Gender roles refer to the norms which different groups of people adopt and use them to set rules and guidelines which determine a person’s behavior. These roles are taken as the standards which measures and dictates how an individual of certain group or category should behave in particular circumstances. Gender norms may constrain an individual’s behavior without a direct interdiction of the law. Gender is a psychological aspect used to describe an individual and is gained through experience (O’Leary, Unger & Wallston, para 2). A person is then termed to be masculine or feminine. Gender roles are mostly stereotyped attitudes depending on an individual’s identity of being either a male or a female. The society transforms a person’s biological sexual composition to form the basis of their human activities. These activities vary from one society to another according to the beliefs and practices of these societies. The behaviors exhibited by an individual are thus as a result of the rules and values enforced by the society. These rules however are not static but may change over time since the cultures of societies is also dynamic. Conformity to gender roles refers to adherence by a person to these set rules by the society. The society dictates what a person of certain gender should behave while dealing with particular matters. Gender roles also outline what one ought or ought not to do. Adherence to these set rules thus amounts to conformity (Lindsey, pp 22).
Gender roles and effects of conformity and non conformity
Gender roles have in the past been seen as the power behind the cohesion of societies. They are also seen as important in formulation and setting moral standards in a society. Conformity to these roles is thus seen as vital and deviation from them is viewed as being detrimental to the society. However, with time some gender roles have been questioned on their credibility. Though most of them are beneficial to the individuals, others are discriminatory and suppressive to those subjected to them. In the past, women were lowly regarded in the societies and were not allowed to take up roles which were regarded as being vital in their societies. Some of the detrimental gender roles were manifested in the area of education. In earlier years, men were the only ones allowed to take up professional qualifications. This was termed as being unimportant to women. Women on the other hand were to be subject to their husbands and they could not own property on their own account. Conforming to such a belief denied the women a chance to exploit their potential in contributing to the society’s well being (VandeCreek, para 2).
Gender role segregation was also practiced in career choice and professional advancement. Women were not considered fit to be in work place and thus career choice was unimportant to them. Such practices are discriminatory and breed a people believing that they have less capability than their male counterparts. Researches have established that women just like men can handle professional activities equally and at times better than men. Equal career advancement should be made available for both men and women. All individuals should be given a chance to exercise their freedom of choice in career matters despite their gender. This has been slowly adapted and women are more accepted at work places today than before. There are more women holding public offices based on merit and they compete favorably against the males (Mead, 4).
Women have been found to conform more on gender related issues than the men. Most women accept violation of their rights by men on gender bases. Most to domestic violence goes unpunished due to the belief that the men have the last say in an argument. Women are supposed to be subject to their husbands and thus should agree to her husband’s plans. Women are also supposed to carry out every command of their husbands (Moore & Gobi, para 2). Deviation from the rules of the man thus warrants violence. Such practices have led to an increase in domestic violence with the perpetrators being men. Although most women are being synthesized on their rights, violence committed against women are still high. Male domestic violence has of late been on rise in different societies. It has been believed for a long time that women are the weaker sex and that men are supposed to be in control. However, with the dynamism of the society and the global economy, this has gradually changing. Men who find themselves subjected to violence by their partners are ashamed to report it since their masculinity could be questioned. Conforming to such practices due to ones gender should be discouraged (VandeCreek, para 4).
Gender roles have set values that the woman is supposed to take care of the children alone with the only work of the man being to provide for the family. The entire house keeping duties in the past was left to the women and also the burden of child upbringing and care. With the changing culture where even women are working, the roles are usually shared to ease the burden (Gray & Robinson, para 2). Also psychologists have found out that involving of both parents in child upbringing helps the child to learn how to relate with other sexes. Conformity to gender roles in matters of child rearing is thus detrimental to not only the child but the society at large. The burden of running the family affairs should thus be taken up by both parents (Beere, pp 14).
Another negative effect of conforming to gender roles is thus it has led to an increase in divorce rates in the country. Some decisions relating to family matters require compromise between the partners (Updegraff, Mchale & Crouter, para 3). When one partner feels he/she is more superior to the other and his/her decision should be taken, conflicts are inevitable. Compromise is essential to the cohesion of a family. Where one partner is perceived to be weaker and the other superior, the weaker partner may opt to flee the marriage. Another characteristic of families guided by stern gender roles is the struggle to gain power over the other partner who is usually projected to other individuals in the society. Slavery is also another result of conformity to unhealthy gender roles in a family or society (Amato, para 4).
Gender roles with negative effects have also been found to affect a person’s judgments on key issues in their lives. They also affect how a person does his or her job. Most women who have been subjected to unfair gender practices are found to be less productive and more compliant to the men ideas and way of performing task. They are less creative and lack the drive to achieve higher goals. This also happens with children brought up by parents who hold with high regard negative gender roles and also practice them (Marcotte et al, para 3).
Gender roles may also produce desirable results if practiced wisely. In marriages for example, one partner should take the responsibility of being the head and to provide direction to the family. This role from the ancient times is taken by men. They leadership should however not be a form of dictatorship but should be integrative. To ensure continuity and cohesiveness of the family, the woman should be subjective to the husband. This subjection should not however lead to violation of her rights or to slavery. Gender roles within the family settings also allows for quicker performance of tasks and implementation of decisions (McCallum & DeLashmutt, para 4).
