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Modern society has shaped certain gender roles in everyday activities. The world is facing certain stereotypes, where women are superior to men in different aspects of life. Usually women are described as being vulnerable, small and weak in relation to the opposite gender. Moreover, when referring to the art and literature, women are usually portrayed as being domesticated and accustomed to house work, which highlights their vulnerability and weakness.
The essay explores certain stereotypes that prevail in the lives of ordinary people.
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Scientific Results vs Socio-Cultural Assumptions
When referring to gender stereotypes, there is a poem by Kim Addonizio called “What Women Want?” shows how society wants to take care of women’s roles. However, usually gender stereotypes can be tested as numerous experiments are conducted to define the essence of stereotypes. For example, scientists are able to define whether stereotype of weakness is true or false, or just produced by members of society with no grounds. Women are considered to be superior to men and weaker in terms of health and endurance. However, females usually suffer from severe pain on a regular basis, which definitely proves that men cannot be considered as stronger. With the help of such experiments, one can identify which stereotypes are based on societal misconceptions.
Undoubtedly, there are certain reasons why women are considered as a weaker gender apart from stereotypes prevailing in society. Philosophers claim that women usually have intention to reach the consensus, which exposes them to severe criticism from the male representatives participating in discussion. Moreover, one should pay attention to essence of women’s physical nature. Numerous studies have been conducted based on quantitative measures to suppress assumptions based on women’s physiology. Some scientists indeed define women to be a weaker sex, stating that in no way it is gender stereotype based on gender roles. On the contrary, others claim that such scientific can be easily disproved based on the pain level and its tolerance among women.
Many scientists claim that women are more vulnerable when referring to the term “pain threshold.” Women often experience pain in a more severe nature due to the variety of endorphins and many other chemicals in blood that influence the pain threshold. Moreover, another reason why women can be considered as a weaker sex can come down to the report of Bob Calandra. He defined that when women are exposed to numerous tests that incorporate heat, cold, or pain test, usually it is women to first claim about discomfort. Although male counterparts are subjected to the same tests, they always take the second turn to report about certain discomfort. Thus, women are stated to be more sensitive and cannot experience numerous painful situations. However, when it comes to the perception of another physical pain, women tend to be endurable since their hormone level can be more subjected to significant changes in body due to menstruation. Such notion refers to the fact that women reproductive organs want to maintain stable hormone level for effective functioning. Therefore, in this respect, women cannot be considered as a weaker sex and gender roles here must be reconsidered.
Therefore, women usually have to deal with constant pain in different parts of body on a regular basis due to their body nature. Numerous scientists agree with the abovementioned facts and still conduct numerous researches to prove the claim that in no way women can be considered as a weaker sex. Due to chronic pain in some organs and hormones actions that are often undiagnosed, there is no need to state that women are usually vulnerable and susceptible in all terms. Moreover, it was established that men would not be able to suffer from such regular pains. Therefore, it is inappropriate to make any claims regarding the gender roles and superiority of one sex over another based on the physical nature.
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Due to evolution, women are usually considered to be weaker than men, who are usually portrayed as strong and healthy individuals. Women have been considered as “gatherers” while men as “hunters.” Nevertheless, there are certain flaws in men’s physical nature that reflect the notion that men are weaker than women. It can be proved with the fact that usually males are on the top of suicide rate and suffer from different disorders leading to high crime rates. Researchers that focus their work on gender roles and differences have documented their researches well-supported with evidence. They state that what women want to prove is that one can reach desirable results regardless of their sex.
Psychosexual Development and Gender Roles
With rare exceptions, human beings are divided into two sexes, and most of the children acquire a strong sense of belonging either to a male or a female. At the same time, they have a thing that in developmental psychology is called sex (gender) identity. However, in most cultures, the biological difference between men and women create a system of beliefs and behaviors that permeate virtually all spheres of human activity. In different societies, there are both formal and informal rules of men and women behavior, which regulate the roles people have to perform, taking into account some personal characteristics (Adler, Kless, & Adler, 1992). In various cultures, socio correct behaviors, roles and personal traits can be defined in different ways, and within one culture, they may change over time. Nevertheless, independently of the role ordering now, every culture tends to make and adult male or female from a baby male or female (Tobin et al., 2011). Acquiring of the behavior and qualities being characteristic for the defined sex is called sexual development. One should note that gender identity and gender role is not the same thing. Girl may firmly consider herself being female even not possessing those behaviors that in her culture are considered as feminine, or not to avoid behavior that is considered to be masculine.
