A more focused form of socialization is called gender socialization, a process by which a child becomes an individual respecting his/her customs and norms. This has resulted in gender polarization creating differences between male and female genders and roles that are not easy to change over time. This paper will analyze gender roles from a sociological perspective with the examples from my own experience.
Sociologists define gender as the projected component of human sexuality. Gender is a notion that is different from biological sex of a person as sex shows that a person belongs to either male or female species. Gender is, therefore, an inner feeling that a person has concerning what category – male or female – does the person ascribes herself/himself to. In our society, gender roles are shown by society norms or behavioral expectations. Once a person knows about these ‘roles’, they will then behave in a way to project the gender they wish to portray. Adopting the norms and behaviors related to a certain gender signals that one belongs to a certain gender. Unlike sex, which does not change, gender roles may alter with time. According to Scott (2006), women roles in the society have been majorly transformed over time, especially due to their increased participation in the labor market and increased secularization which has eroded the traditional values. The changing role of especially women in terms of female emancipation and individual autonomy is seen as the reason for the change in demographic patterns. One such example of changing gender roles can be seen in Spain. It is reported that a new civil marriage contract law in Spain obliges men to share household chores with their women. The conclusion for such a tremendous change in gender roles is that there is a worrying possibility that an increased individualization in careers and work intensification are working against men. The “modified male breadwinner” is slowly but steadily changing (Scott, 2006).
A role is defined as an expected behavior that is associated with one's status. Gender roles in our society are seen to arise from cultural contributions or biological development. In our society, males and females are associated with different roles depending on the social norms. Being the components of social structure, we are meant to live in a certain consistent and predictable way by following prescribed norms. This can loosely be termed as stereotyping, which may have negative traits that can be used to justify discrimination against a certain gender (Hughes, et al.).
Male and female statuses are usually seen from the point of their biological composition. An example is when women are seen as unreliable because they are seen to be controlled by hormones and thus, tend to experience emotional outbursts. This kind of negative stereotyping may result in sexism: seeing females as inferior to males. This can be seen in our society where women occupy positions of less power, less pay, and/or less prestige. In the society we live in boys are attributed to have a number of traditional masculine roles, such as being independent, aggressive, or courageous while girls may be stereotyped as submissive, illogical, or overemotional. These are usually seen as the traditional male or female roles respectively. The boy will thus grow playing, for example, with toy soldiers while the girl – with dolls. But as it was seen earlier, gender is subject to change and the boy in the above example may decide not to portray masculine but feminine features while the girl may decide to adopt masculine characteristics (The sociology of gender).
There are several theoretical explanations given by sociologists to explain gender roles in the society; and the ways of understanding social reality and sociological theory is one of them. Early sociological explanation related to the elucidation on why men and women hold different roles in the family that affects what they do outside the family. This has been the base for modern understanding of cotemporary gender roles. Some of the major sociological perspectives regarding gender-family relationship include the following: structural functionalism, gender socialization, conflict theory, and sociobiology (The sociology of gender).
My Own Experience
In these modern times of convenience, my generation owes a huge ‘thank you’ to our mothers in the 1980s and 1990s who taught their sons that a woman’s work is not confined in the kitchen or to do laundry. I have seen my father do laundry or iron clothes or my mother mowing when they are in the yard. I have seen very many changes from the perceived traditional gender roles. The dynamic female does not believe anymore that a man should be the sole breadwinner. Women all over the world have proved that they can be just like men, nurture them and offer support for their men when needed. I have seen my mother support my dad despite the fact that she wholeheartedly accepts him to be the head of the family. I am a career woman and I believe that after college, I will be able to fend myself even without a man; that does not, however, mean that I do not need a man in my life, I deeply have respect for both genders.
Gender roles have changed over time and the study f gender has emerged as an important discipline in sociology. Gender influences have shaped our lives, our behavior, and our attitudes. Gender has been a key component in ordering the way males and females behave in society. Gender has shaped the empirical and theoretical foundations of families while gender awareness has seen the creation of feminist paradigm. Gender roles, however, have been slowly but steadily shifting from the traditional beliefs.