Synthesis Essay on Gender Roles
Although largely through the feminist movement, females have made great strides in achieving legal equality with males, culturally speaking their advancement has not been nearly as great. In other words, there is a cultural lag which still stereotypes males and females with differentiated roles. I feel these gender role stereotypes in modern society are more constraining for females, but in certain ways they are also constraining for males.
1). Sex and Gender
The first source provided differentiates between sex and gender. (Abraham and Ahlbrand ) Although gender is often used synonymously with sex, this source delineates sex as the biological distinction between males and females in terms of their sex organs, whereas gender refers to the roles society expects people to perform because of their sex. For example, women are expected to be nurturers, expressive about their feelings and readily show emotion, whereas men are expected to take charge, be strong and think logically. I would argue that this role differentiates dates all the way back to early hunter/gatherer societies, when men had to go out to find animals to kill foe food and clothing, leaving the women behind to look after the children and perform other domestic chores. Finally, while most people belong to either the male or female sex, transsexuals have the organs of both sexes. This, plus the fact that they may identify themselves as more male than female or vice versa, may cause them great anxiety and confusion in a society which expects everyone to adopt wither male or female gender roles.
2) Intimacy Unstuck
This article states that in the past 30 years gender roles have been less specialized. I would argue this is a consequence of harsher economic conditions requiring both marriage partners to earn incomes, or sometimes for women to be the breadwinner if her husband loses employment ( Coontz 2009) This has made it incumbent on men to perform at least some of the traditionally female domestic chores. The article also discusses an interesting research finding that same sex couples tend to have better relationships with their gender neutral roles than traditional opposite sex couples with strongly differentiated male and female roles since they incorporate both perspectives and therefore can better understand their partners’ needs.
3) What Motivates Us-Sex
This source describes an anecdote involving President Coolidge and is therefore called The Coolidge Effect. (Bloom 2009) Space does not permit detailing the story, but the idea behind it is that men want more sex partners than women do. The article describes 2 theories behind this assertion. !) men prefer sex with strange women and 2) this is sexist claptrap. While there is some truth to both allegations, I feel the second more accurately describes the current situation. The evidence for this is the swinging lifestyle. Men wanting sexual variety often will persuade their wives to join, but once in it is usually the women who embrace it more. When it comes to sex women are the physically stronger sex because they don’t have a refractory (or recovery) period before they can have intercourse again. In this lifestyle it is the women who have the dominant role, as they control if and when they will have sex and if so who they will accept as a partner. Particularly in this lifestyle, the notion that the female role is to gratify the sexual “needs” of the male is breaking down as women are demanding at least equal consideration, and rightly so in my view.
4) Understanding Men-Roles in Dating
While men ( justifiably in my opinion) are now experiencing some constraints on acting on their sexual urges, constraints in dating ( which I agree are necessary) can cause male anxiety which should be treated with empathy and understanding by women.(Talbot, Neal ) Traditionally men initiated dating and even expected female compliance with their wishes. In some strongly patriarchal societies women couldn’t even refuse a marriage demand. Now fortunately women have the right to refuse both marriage and dates. However, while women have these rights and are and at least at times are encouraged to initiate contacts if they wish, because of past mores men are not used to risking rejection or dealing with forward women. It is not in their DNA. Their fragile egos have not yet prepared them to deal with such situation and move on if necessary. Therefore, while women should certainly have these rights, they should be used tactfully
5) Sources of Power-How the Female Ambition is Shaped
In spite of the fact that women have gained many legal rights to education and employment access, and with affirmative action, they have not yet attained top corporate positions in the same proportion as their population. ( Nordel 2006 ) This source lists 3possible causes for the imbalance 1) they are averse to risk taking 2) continued conscious discrimination and 3) unconscious bias. While I believe all 3 of these have some validity, I believe that point #3 coupled with the fact that many women still have domestic responsibilities largely accounts for the discrepancy. It is usually men who consider people for promotion and there is a natural tendency to select those who are similar to themselves.
Gender roles date back to the first appearance of humans on earth and were necessitated by the requirements of the time. Men were physically stronger and therefore did the hunting for food, and of course only women could child bear so they did the nurturing and domestic duties.
While today we obviously still require some role differentiation, many more roles can be performed equally well by both men and women. Therefore, as much as possible we should reduce sex role assignment and stereotyping, and move to a society which encourages most roles to be performed by either sex. .
1) Abraham, George and Ahlbrand, Sheila “Boy v. Girl? Does Gender =Sex.
2) Coontz, Stephanie “Intimacy Unstuck” Boston Globe Sunday Magazine Jan.18, 2009
3) Bloom, Paul “What Motivates Us-Sex” Yale Lecture Psych. 110, 2009.
4) Talbot, Neal “Understanding Men. Roles in dating”
5) Piercy, Marge “Barbie Doll”
6) Nordell, J.D. “Positions of Power How Female Ambition is Shaped” Slate Magazine Nov. 21, 2006
7) Honigsbaur, Mark “Is the world more female or are boys still sexist” New Statesman Aug. 21, 2006.
8) Cartoons retrieved from www.CartoonStock.com.
9) Gevinson, Tavi “ First Encounters with the Male Gaze” retrieved from www.Rookiemag.com Sept. 28, 2011.
10) Ploack. Dr. William “Real Boys Voices” ...