A gender role is a theoretical construct in the social sciences and humanities that refers to a set of social and behavioral norms that, within a specific culture, are widely considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific gender. Proponents of gender role theory assert that observed gender differences in behavior and personality characteristics are, at least in part, socially constructed, and therefore, the product of socialization experiences; this contrasts with other models of gender that assert that gender differences are “essential” to biological sex.
Research supports this theory, finding gender differences in almost all societies, but with differences in the norms adopted, suggesting that gender differences are, at least partly, influenced by culture. Gender has several controversial definitions but it here refers to an individual’s inner sex or psychological sense of being a male or female irrespective of one’s (outer) sex identity as determined by one’s sexual organs. There are two main genders: masculine (male), or feminine (female).
Gender identity refers to the options available to members of a society to choose from a set of social identities, based on the combination of one’s sex identity on the one hand, and one’s natural gender, interests and social experiences on the other. Some ancient tribes have more than five human genders. Some non-Western societies have three human genders — man, woman and third gender. Gender roles refers to the set of attitudes and behaviors socially expected from the members of a particular gender identity. Gender roles are socially constructed which are often politicised and manipulated, which then result in the oppression of people.
In the modern West, this essential requirement has been changed to a heterosexual desire, resulting in the Western concepts of ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual,’ instead of the usual gender identities for males. Researchers recognize that the concrete behavior of individuals is a consequence of both socially enforced rules and values, and individual disposition, whether genetic, unconscious, or conscious. Some researchers emphasize the objective social system and others emphasize subjective orientations and dispositions. citation needed. Creativity may cause the rules and values to change over time.
Cultures and societies are dynamic and ever-changing, but there has been extensive debate as to how, and how fast, they may change. Such debates are especially contentious when they involve the gender/sex system, as people have widely differing views about how much gender depends on biological sex. The process through which the individual learns and accepts roles is called socialization. Socialization works by encouraging wanted and discouraging unwanted behavior.
These sanctions by agents of socialization such as the family, schools, and the media make it clear to the child what is expected of the child by society. Mostly, accepted behavior is not produced by outright reforming coercion from an accepted social system. In some other cases, various forms of coercion have been used to acquire a desired response or function. It is claimed that even in monolingual, industrial societies like urban North America, some individuals do cling to a “modernized” primordial identity, apart from others and with this a more diverse gender role is recognized or developed.
Some intellectuals, such as Michael Ignatieff, argue that convergence of a general culture does not directly entail a similar convergence in ethnic, social and self identities. This can become evident in social situations, where people divide into separate groups by gender roles and cultural alignments, despite being of an identical “super-ethnicity”, such as nationality. Within each smaller ethnicity, individuals may tend to see it perfectly justified to assimilate with other cultures including sexuality and some others view assimilation as wrong and incorrect for their culture or institution.
This common theme, representing dualist opinions of ethnoconvergence itself, within a single ethnic or common values groups is often manifested in issues of sexual partners and matrimony, employment preferences, etc. These varied opinions of ethnoconvergence represent themselves in a spectrum; assimilation, homogenization, acculturation, gender identities and cultural compromise are commonly used terms for ethnoconvergence which flavor the issues to a bias.
Often it is in a secular, multi-ethnic environment that cultural concerns are both minimalized and exacerbated; Ethnic prides are boasted, hierarchy is created (“center” culture versus “periphery”) but on the other hand, they will still share a common “culture”, and common language and behaviors. Often the elderly, more conservative-in-association of a clan, tend to reject cross-cultural associations, and participate in ethnically similar community-oriented activities.
Traditional gender roles include male attraction to females, and vice versa. Gay, lesbian and bisexual people, among others, usually don’t conform to these expectations. An active conflict over the cultural acceptability of non-heterosexuality rages worldwide. (See Societal attitudes towards homosexuality. ) 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.
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. 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. citation needed.
Feminine or masculine behaviors in some homosexual people might be a product of the socialization process, adopted unconsciously due to stronger identification with the opposite sex during development. The role of both this process and the role of biology is debated. The existence of these separate identities (dominant masculine vs more passive feminine), where present, can establish the dynamics of the relationship, according to the heterosexual patterns; this is not always the case, especially in relationships with less clearly defined sexual/identity roles.
A related assumption is that all androphilic people, including gay men, should or do adopt feminine mannerisms and other gender-role elements, and that all gynophilic people, including lesbians, should or do adopt masculine mannerisms and other gender-role elements; it is unclear how bisexuality fits into this framework, but it can be assumed they have a tendency towards both gender roles as they do in sexuality, towards both sexes. However, this idea is based on generalizations of homosexual people, which tend to be biased, as feminine gays and masculine lesbians are more widely visible than masculine gays or feminine lesbians.
Same-sex domestic partners also challenge traditional gender roles because it is impossible to divide up household responsibilities if both partners attempt to fill the same gender role. Like all live-in couples, same-sex partners usually do come to some arrangement with regard to household responsibilities. Sometimes these arrangements do assign traditional female responsibilities to one partner and traditional male responsibilities to the other, but non-traditional divisions of labor are also quite common. For instance, cleaning and cooking, traditionally both female responsibilities, might be assigned to different people.
Some people do adopt the sexual role of bottom or top, due to their own sexual identity or for convenience; but this is not universal, and does not necessarily correspond to assignment of household responsibilities. Most of gay couples in real life are versatile. Cross-dressing is also quite common in gay and lesbian culture, but it is usually restricted to festive occasions, though there are people of all sexual orientations who routinely engage in various types of cross-dressing, either as a fashion statement or for entertainment.
Distinctive styles of dress, however, are commonly seen in gay and lesbian circles. These fashions sometimes emulate the traditional styles of the opposite gender (For example, lesbians who wear t-shirts and boots instead of skirts and dresses, or gay men who wear clothing with traditionally feminine elements, including displays of jewelry or coloration), but others do not. Fashion choices also do not necessarily align with other elements of gender identity. Some fashion and behavioral elements in gay and lesbian culture are novel, and do not really correspond to any traditional gender roles.
For example, the popularity of rainbow jewelry, or the gay techno/dance music subculture. In addition to the stereotypically effeminate one, another significant gay male subculture is homomasculinity, emphasizing certain traditionally masculine or hypermasculine traits. (See Sexuality and gender identity-based cultures. ) These may be natural traits for an individual, or they may be adopted to conform to mainstream culture or to distance oneself from the more effeminate gays, as masculinity is often seen as a positive trait among ay men.
A quick look through gay personals websites, such as Gaydar, will reveal that many gay men’s personals are discouraging effeminate men from replying to their ad. (Fat, effeminate or bald, please do not disturb). The term dyke, commonly used to mean lesbian, sometimes carries associations of a butch or masculine identity, and the variant bulldyke certainly does. Other gender-role-charged lesbian terms include lipstick lesbian, chapstick lesbian, and Stone Femme. Butch,” “femme,” and novel elements are also seen in various lesbian subcultures. External social pressures may lead some people to adopt a persona which is perceived as more appropriate for a heterosexual (For instance, in an intolerant work environment) or homosexual (for instance, in a same-sex dating environment), while maintaining a somewhat different identity in other, more private circumstances.
The acceptance of new gender roles in Western societies, however, is rising. However, during childhood and adolescence, gender identities which differ from the norm are often the cause of ridicule and ostracism, which often results in psychological problems. Some are able to disguise their differences, but others are not. Even though much of society has become more tolerant, gender roles are still very prevalent in the emotionally charged world of children and teenagers, which makes life very difficult for those who differ from the established norms.