Formation of gender identity is influenced by the development of biological background, laws of sexual differentiation in gender socialization (Adler, Kless, & Adler, 1992). The latter begins from the very moment of birth; though, expectation of child of a particular sex also anticipates a certain attitude of parents, children of sex-role in broadcasting as an extremely large role stereotypes developed in society and culture, with respect to men and women (Tobin et al., 2011). The aim of this paper is to investigate the development of the gender identity and its manifestation in communication with peers beginning from the preschool age and up to the end of adolescent period.
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Preschool and elementary schoolchildren psychosexual development
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Fundamentals of individual’s gender psychology are formed up to 5 years (Tobin et al., 2010). During this period of life, the child develops the idea of the primary treatment of men and women, parents, as well as social patterns of conduct, based on the notions of his/her own body that is formed by the primary sexual identity. One of the features of the boys and girls behavior at the primary school age is the formation of homogeneous groups by gender (homogenization), whose relations are often described as “gender segregation.” Children are divided into two opposing camps: boys and girls with their own rules and rituals of behavior; cheating to “their” camp is despised and condemned, and the relation to the other one takes the form of confrontation. These symptoms of psychosexual differentiation and sexual socialization are the result of psychological patterns (Adler, Kless, & Adler, 1992).
Regardless of the birthplace and cultural environment, the behavior of boys and girls in the first six years of life shows certain differences. Boys aged 6-8 years are active and require more attention, whereas girls of the same age are gentle and calm (Tobin et al., 2011). Moreover, the boys are aggressive. Aggression is the type of behavior that always distinguishes men from women, regardless of age. Always and everywhere boys, with rare exceptions, are focused on high achievement and to the greater extent have to rely on themselves as compared to girls. In turn, the latter differ with tenderness and gentleness. Boys are encouraged to be more active, much more girls caress.
Another consequence of the different patterns of child behavior is that men and women are formed entirely dissimilar in the methods of group interaction. Girls in the group pay attention primarily on who and how to whom belongs. In order to establish social ties, enhance group cohesion and maintain good relations, they use conversation. Girls usually set two main tasks – to be “positive” and, at the same time, to keep good relationships with her friends for using them in order to achieve their own goals (Adler, Kless, & Adler, 1992). Girls pave the way for increasing the level of agreement within the group, avoiding friction and focusing on their own superiority. In the group of boys, all the attention is focused on the personal dignity of its each member. Boys use talks for selfish purposes, for instance, self-aggrandizement, protection their “territory.” They all have the same problem – self-affirmation (Tobin et al., 2011). Boys make their way with the help of orders, threats and bluster.
Such boys’ games and activities as war, sport, adventures have stressed male character. Boys prefer heroic literature, offset adventure, military, chivalrous, detective themes; their role models are courageous and brave heroes of popular thrillers and series: James Bond, Batman, Indiana Jones (Tobin et al., 2011). At this age, a boy has a particular need in the vicinity of his father, presence of common interests with him; many boys idealize their fathers even against reality. At this age, a boy especially grievous, experiences divorcement of parents. In case a boy has no father or no relationships with him, there is a need for father’s figure replacement either by coach in the sports section or male teachers.
