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Gender Roles And Media

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Tara Smith

WRT 102.86

5/01/05

Zucker

Gender Roles

Over the years as I have grown up I have made many observations about the differences between men and women. Men differ from women in attitude, physical make up, and biologically. Women tend to be more nurturing than men. Men have a physical body that permits them to gain muscle more easily so that they can do physical labor with more ease. Women's body are designed for bearing and nurturing a child. There is also the biological differences between men and women. Men are born with male genitalia and produce sperm. Women are born with female genitalia and are able to bear a child.

Men and women have different specified gender roles. According to Anne Bolin, in her book "Perspectives on Human Sexuality": "Gender roles, sometimes referred to as a script or scripting is the internalization and acting out of culturally defined male or female behavior, affect, and attitudes" (144). In other words, gender roles are the different characteristics in a man and a woman. Along with Anne Bolin's description of gender roles, is the idea the gender behavior is more informed by biology than by culture.

There is much speculation about the origin of gender roles. Some people believe that they have been formed by society over time; and that people are coaxed into the certain roles of their gender. However, there is another argument that gender roles have, over time, become

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internalized in people. People are born with the natural instinct to be drawn to different things related to their gender. For example, boys will be drawn to play with toy trucks. Whereas girls will want to play with make-up and Barbie dolls. Males and females are just born with the internal knowledge that they should be either more masculine or more feminine.

By examining the issue that gender roles are an internalized behavior, I can open a door that has been closed shut. Years ago, women were expected to be home makers and look after the children, while the men worked and were expected to provide for the family. We can start to look at why men and women are treated differently. Maybe now we can stop blaming society for the injustices against men and women and start to see that there may be more than one alternative as to why men and women act a certain way and why they take on certain responsibilities. For as long as I can remember women have always believed that they are being oppressed by men. I believed that women were treated differently than men and that this was a great injustice against women - especially after everything women have fought for. For example, equal voting rights as men, the choice to have an abortion or not, even making sure that they were paid the same as me. Maybe this is not the case; its just women's natural instinct to be more feminine and to take on these different roles and not an injustice against them.

Linda L. Lindsey wrote a book called "Gender Roles: A Sociological Perspective" where she discusses how gender roles are biologically linked within people. "More specifically, some sociobiologists believe that the principles of evolution will allow for a greater understanding of how our social behaviors develop" (Lindsey 30). In her book she discusses how ever since the pre-historic days men were the providers and women cooked food and cared for the children. She also discusses how gender roles have become internalized because of evolution. Lindsey 105065258 Page 3

quotes Symens who contends that it is biology which dictates that there are extraordinary differences between male and female human nature. Contemporary gender roles thus reflect this evolutionary heritage (Lindsey 31).

Gender and sex are easy to get confused. According to Webster's Dictionary gender is

defined as "the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one's sex." The definition for sex is "either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as female or male, genitalia (Webster's dictionary). Sex is biological, anatomical; gender is sociocultural. Basically the difference between gender and sex is that gender is the behavior acted out by either sex; sex is based on the genitalia a person is born with.

Recently, Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers got into some hot water when he made at speech at an economics conference. According to The Harvard Crimson Online, he said that the under- representation of female scientists at elite universities may be because of "innate" differences between men and women. Early in his speech, Summers noted that women remain under represented in the upper tiers of academic and professional life - in part, he said, because many women with young children are unable or unwilling to put in the 80- hour work weeks needed to succeed in those fields. Summers suggested that behavioral genetics could explain this

(thecrimson.com). This caused an uproarious response from women and men alike. Women felt as if Summers was blaming them for their non- advancement in the professional fields of math and science. It seems as if Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers took women a step back in social evolution and placed a stereotypical gender role on them.

There are many variables when investigating gender roles. For example what about

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homosexual people and transgender people? What are they taking the opposite gender roles? When discussing gender roles one must also include discussions around queerness, otherwise gender debates get aligned with heterosexually accepted assumptions. There is much speculation in this "gray area" of the debates on gender roles. People become scared when they see

something they cannot grasp or explain, so they label it taboo, and cast it out of society. Today many more people are coming out and saying that they are homosexuals, or believe that they were born with the wrong gender. In Marla Morris's article "Queer life and social culture: troubling genders," she says: "During the 1950s and 1960s, when the medical community could not figure out what to do with "incorrect" gender roles and incorrect sexual anatomies (hermaphrodites), they invented the term "gender identity disorder" or more precisely GID."

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