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Gender has greatly shaped social relationship roles. Gender refers to the condition of being either male or female that makes people assume distinct roles. Moreover, the differences in gender are used to classify people in their different social roles in respect to their sexuality. For instance, in a society where men are required to be more dominant, boys are taught how to acquire masculinity at an early stage that prepares them to assume that position at a later stage in life. On the other hand, a woman is taught to be feminine. This implies that there is distinct manifestation of biological differences in both male and female. This is simply because they are naturally expected to assume different social roles throughout their life.
Influence of Gender on Social Relationships Roles
Gender highly influences the type of social roles that one undertakes. Sometimes, masculinity and femininity are developed in response to the definition of power arrangement within the society. People are compelled to accept their condition and the type of social roles that one should take by the existing social norms. In some instances, gender differences are developed in response to social discrimination within a given society (Connell, 1987). Notably, their development and justification are inevitably defined by the authority on which they are based. Nevertheless, gender differences have, in most cases, led to social inequality as people try to take advantage of one another. Traditionally, men were required to run big businesses, while women stayed at home. The roles of both male and female are reinforced and perpetuated by the socially agreed customs. A psychological mechanism is eventually developed to ensure that the behaviors of both genders do not transgress one another (Evans, 1989). Moreover, gender roles should not go beyond the limits in which they are established. In order to avoid any form of transgressions, each society tries as much as possible to define their gender roles that are absolute, eternal as well as unchangeable. Every member of that particular society is required to follow them. Any deviance is liable to punishment as one is deemed to be against the entire society, as well as against the rules of nature (Butler, 1990). Therefore, although there are differences in gender roles, they are required to complement each other. In the past, women were not allowed to wear men’s clothes in most societies. It was deemed as violation of the set gender roles, as one was defined by the clothes he or she wore. Virtually, clothes were used to characterize the differences within both sexes.
Gender roles have for centuries experienced rigorous social reinforcement. It is worthy to note that some gender roles do not come naturally as some tend to think. Most gender roles are articulated by a particular society. Nevertheless, the proponents of social inequality argue that gender roles were established as a result of nature. On the contrary, it is evident that social inequality has been practiced for a long time, despite the constant effort to create equal chances for both genders. Moreover, women are deemed to be less superior, compared to their male counterparts (Connell, 1987). On the other hand, gender roles are also influenced by human desires and capacities. Indeed, social roles are not only influenced by external factors but also by parental guidance, existing laws that are enforced within a given society and peer pressure. Internally, gender roles are influenced by values and concepts that help in determination of self image of every individual.
Gender roles also entail social expectations of both men and women in terms of their duties among other cultural practices. Therefore, gender roles are connected to economic activities as a means of earning income, reproduction and sexuality. However, there has been a complete configuration of these gender roles over time (Evans, 1989). Some argue that changes in gender roles have given women more autonomy as they are now accessible to more opportunities, as well as increasingly becoming free from any masculine domination. Cultures that prevented women from owning property or having a business have been scrapped off. Although there are fundamental differences between societies in terms of the gender roles, the fact is that all roles are integrated in some ways. Therefore, they are socially related as they are performed for the benefit of both sexes.
Changes in Gender Roles
Gender roles are made up of several elements. These include: clothing, personal relations, behaviors and the type of work that one does. However, these elements have changed over time. This is highly characterized by the fact that women now wear male’s cloths, such as trousers. Traditionally, there were strictly established gender roles that one was supposed to follow. Over time, various gender roles have emerged and that have been endorsed by most societies. Everyone has his or her identity based on a certain social group, which enables one to adopt a given gender role depending on the culture of that society (Hausman, 1995). Some of the changes include the following: firstly, metro sexual adopts female’s grooming habits (Connell, 1987). This implies that men are able to develop same emotional responses as well as other behaviors associated with females. Another change involves the androgyny which involves the display of female behaviors. For example, it is argued that male behaviors in the West have changed since the 1950s. Majority argue that these changing gender roles rebel against the traditions, as they eventually form different roles (Sterling, 1985). Homosexuality also marks another change that has characterized the recent decades. This concept has become increasingly accepted. In this case, people argue that gender roles are not determined by sexuality, since all homosexuals assume gender role. Most homosexuals find it hard to abide by traditional gender roles. However, they have distinct economic roles despite the fact their sexuality may be viewed to be the same.