Gender roles while exercised properly also bring about unity and harmony in a society. While all individuals should be allowed to exercise their rights, these rights should be monitored to ensure that they are not detrimental to the person or to the society as large. Unhealthy practices like dominance should be replaced with more integrative acts in all tasks (Marshall, para 5).
In the past, deviation from gender roles by a person was treated as contempt to the leadership and such a person was regarded as an outcast. This led to conformity to some gender roles which were suppressing the people. Women were more vulnerable to conformance than men since the gender roles as stipulated by the societies favored men. With the passage of time and the dynamism of societies, most of these unfair practices have been discarded. People have also gained awareness on the effects such practices exposes the subjects to. This has led to tremendous changes in the way people view each other regardless of their gender orientation (Witt, para 2, 3).
Gender roles can be enhanced knowingly or unknowingly by parents or teachers who are in direct contact with the children. In school plays for example, the boy child is given the roles of the masculine person while the girl child is given the role of the passive character. This may lead to stereotyped behavior being developed in them (Lucke, para 2). The kind of gifts given to children by their parents also helps in developing their gender roles. Exposure to things like television may also lead to stereotyped ideas of gender roles. Children should be helped to reconcile their understanding from plays and television and the reality. All people capable of influencing gender roles in children should be careful on how they handle them (Hughes & Seta, para 6).
Gender related issues are a sensitive area which requires careful handling by all parties involved. There have been calls for gender equality in all sectors in the economy. Activists for gender equality argue that there is no major difference between the genders apart from their sexual orientation. While this is a noble argument, equality should be exercised in administration of public services and also in offering equal opportunities for all. Where gender roles are beneficial like in the marriage setting, they should not be discarded but modified to ensure maximum benefit. Human rights awareness activists should aim at educating individuals on their right and also provide channels for an aggrieved party to access compensation. No individual should be victimized on terms of their gender alone but on the basis of their actions.
Amato Felix J. : Understanding male violence using gender role conflict and conformity to masculine norms: A forensic sample. 2005. Retrieved 0n 12th December 2008 from,
Beere Carole A.: Gender Roles: A Handbook of Tests and Measures
Published by Greenwood Publishing Group ISBN 0313262780, 1990
Case Mary Anne C.: Disaggregating Gender from Sex and Sexual Orientation: The Effeminate Man in the Law and Feminist Jurisprudence
Journal article of Yale Law Journal, Vol. 105, 1995
Gray & Robinson Gillian: What women want? Women and gender roles in Northern Ireland. Retrieved 0n 12th December 2008 from, 2008 from,
Hughes Farrah M. & Seta Catherine E.: Gender Stereotypes: Children’s Perceptions of Future Compensatory Behavior Following Violations of Gender Roles. Journal article of Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Vol. 49, 2003
Ingeborg Heide, International Labor Office: Gender Roles and Sex Equality: European Solutions to Social Security Disputes. Published by International Labour Organization ISBN 9221157717. 2004
Lindsey Linda L.: Gender Roles: A Sociological Perspective
Published by Prentice Hall. ISBN 0130104280. 2004
Lucke Jayne C.: Gender Roles and Sexual Behavior among Young Women
Journal article of Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Vol. 39, 1998
Marcotte Diane et al: Gender Differences in Depressive Symptoms during Adolescence: Role of Gender-Typed Characteristics, Self-Esteem, Body Image, Stressful Life Events, and Pubertal Status. Journal article of Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, Vol. 10, 2002
Marshall Katherine: Converging gender roles. 2006. Retrieved 0n 12th December 2008 from,
McCallum Dennis & DeLashmutt Gary: Men, Women, and Gender Roles in Marriage. Retrieved 0n 12th December 2008 from,
Mead Margaret: gender and society “Men have always been afraid that women could get along without them.” Retrieved 0n 12th December 2008 from,
Moore Dahlia & Gobi Abraham: Role Conflict and Perceptions of Gender Roles (the Case of Israel). Journal article of Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Vol. 32, 1995
O’Leary Virginia E., Unger Rhoda Kesler & Wallston Barbara Strudler: Women, Gender, and Social Psychology. Published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates ISBN 0898594472, 1985
Raj Aditya: Changing Gender Roles
Journal article of Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Vol. 35, 2004
ScienceDaily: Gender Roles And Gender Bias Identified In Holding Back Women Scientists. (2007). retrieved 0n 12th December 2008 from, 2008 from,
Updegraff Kimberly A., Mchale Susan M. & Crouter Ann C.: Gender Roles in Marriage: What Do They Mean for Girls’ and Boys’ School Achievement?
Journal article of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 25, 1996
VandeCreek Drew E.: Women’s Experience and Gender Roles. Retrieved 0n 12th December 2008 from,
Volkom Michele Van: The Relationships between Childhood Tomboyism, Siblings’ Activities, and Adult Gender Roles (1). Journal article of Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Vol. 49, 2003
Witt Susan D.: Parental Influence on Children’s Socialization to Gender Roles
Journal article of Adolescence, Vol. 32, 1997