Gender role has been recognized and practiced for a very long time. There are many factors that contribute to gender roles, which is why many researchers are interested to study the origin and the behaviours associated with it. Gender role, as defined, are expected roles from each individual based on his/ her gender. For example, a woman is expected to act in a feminine manner whilst a man must act in a masculine manner. However, what does it mean to be feminine and to be masculine? There are set standards, also recognized as gender stereotypes, that are considered for each. Dresses, high heels, long hair, and politeness are all considered to be feminine. Masculinity includes: short hair, jeans, bows and ties, and suits. According to Planned Parenthood Org, there are 4 types of gender stereotypes: personality traits, domestic behaviours, occupations, and physical appearance. Females are seen to be sensitive and dependent while men are egoistic and independent. Domestic behaviours consists of roles expected from an individual as a part of a group. A great example would be family dynamics, wherein women stays at home while men provides for the family. Occupational roles are jobs that are “women jobs” (such as teaching and nursing) and “men jobs” (such as engineering and construction). Physical appearance are expected looks of men and women. Men are muscular and strong, while women are thin and weak. Exaggeration of these stereotypes leads to hyperfemininity and hypermasculinity.
Gender roles originated in early Mesopotamia, around 8000 BCE. Since then, roles has slowly changed, however, some cultures still create and encompass gender roles. Though there are some very recognizable changes in gender role, it seems as if the changes are not enough compared to the amount of time it has been around. Gender role has been around for quite a very very very long time. Time passes by so quickly, technology develops as fast as a cheetah, yet gender role seem to change as slow as a turtle. The 21st century is very lucky to benefit from the efforts of the past centuries to demolish some gender roles. Despite the effort to fight expected roles from each gender, some gender roles are still alive up to this day. These roles are recognizable in family dynamics, workplaces, and media.
Family dynamics may differ, and it may be the same from culture to culture. Time may have passed, humankind and lifestyle changed, but it is undeniable that the concept of family dynamics from then compared to now are still similar. Looking back to human being’s ancestors, there were roles already placed for each gender. Men were expected to hunt, take care of the land that the family owns, and provide security for the family. Women, on the other hand, were presumed to stay at home, cook, take care of the children, sew clothes, and be the light of the house. Women are to bear children, carry the child in their stomach for 9 months, yet looked down upon to as incapable of providing for the family, in short, weak. Children faces rigid expectations as well once they get out of the woman’s stomach. According to a research made on Gender Development in Sex Roles, “Once a child is born, parents remark, react to, and questions the origin of their child’s behaviours…”. Thankfully, the 21st century is slowly changing family dynamics. Gender role expected from men and women are slowly being reversed, and this is most specifically true for single parents. A single mother does “mother duties” while being the father figure of the family, and single fathers provides for the family while being a mother figure. Nowadays, parents are willing to go beyond their expected roles, in order to provide for their beloved children. For example, mothers who are expected to stay at home now goes out and seek for jobs to provide for their family. Men can choose to stay at home (and work at the same time) to take care of the children while the mother goes out of the house getting a job to provide for the family. Though some cultures (such as Filipinos, Mexicans, and Spanish cultures) still encompasses gender role in family dynamics, 21st century is still a hope for a change.
Occupational stereotypes creates bias on what career a man and a woman should partake in. As mentioned, there are jobs that are considered to be for women and other jobs that only men should be doing. Military is a great example.
During the 1st world war, only men were considered capable of being in the military. Women were seen to be weak and incapable of handling violence. Even in politics, women were not trusted to take control in the office. Not until feminism started to rise. Women started fighting for their rights, proving to the world that they can do what considered to be “men’s job”. However, work of women were barely acknowledged in the 20th century. A research from Statistics Canada showed that in the early 20th century, most women did not participate in the paid labour force. In 1931, only 16% of women were involved in paid employment, which is really low compared to almost 70% of men. The 21st century, however, showed an increased percentage of women in paid labour force. From 16% in the year 1931, it increased to 60% in the year 2006 and is still growing from then. Though there is a massive increase in percentage of women in the workforce, women still faces struggles in workplace. This includes the gap in earning between men and women, which led to federal and provincial employment equity legislation. However, countries, such as Canada are starting to place minimum wages in attempt to make earnings equal, not only between men and women, but for all ages and various workplaces.
Parents, media, school, and society shapes a child’s behaviour and perceptions. This is significantly true during the period of adolescence (ages 10- 19 years of age). The period of adolescence in one of the most critical periods of human development, shaping the health and well- being that will influence health trajectories with life- long consequences. A new study proposes that while a child is still in his/ her early ages, no matter where they live, there should be a real talk about relationships, identity and sexuality. This will help minimize the negative impacts of gender roles. There were many researches made to find out how gender roles and expectations shape a child’s behaviour and mental being. According to Kristin Mmari, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “adolescent health risks are shaped by behaviours rooted in gender roles that can be well- established by the time there are 10 or 11 years old.. [yet] adolescents health programs kick in until they are 15… it’s too late to make a big difference”. At a young age, parents teaches their children that boys are trouble and women should cover up and stay at home in effort to “preventing” sex. During the young ages of a child, they may see cross gender boundaries are acceptable. However, as soon as parents, media, school, and society clarifies the socially defined behaviours as typical for the other sex, “it is shunned out of fear of being ostracized”.
Gender role truly has come a long way, affecting human behaviours and gender norms. Statistics show that a lot has changed in gender roles in family dynamics, workplaces, and upbringing of children. Though some cultures still promotes gender roles. Comparing family dynamics from then and now, men are still recognized as the head of the family while women are still seen as the house taker, despite changes in roles for the past years. Workplaces are slowly accepting women in the labour force, providing more opportunity and choices of careers for the future generation. Speaking of future generation, children still faces some struggle regarding gender expectations from the society, but it seems as if the society is starting to change their perspective for these children who are the future generation. Hopefully, the time of acceptance of different gender roles will come soon. It will take some time and efforts, especially that each individual has his/ her own opinion in matters, but only time will tell.
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