not living up to the American standard of a wife and mother(Stephens, Hill, Hanson 1994, 137).

Evening commercials tend to be more heterogeneous, portraying the needs of the working mother struggling to balance her career and family(Craig 1992, 210). | Men were more likely to be portrayed as a parent or spouse in settings at home X (Craig 1992, 208). These advertisements tend to be cosmetic and household commercials showing women that product |XX can help them better manage their time at work and home as to never neglect her family(Ruth 1995, 388).

Cosmetic commercials show that a working woman can beautify herself in a matter of minutes( Stephens et.all 1994, 137). This also sets forth the negative stereotype that women are not beautiful unless they were makeup( Stephens et.all 1994, 137). The use of skinny young models in these advertisements also sets forth a view of what the ideal woman should be, a standard most women can not live up to ( Stephens et.all 1994, 137). During the prime time men are usually the primary speaking character.

This gives rise to the notion that is unconsciously internalized while viewing these commercials, males hold dominant authority(Welch, Huston-Stien, Wright and Plehal 1979, 202). Commercials aired at this time tend to be less offensive because they are dealing with a broader audience that ends to represent both sexes equally( Craig 1992, 210). The goal of advertising at this time is not to offend either sex, henceforth there are less negative stereotypical roles during these advertisements than during the weekend( Craig 1992, 210).

Weekend commercials are typically when women are portrayed as sex objects. Most viewers of weekend television tend to be males, therefore these advertisements are aimed at men. They usually do not show families during the weekend, but when they do it is typically away from home( Craig 1992, 210). Women portrayed in theses commercials are always with men, | and seldom as the primary charter. they are generally seen in subservient roles to men… as sex objects or models which their only function [seems] to be to lend an aspect of eroticism to ad X (Craig 1992, 210). It is here where the most negative images of women are shown. These types of commercials are only shown for there sex appeal in an effort to catch the males eye(Taflinger 1996).

Sex is used in advertising because it has shown to work. Sex also happens to be the second strongest of the physiological appeals, falling after self-preservation (Taflinger 1996). This can be directed at both men and women. In advertisements that are aimed at men, the goal is to portray a subtle image of sex without any complications, which plays into the male ego(Taflinger 1996). When directed at males | …it is easy to get a man+s attention by using women+s bodied and associate getting the woman if he buys the product X (Taflinger 1996). In these commercials, there are not any indications as to the power, status, or money that a woman has, just that the woman is simply beautiful.

When advertisements are aimed at women the goal is to show a product that men like and will help women keep there figure and beauty(Taflinger 1996). Indicating that | the woman+s concern is attracting the attention of men from which to choose, and that using the product will aid her in her quest (Taflinger 1996). The difference between the two types of advertisements is that a women+s goal is to obtain a man, whereas man+s goal is to achieve some type of sexual activity. |This type of advertising leaves women with the indication that men only see them as sex objects, and men find women-only seeing them as insensitive and sex-crazed animalsX(Taflinger,1996).

|Advertisements are selling us something else besides consumer goods; in providing us with a structure in which we, and those goods, are interchangeable, they are selling us ourselves (Coltrane, Adams 1997, 325). In general, advertisements send out a negative stereotype of women. They set the standard for what women and men would be and look like.

These images can have a negative effect, such as women having an eating disorder in an effort to become as thin as models on television(Stephens, Hill, Hanson,1994,p.137), or mothers feeling they are inadequate because they can not live up to the perfect housewife(Niemi 1997). |Media Imagery has changed only slightly, with men predominantly portrayed as workers and women as sex objectsX(Coltrane, Adams 1997, 323). These stereotypes are instilled beginning with childhood, and they instill the notion of traditional gender roles(Welch 1979,202). Commercials do not reflect the modern woman, even in an age when equality is supposed to prevail.

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