Girls in their social circle discuss real and literary “princes,” begin to collect portraits of their favorite artists, give birth to notebooks in which they write songs, poems and folk wisdom, often seeming banal and primitive for adults, delve into the “female” business (share recipes, master decoration). During this period, there is a particular need for emotional intimacy with their mothers: little girls learn to be women, copying the behavior of the mother. As they develop a sense of identity through identification with the mother, their relationships with others are based on dependence on others and affection with them. Girls learn to be careful; they are early aware of the need to think above all others. For them, the main value is human relationships (Adler, Kless, & Adler, 1992). Girls learn to perceive all the details of communication between people, appreciate and maintain good relations. From childhood, they are always concerned about how their behavior affects others. Girls’ games develop the ability to cooperate. Play-house or games with dolls are role-playing ones in which there is no element of competition (Tobin et al., 2011). In competitive games, such as classes, girls are improving personal qualities rather than group communication skills.
The boys are all the way around. They suppress a desire to identify with t mother, they have to restrain vigorously any manifestation of femininity (weakness, tears) – otherwise peers will tease them girlish. For a boy, to be a man means to be different from the mother, so they develop a sense of identity, cultivating a mind of their own unlikeness with anything female. They repel kindness, compassion, care and compliance. They do not give such great value to relationships with others. The only important thing is how they affect the final result. Boys’ games teach the entirely different type of behavior. In games, boys always present conflicting and in-competition beginning (Adler, Kless, & Adler, 1992). They understand the importance of proper conflict resolution and acquire skills to solve them. They learn to fight with opponents and play with them. In games, boys learn leadership and organizer skills. They learn to fight for the status in the male hierarchy. For boys, collective sports are essential.
Girls do not appreciate winning in the game because maintaining good relationships are more important than the approval of their own superiority. By improving communication skills, they learn to complement each other oblivious to the winners. In the group of girls, there is practically no ground for conflict, because they differ with uniformity, and the rules of the game themselves are so primitive that they are hard to break (Adler, Kless, & Adler, 1992).
Since boys and girls build relationships so differently, the relationships in groups of children are formed otherwise. For example, before a girl starts talking, she refers to what was said by the previous interviewee and expresses her quite different from the preceding opinion. Boys, undeterred, interrupt each other, trying to drown each other; girls fall silent, giving everyone a chance to speak (Tobin et al., 2011). Girls soften the guidance and involve friends in the process of communication. Boys just give out information and order to do so-and-so. Girls politely listen to each other and inserting from time to time friendly promotional comments. Boys are more likely to tease the speaker, interrupt each other and try to tell immediately their own stories, hoping to get the palm and refusing to take into account the requirements of the other. When there is a conflict, the girls try to soften it and agree, and boys are allowed to cause controversy by threats and physical violence. Boys operate effectively and successfully in groups, as exemplified by sports teams. In groups of boys, no one cares about the feelings of others; they are supported solely through the strict observance of the rules (Adler, Kless, & Adler, 1992). For both girls and boys the separation of concerns depending on gender is a time for self-determination in the role of standards and relationships.
However, this development includes appearance of the interest to the opposite sex, which manifests itself in some kind of courtship. All its originality is understandable when one considers that it is an attraction in a state of repulsion, sympathy in terms of sexual segregation. The boy must show the girl that he identified her among the other girls and draw her attention to him, while not causing condemnation of peers. The girl, in her turn, without causing condemnation of her peers, should respond to this. These tasks are internally contradictory via externally aggressive actions made by boys and defensive ones performed by girls. For boys, jerking girls’ hair is a traditional way to draw attention to them\. Such a courtship does not cause any serious conflicts between children. It differs from bullying that always happen in public and does not carry anger or desire to hurt, even when it looks rather cocky (Tobin et al., 2011). Girls often provoke boys on such demonstration of attention in every way making fun of boys. Girls’ complaints usually present shade of alerting others about manifestation of attention. The lack of it can cause the girl feeling of inferiority, unattractiveness.
When so different in the behavior boys and girls are together, the first one always manage to capture the championship. Girls are not passive in the group of the same age, but in a mixed group, they are always on the sidelines, allowing the boys to set the rules and play a major role. The boys of primary school age are already striving to assert themselves in the peer group, so they become less susceptible to polite requests and offers by girls. It is not surprising that girls do not like playing with the boys and avoid them. For boys, games mean something quite different from that for girls (Tobin et al., 2011). Girls learn to interact, develop and maintain good relations. Boys learn to act together, playing sports and competitive games that seek to achieve a leading position.
