Gender roles are defined as “the social expectations about the typical and appropriate behavior of men and women.” Female gender roles include communal traits and behaviors, which focus on emotional sensitivity, interpersonal skills, and expressivity. Male gender roles include the expectation that boys and men exhibit traits that focus on self-orientation, independence, and assertiveness. There are exceptions in gender roles when it comes to occupational choice, cognitive skills, and hobbies. Society is torn when it comes to gender roles because not all people agree with the boundaries that have been set by society according to these roles.
Researchers with the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the World Health Organization teamed up with the Global Early Adolescent Study to identify universal themes in gender identity development across countries and income levels. Kristin Mmari an associate professor at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health stated “Adolescent health risks are shaped by behaviors rooted in gender roles that can be well established in kids by the time they are 10 or 11 years old” “Yet we see billions of dollars around the world invested in adolescent health programs that don’t kick in until they are 15, and by then, it’s probably too late to make a big difference.” The risks for girls include child marriage, pregnancy, leaving school early, exposure to violence and sexually transmitted diseases. Boys have an increase of substance abuse, suicide, and a shorter life expectancy than women especially if they try to challenge the masculine norms according to the study. Society has the perception that men are the strong dominant sex while woman need to be protected, this idea starts in early childhood and is reinforced by parents, schools and media. When puberty hits it deepens the divide, especially when it comes to sexuality, turning boys into predators and girls into targets. Adolescent girls are taught “don’t sit like that”, “don’t dress like that” and “boys will ruin your future”. Statements like these reinforce the gender division of power and promote sex segregation with the aim of preserving a girls sexuality. Gender bias also affects boys giving them the connotation of being a danger to girls because of their vulnerability which ends up having a negative impact on both genders. Gender roles have a significant impact on behavior. Expectations related to gender may begin to have influence on children very early in life.
An argument in favor of gender roles is stated as “Men are biologically stronger, which makes them feel like protectors. Women are the child-bearers, so they will forever have the caregiving maternal instinct. In other species, the men must prove themselves to be worthy of the women, which is why male peacocks are given brighter feathers: to impress the ladies. If you want to argue that our heightened intelligence separates us from other species, we can still look at the situations of today. Most women still want to be cared for by men and most men still want to care for women. There are exceptions, of course, as there is to everything. Society doesn’t have to recommend a boy becomes a nurse; if he wants to become one, however, no one is stopping him.” While it is true that men and women have biological differences, both have human minds and expecting certain genders to act a certain way or do a certain thing can have lasting effects on mental health.
In conclusion gender roles play a huge part in society and have hidden effects on both men and women. Men are being taught to bottle up their feelings and show little emotion while women believe their purpose in life is to have babies and support men. I believe that gender roles are a thing of the past and women and men alike should not be constrained by these beliefs society has on the way they should act. Men and women should be free to express themselves however they choose which will in turn greatly impact their mental health in a positive way.