This essay sample essay on Gender Roles In Western Society offers an extensive list of facts and arguments related to it. The essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and the conclusion are provided below.
In this piece of work the ideology of gender identity in western society will be discussed, the piece will draw on the theories of multiple sociologist and examine the role of gender inequality in society. The Work will briefly examine Gender Identity Disorder and its relevance to western society today.
The concept of identity is defined as “A sense of self that develops as a child differentiates from parents and family and takes place in society” (Jary & Jary,1991).
A person’s identity is what makes them whom they are and what groups they belong too. A person’s identity includes their ethnicity, nationality, sexuality class and gender. Our social identity is whom we are, whom we see other people are and respectively how other people see themselves and others.
To sociologist the concept of identity is paramount, a person’s identity can take many facets that are ever changing, and with these changes there can be many contradictions. Many sociologists believe that identities are not simply formed because of the social groups we belong too. Some theorists believe our identities to be fractured and fragmented. Our identities can be and often are extremely stereotypical, one such stereotype is that of gender.
“Gender is a term that has psychological and cultural connotations; if the proper terms for sex are ‘male’ and ‘female’, the corresponding terms for gender are ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’; these latter might be entirely independent of (biological) sex.
(Stoller, 1968, p.9)
To elaborate, it is not necessarily right to say that being female means they will be feminine and aversely being male does not make them masculine, girls are not necessarily compassionate or caring; boys are not necessarily competitive and aggressive.
There are many differences between men and women; many contrasting approaches have been developed for the understanding of gender identity and the social roles based on such diverse identities. A difference between sex and gender must be understood.
To clarify the difference between males and female sociologists use sex to show anatomical and physiological differentiation, by contrast gender concerns the social, cultural and psychological differences between men and women. Gender is socially constructed; a man is seen as masculine and women seen as feminine; these assumptions are not a direct link to a person’s reproductive biology.
Many theorists argue that many aspects of human biology ranging from hormones and chromosomes and even genetics; the size of the brain is in some way responsible for the innate differences in the behaviour of males and females in the development of identity.
If the definition of gender identity is to be either male or female, include inherited sex chromosomes at conception and the release of hormones during the foetal process can be used to determine the factors of gender identity. This is clearly simplistic and can be flawed. Genetics does not answer the question of how a person’s gender identity can change over time.
“Two of the leading theories to explain the formation of gender identities are concerned with the emotional dynamics between children and their caretakers, according to such views gender differences are formulated ‘unconsciously’ during the early years of life, rather than resulting from a biological disposition.”(Haralambos p.110)
Freud’s(1905) theory perhaps the most influential yet controversial suggests that gender is learnt and is the result of the absence or present of a penis; Freud is cautious when suggesting this and insists this is not just an anatomical distinction that matters; the penis is symbolic and divers to the person’s gender. Masculinity –v- Femininity.
Chodorows (1978, 1988) concepts of gender development adopted the strategy of Freud although argued that learning to be female or male derives from childhood and the development of attachment to the parents at an early age. It does not recognize the emphasis on the penis as the mother is the principal attachment in he early years this must be broken for the child to achieve a sense of a separate self. Chodorows has suggested that this breaking process is different for both boys and girls, girls remain closer to their mother and able to show emotion, love, hugging and kissing and imitating her mothers actions. Because there is no definite break the girl and later in life, women, develops a sense of self that continues with other people, and her identity is more dependent on others. Boys, on the other hand, have to develop their sense of self by a more drastic and radicle break, he must reject his mother in order to gain a sense of masculinity. As a result of this break, boys are less skilled in relating closely to others, this produce the man to have a more analytic view of the world and repress their own feelings and those of the world.
Gender inequality and the patriarchy system stand hand in hand, Walby (1990) said “patriarchy is indispensable for analysis of gender inequality “(Haralambos. P112)
In defining patriarchy, we can understand the treatment of women throughout ages and how it has moulded their success and future in life. Patriarchy not only explains how our society functions in the world as a whole and our modern western society but how it controls women.
Patriarchy is a control by men. The opposite of patriarchy is matriarchy this means women are dominant and the head of families. Obviously, the culture of Great Britain and most other countries is patriarchal. Men are dominant and have the power and control the women. Consider the basics of how our society functions !
Most women in western society have to fight for their rights and sometimes can be seen to struggle just to survive without the domination of men threatening them. Whether an individual woman wants to overcome patriarchy will come from her strong inherent desire to be independent.
Pollert (1996) commented that those sociologist who have rejected the concept of patriarchy have turned to postmodernism. Pollet does not agree with postmodernism. It has, in recent years become an influential approach to gender identity and sex.
