- April 15, 2020
Sex, Gender and Culture
Sex,Gender and Culture
Sex,Gender and Culture
Sexrefers to the physiological features that differentiate female andmale bodies (Oakley,2015).Thus, a sexual category is usually assigned based on the externalgenitalia after birth or by use of ultrasound before a baby is born.Additionally, sex is defined by primary and secondary sexual features(Oakley,2015).The primary characteristics are determined by the genital systemwhile secondary attributes are not related to the reproductivesystem, but rather appear during puberty to portray sex-relatedtraits (Oakley,2015).Biologically, sex is shaped by several factors such as hormones,gonads, chromosomes, genitalia, and the reproductive anatomy.Alternatively, gender refers to the behaviors, attitudes, andfeelings that various cultures associate with biological sex.
Sexroles are the biologically determined tasks while gender roles areculturally assigned duties for men and women (Gross,Downing & D`heurle, 2012).Communities expect male and female to act, feel, look, and think in acertain way according to their gender and sex roles. For instance,most societies expect women to perform chores such as cooking,cleaning, and child-rearing while men are supposed to be breadwinnersand protect the rest of the family members. Unlike thebiologically-defined physical differences, gender roles areformulated and maintained by the society (Gross,Downing & D`heurle, 2012).Thus, they vary among different communities and are dependent on thereligion, traditions, and laws in a particular people. Consequently,these duties are usually passed down from parent to their children.In most cases, the younger people observe how older members of theirsex act thus, they follow suit once they become adults (Gross,Downing & D`heurle, 2012).However, gender roles have changed over time due to thetransformations experienced in communities based on various factorssuch as technological, political, and economic advancements. Incontemporary cultures, gender roles have become less rigid, and womenand men can perform the same tasks to promote prosperity (Gross,Downing & D`heurle, 2012).
Thenagain, gender identity is not biologically or culturally determinebecause it is established through a deep-felt sense of being eitherfemale or male. Nonetheless, some individuals consider themselvesneutral because they do not fit into either male or female gender(Palerm,2013).Today, some people change their gender to the one they can easilyidentify with or the one that suits them much better (Kornblum,2011).According to research, Biological and social factors are consideredone of the determinants of sexual identity (Kornblum,2011).Accordingly, the genetic makeup and hormone levels may contribute toan individual choice of sex identity. Besides, the ideas conveyed byfamily members, friends, colleagues, and mass media also contributeto the formation of a gender identity. For example, children areencouraged to imitate the actions of adults in their sexual category(Kornblum,2011).
Culturehas a major function in the formation of sex roles as well as genderidentity. Social norms set the rules on what is “normal behavior”for the males and females in the community (Kornblum,2011).Therefore, some actions are not culturally acceptable for men andwomen. Gender normative behavior is defined by the culturalexpectations of society, which are based on sexual characteristics.On the contrary, gender non-conformity describes the activities thatare incompatible with cultural expectations (Fuller,2013).For instance, in many communities, males are supposed to beaggressive, independent, competitive, and less sensitive than theirfemale counterparts (Kornblum,2011).In contrast, women are expected to be warm, compassionate, andemotional. Thus, a man who exhibits characteristics associated withfemales or a woman who behaves in a similar manner as males areusually considered different and sometimes isolated by other peoplein their gender depending onthe level of non-conformity(Hemmings, 2013).For example, even in modern society, men are expected to bemasculine thus, by men exhibiting feminine traits is more likely toface stigma, particularly from their male peers.
Overthe centuries, the formation of constructs of masculinity andfemininity have always been defined through the interactions of thesexes, particularly how they have treated and viewed each other.Societies also determine sex categories through cultural meaningsattached to women and men roles (Fuller,2013).Additionally, the laws allowed men to take leadership positions inthe political system while women were never in contention or lockedout completely. Throughout history, gender relation has evolved andchanged the relationships between men and women (Palerm,2013).However, men have always enjoyed more freedom, greater pay, andsuperior positions in the community. Alternatively, femininity hasalways been set as the inferior sex in almost every culture in theworld (Palerm,2013).Thus, females have always lacked the cultural power that has beenwielded by men over the years.