Features of behavior during the separation of concerns, depending on the sex of the adult, cause anxiety and a desire to encourage children to “order.” Parents and teachers should not interfere rudely the communication between boys and girls, as they may destroy the passage of comprehensive information by children at a natural stage of development.
Adolescents’ psychosexual development
The step of establishing sex-role behavior lasts for up to 12-13 years. During this period, under the influence of family and social environment the child spontaneously chooses a demeanor that best fits his needs and at the same time does not contradict social norms. After 12-13 years, directly during pubertal development, existing gender stereotypes and perceptions of gender roles begin to determine the style of a teenager’s life both in the present and future (Perry, & Pauletti, 2011). Therefore, already formed ideas about intersexual interactions largely determine the self-perception of a teenager, his relationships with peers of both sexes and the choice of future role.
Since girls outgrow boys in their development, they have very little common interests. Awakening interest to the opposite sex may disquiet them and frighten. In these circumstances, friendship with peers can acquire some sexual connotation. Sometimes unconscious hugs and touches turn into sexual caresses. Many girls in this period derive the first experience of lesbian love, some of the inherent tendency, some out of simple curiosity. Relationships with the girlfriend seem to be safer for them, innocent and no non-binding, in contrast to the relationships with a young man whose behavior and thoughts cannot be always understood by a young girl (Perry, & Pauletti, 2011). Most of the girls are heterosexual, which means experiencing sexual interest and attraction to the opposite sex. However, some of the teens who had same-sex sexual relations during adolescence, continue to support homosexual relationships as adults. Other communications are bisexual, i.e. have an interest to persons of both sexes.
At the same age such hidden until now physiological anomalies of psychosexual development exhibit as androgyny (true and false), transsexualism and transvestism can emerge. Very often the media, that are newspapers, magazines, TV, and society views on gender issues mislead the younger generation (Perry, & Pauletti, 2011). Development of gay sexual minorities that should exist in the developed human society is considered by the part of teens as a call for adherence. Teens’ sex propaganda from the pages of magazines and TV screens leads to the fact that heterosexual relationships are devoid of “forbidden fruit” halo, romance and thrill of first love; they get routine and standard plaque. Homosexual relations, on the contrary, become more valuable as a sign of some kind of “exclusivity” of belonging to “elite” society in eyes of a teenager. Often, a teen faces a choice of psychological gender, although its genetic, gonadal and civilian sex is well established and is the same.
Under such conditions, the basis for the formation of correct sexual behavior is the family. Parents should instill the pride in teenager and direct him/her to start a family. The task of parents is to explain to the child that the reason for any sexual relations can only be his desire (Perry, & Pauletti, 2011). After all, many women do not experience much sexual desire and irresistible attraction to her first sexual partner, and is solvable to this step under the influence of other factors having no direct relationships with sex (Tobin et al., 2010). Neither persuasions by young man, nor mocking of virginity (lately, quite frequent among adolescents), nor looking back at her friends have long been engaged in sex, should be the cause of the early beginning of sexual relations (Perry, & Pauletti, 2011). The concept of “love” completely forgotten by the media exists and can be explained and proved by example of loving parents. Moreover, of course, they and not the friends of the same age should enlighten him/her about the dangers of early sexual relations.
Children learn social norms and values in the process of imitation parents and identifying with them. The child is unconsciously guided by the example of parents trying to be the same as they take over the features of sex-role behavior of parents. With regard to parenting, there is a widespread belief that the mother in the family creates emotional climate, which largely influence the formation of spiritual well-being of the child, and the father plays a role in the normalization of the world of the child, in the formation of values, fundamental ethical values, and pictures of himself (Tobin et al., 2011). Father, for both boys and girls, promotes the self-adequate child, allowing them to better cope with the challenges of interpersonal communication than the children who are brought up without a father or his inadequate impact.