Barret and Phillips (1992) suggest that because of dissatisfaction of general characteristics of traditional male dominated social science new feminisms have developed; i.e. Women have developed a range of new female identities. Feminists have always been doubtful of theories developed by men, although in the past socialist and liberal feminists have embraced aspects of male theories. The certainties of the Marxist, liberal and radical feminists developed in earlier decades are no longer uncritically accepted.
Harriot Bradley (1997) disagrees that neither postmodern or modern conceptions of identity are sufficient on their own. She comments “A key objective is to pull together classical or modernist approaches to understanding inequalities with he newer perspectives inspired by postmodernism and poststructuralism”. (Haralambos, p702). Bradley believes that in contemporary western society stratification systems and identities are becoming fragmented and polarised.
Stuart Hall (1992) theorised on three stages of identity, one of these stages was that of Enlightenment. The enlightenment theory recognises that each person’s identity is unique and that a person’s identity could not be broken down or made into something bigger. Halls ideology can be linked with that of Descartes (1596-1650). He believed that humans were divided into two parts; mind and body or a dualistic conception, everyone has a separate mind. Descartes said “Cogito ergu sum” I think therefore I am. This meant that a person was free to be as he felt without the boundaries of society or tradition.
Both postmodernists and feminists question Enlightenment thinking as they do not believe that male rationality is inadequate for understanding the western social world.
Ann Oakley (2002) has developed a global perspective on the impact of global gender inequalities. She suggests that patriarchy has an impact on the social world as a whole and not just in gender inequality, she draws her ideas from several types of feminism, she is decidedly dismissive of postmodernism. She believes that postmodernism wraps intellectuals in cotton wool and isolates them from critical social debates. Oakley denies that men are biologically born aggressive, and many men opposed to violence. She does not believe that one gender should be dominant but does suggest that the system of patriarchy should change within western society. Oakley has a structural view of society, and that believes that both men and women collude to maintain the gender/sex system, however the position of men and women in the system is not equal; men do have more power than women. Oakley agrees that significant steps have been taken in regards to women’s rights and that some forms of gender inequality are in decline in, western society, women are not restricted in education, property ownership or whom they can marry.
Gender socialisation assists in the understanding of studies of gender roles and how agencies such as family and the media play an inherent role in such socialization. This approach suggests a distinction between biological sex and social gender; a child is born with the first and develops the second by contact and interaction of social agencies. Children will internalise gradually to the expectations and social norms dependent on its biological sex.
Gender inequality is the result of males and females being socialized into certain roles. Campbell (1993) suggested a link in the changing role of men in western society. In the past, a young man was expected to be the bread winner, have a clear set of goals for life such as a legitimate job, a wife and a family. The role of bread winner is now under stress particularly for men in more under privileged areas, in these areas only long term unemployment is an option and the means to support a family are less likely. Women have become more independent and do not require the support of a man to reach a status in a wider society in the social western world.
In 1997, it was requested that the diagnosis of gender identity disorder was removed from the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health) because it “implicitly labels homosexual boys as mentally disordered” (Isay.1997)
Isays opinion was that the constructs of sexual orientation and gender identity are isomorphic. Many people with gender identity disorder became socially isolated, whether by choice or by ostracization, thus bringing on low
self-esteem, depression and suicide. Peer ostracism and teasing are remarkably common for boys with the disorder in the education system.
The requirements for Gender Identity Disorder (GID) to be diagnosed are exceedingly complex; the person must repeatedly state the insistence of wishing to be the opposite sex; refusal to wear stereotypical clothing; constant fantasies about being the opposite sex; the list is endless and no way exhaustible. The diagnosis of GID can take a minimum of two years.
The generation in which we live today accepts boys whom openly dress up in clothes normally associated with girls. In an interview by fox news (2011) Dr Keith Ablow cautioned parents on allowing their children to watch transgender Chaz Bono on ‘Dancing with the stars’ for fear that their children would be influenced to swap gender. If the word of such people was adhered to the subject of gender identity would make it a flimsy susceptible construct, the choice between a rare steak and a fairy cake. This shows that, in some cases gender identity is not understood or accepted in western society by all.
In conclusion, the gender identity of a person is a direct result of gender role socialisation, unlike a person’s sex which is biological. There are many differences between men and women; many contrasting approaches have been developed for the understanding of gender identity and the social roles based on such diverse identities.
The enlightenment theory recognises that each person’s identity is unique and that a person’s identity could not be broken down or made into something bigger. Most women in western society have to fight for their rights and sometimes can be seen to struggle just to survive without the domination of men threatening them. Whether an individual woman wants to overcome patriarchy will come from her strong inherent desire to be independent. Patriarchy not only explains how our society functions in the world as a whole and our modern western society but how it controls women. Walby (1990) said “patriarchy is indispensable for analysis of gender inequality.”