In some countries, especially in the West, traditional gender roles have become more irrelevant. Both men and women can do the same work since both genders are becoming increasingly equal. Women are taking roles that were traditionally reserved only for men. Moreover, women have moved a notch higher to adopt men’s fashions as well as behaviors. This has increased pressure on men as they try to become more muscular. For instance, there are newly developed male fashions that are restricting women from adopting them (Bornstein, 1994). On the other hand, women’s fashions have become wider as they have even incorporated men’s fashions. This has threatened the social relationship that exists between males and females, especially in the contemporary societies (Sterling, 1985). For example, during the Vietnam War, men were letting their hair grow to lengths that were previously reserved only for women, whereas women begun to cut their hair short. This signified the changing social roles.
Some men and women develop different biological sex, since they feel that traditional gender relationships are too restrictive. Hence, they develop a desire that forces them to adopt a role that meets their needs. On the other hand, a woman who takes an initiative in sexual intercourse is normally feared by most men. This is because women were traditional viewed to be sexually passive (Evans, 1989). Moreover, men fear losing their masculinity, as well becoming sexually dysfunctional as a result of female domination in sexual matters. Sometimes, men who are gentle and passive may be considered as being pervasive and are sometimes regarded as being less the “real” men (Butler, 1990).
In heterosexual relationship, most people believe that a male has to be active while a female has to be passive. This has ruined many relationships, especially when a woman becomes more sexually active than a man. Due to this notion, some homosexuals end up modeling their behaviors where one becomes a man while the other one becomes a female (Hausman, 1995). Nevertheless, this is a false assumption as women are not always sexually passive and men are not naturally sexually active. Notably, in some cultures, sex partners can take reversed roles. In this case, females are supposed to be sexually active, while males less active.
In the past, women were economically dependent on men. However, with the changing gender roles, women are becoming more independent as they have their own means of earning income to support their families (Bornstein, 1994). Moreover, women were denied ownership or inheritance of land. This was a plan to ensure that they completely depended on their male counterparts. Indeed, cultures have also been revolutionized as people accept new values that define who they are and what they can do. On the other hand, education has contributed to the changes in gender roles. Unlike in the past, both boys and girls are given equal chances to acquire education. Indeed, there are females who have excelled in life more than their men (Hausman, 1995). As a result, they have higher income than their husbands. This sometimes leads to reversed gender roles. In such instances, some women become more aggressive, forcing their husbands to take feminine roles, especially the household chores, willingly or forcefully. This has given the relationship in gender roles a totally new face (Butler, 1990). Indeed, no specific role is strictly reserved for any gender today.
The twentieth century has seen great expansion of the women`s rights. This has led to creation of more opportunities for women, creating a sense of equality between both genders (Evans, 1989). In addition, women are in a position to have control of their sexuality, which was not the case in the past. Therefore, through family planning and birth control, women are able to control the number of children they want in order to balance between their career and family matters. Consecutively, this has increased women’s freedom and the expectations that they have regarding their sexuality (Bornstein, 1994). New standards have also been advanced as some women even prefer to stay single as they are economically stable. Some feminists argue that women are able to control the sexual access by men.
The influence of gender on social relationship roles is also evident in the fact that women are able to integrate most of their roles that involve motherhood, work as well as sexuality. In the past, women were totally submissive to the authority of their husbands. This resulted from the enactment of women’s property rights in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century when women were accorded rights to own their income as well as the right of guardianship of their children upon divorce. This totally changed social relationship roles as females had obtained the right to express their views concerning family matters (Hausman, 1995). Gender roles are also evident in the public affairs, such as in the political arena where women have risen to high political offices. They have held more moral authority due to the right of participation in public affairs. This has shaped gender roles, as women have even became heads of states (Butler, 1990). As a result, the perception dominant in the past that women are inferior to men has now been proved wrong, as women have become great achievers around the globe.
Social equality is facilitated by the fact that both male and female play different roles without discriminating one another. Therefore, gender differences in most cases complement each other. They greatly enrich our cultures. Nevertheless, this can only be achieved when we understand that gender differences do not imply that one is inferior to the other one. Thus, no one is superior to the other one. Although we play different roles, we are all equal. The advocates of equal rights for men and women should focus on establishing a society that creates a favorable living environment and coexistence where no one is exploited based on gender. Virtually, there is no definite rule about human sexuality. It depends on the stereotypes that people have developed over time in their culture. Moreover, it depends on the attitudes that people have regarding the roles of both sexes and how people should carry them. Despite the gender differences, social roles should be based on moral understanding that men and women are naturally equal.