The division of people into men and women is a central installation itself and human perception of environment. In everyday discourse level, many are convinced that the psychological differences between men and women are associated with genetic, anatomical and physiological characteristics of male and female body. Biological differences are determined by socio-cultural context that determines which personal and behavioral characteristics at a given time and in a given society are expected from men, and which – from women, what characteristics are considered important to men and what – to women. Indeed, the way how the biological differences between the sexes are perceived is also determined by cultural factors.
The most common gender stereotypes are acquired in childhood due to the major institutions of socialization. The influence of parents is one of the main socializing factors as family for a child is the first his/her social world. Children observe the manner their parents express their feelings, fulfill desires of each other, communicate and build relationships with other people. This is the process of gender socialization. As a result, the child creates a model of what it means to be a man and a woman. Boys and girls reproduce the pattern of behavior of other men and women, repeating their difficulties and problems. Thus, in the process of socialization of the reproduction and development the gender culture community plays an important role.
Adler, P.A., Kless S.J., & Adler, P. (1992). Socialization to gender roles: Popularity among elementary school boys and girls. Sociology of Education, 65(3), 169-187.
The authors in this article deal with the problem of how children construct their gender roles depending on the environment. They reflect this question by focusing their observation on elementary school children and their tendencies to form a special group and high status achievement. In addition, they identify special skills and factors that indicate the child’s position in the elementary school society. The authors gathered information from three years and took different roles in order to investigate the child’ reaction on this or that adult individual. The participants were from the local schools and neighborhoods. The results of the investigation showed that girls’ popularity and high status among peers depends on the socioeconomic position of their parents and their social appearance. On the opposite, boys achieve their high status by their activities and skills. The study conducted by Adler, Kless and Adler is useful for the current research since it in details investigates the gender roles formation in children and its effect upon their further development.
Tobin et al., D. G., & Pauletti, R. E. (2011). Gender and adolescent development. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(1), 61-74.
The current research deals with the trends in gender roles formation in adolescent age. The authors point out that the adolescent development is a unique period of human life span and it requires a specific approach. Gender roles in teenage age are perceived more painfully. The authors researched the recent literature in order to identify which trends are now acute in investigation of gender role importance in adolescents as well as characteristic features of teenage sexuality perception formation. The authors identify several frequent theories used for adolescents’ gender role assessment and attributes that are reported most frequently by both sexes. Tobin et al. and Puletti represent a comprehensive research and evaluation of the trends in gender roles assessment and is a useful tool for further investigation for mechanisms and ways of gender cognition among adolescents. The article is crucial for psychosocial development in adolescents since it provides the base and fundamental perspective upon the issue.
Tobin, D. D., Menon, M., Menon, M., Spatta, B. C., Hodges, E. V., & Tobin et al., D. G. (2010). The intrapsychics of gender: A model of self-socialization. Psychological Review, 117(2), 601-622.
The authors here investigate most frequent theories and regarding gender cognition in childhood. They claim that at this age gender roles are distinguished only by the notion of sex and appropriate gender behavioral stereotypes taught by parents. The authors use Cognitive development theory, Gender scheme theory and multifactorial gender theory and construct the Gender Self-Socialization Model in order to understand their characteristic features. The current article is useful for assessing the child behavior in terms of gender and sex and the constructed model allows identifying the basic features influencing the psychosexual behavior of the youngest children cohort. In addition, the described Model allows assuming gender roles development when growing and developing further. In addition, the current research identifies the base for gender stereotypes formation. The current article is useful in terms of identifying the reasons this or that gender role formation in young children.
Adler, P. A., Kless S. J., & Adler, P. (1992). Socialization to gender roles: Popularity among elementary school boys and girls. Sociology of Education, 65(3), 169-187.
Perry, D. G., & Pauletti, R. E. (2011). Gender and adolescent development. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(1), 61-74.
Tobin, D. D., Menon, M., Menon, M., Spatta, B. C., Hodges, E. V., & Perry, D. G. (2010). The intrapsychics of gender: A model of self-socialization. Psychological Review, 117(2), 601-622.