Throughouthistory, the society has always been structurally organized using thepatriarchal system. The men have been considered to be the head ofthe house with women being the helpers (Fuller,2013).Females were not allowed to learn since knowledge was solelyconsidered for men. For example, girls were only taught how to sew,cook, and take care of children (Oakley,2015).Hence, all the other jobs were considered “masculine” and out ofbounds for women. For example, women would not participate inpolitical processes or vie for leadership positions. Nevertheless,the society started to change by allowing women to vote and gave themsome freedom to choose their mode of dressing (Gross,Downing & D`heurle, 2012).Even so, most jobs were still considered unfeminine, and the onlyjobs that were available for females were as teachers and nurses. Thesociety still requires women to be homemakers while the men pursuetheir professional careers to support their family financially(Hemmings, 2013). Traditional masculinity required men to be thebreadwinners in the family unit while the women stayed at home totake care of the children. In some societies, men endured painfulrites of passage to prove their masculinity (Oakley,2015).Furthermore, they did not exhibit feminine characteristics because itwould lead to their manliness being questioned.
Onthe contrary, modern masculinity and femininity is more complicatedand cannot be easily stereotyped. Currently, the gender roles havebeen redefined, and women have an opportunity to challenge thetraditional views of femininity (Hemmings, 2013). Thewomen’s rights movement has also contributed of the fight forgender equality, which has resulted in some concessions from thepro-male society.Forexample, women are vying for political positions in the community andundertaking educational paths and jobs that were initially reservedfor the men (Oakley,2015). Somecultures have moved from a subsistence way of life to a moreorganized society, which has tried to promote equality between menand female, but the two sexes cannot be considered totally equal.Women also have the freedom to dress as they like without the fear ofbeing labeled “unfeminine” (Hall, 2014). Although femininity isnot as narrowly defined as it was in the past, some communities havenot considered awarding women the same opportunities as their malecounterparts. Additionally, the rise of the “metrosexual” man hasdefied the traditional norms and duties, which were primarilydetermined by sex. These men take great pride in their physicalappearance and spend a lot of time and money to make sure that theyare well groomed, which was traditionally reserved for women (Hall,2014). Therefore, gender identity is changing as people are morewilling to embrace their personalities whether it conforms to thesocially assigned behaviors or not.
Presently,the traditional duties and norms have been redefined as women and mentake up different responsibilities without putting much considerationinto gender (Palerm,2013).Currently, women are also working top progress their careers andbecome the primary family providers (Hemmings, 2013). Furthermore,some men are also taking part in the raising of children, and theysee no problem in spending time in the kitchen. Besides, althoughsociety still expects men to be “masculine” although they nolonger restrict them from expressing their feelings and emotions(Palerm,2013).However, society remains traditional because they still requirepeople to carry out their traditional roles despite the changesexperienced in the present-day world (Hall, 2014). For example, womenare expected to perform the house chores even if they have formalemployment. Men are also considered superior to the women even whenthey are not the breadwinners (Fuller,2013).Therefore, there is much to be done before the communities can startassigning roles based on experience and skill instead of relying ongender.
Thenagain, the media has significantly defined how the society views sexroles because it has propagated stereotypes where femininity andmasculinity are involved. According to Kornblum(2011), themedia shows that all societies are stratified by gender because maleand female actors are always depicted according to their culturallyconditioned characteristics. For example, commercials promotestereotypes in the press as they assign roles based on gender(Dill-Shackleford, 2013). Women are the ones who mostly appear onadvertisements involving household items since it is traditional dutyto make daily purchases. Moreover, the females are mainly portrayedin a home environment thus, promoting the stereotypes of women ashomemakers (Shyama & Shraddha, 2012). For example, the Clorox2commercial conforms to the gender stereotypes that women arehomemakers as it shows several female actors undertaking anexperiment involving house chores. On the other hand, men are usedwhen advertising cigarettes, cars, investments, and businessproducts. This is in line with the stereotype that men have higherstatus and more power thus, they are supposed to pursue professionalcareers and be the breadwinners in the family (Dill-Shackleford,2013).
Furthermore,the media presents successful man as professional, athletic, andpopular with women, which upholds the stereotypical notion of thetraditional masculine qualities of a “real man” (Hall, 2014).Moreover, heterosexuality is strongly fused and pressurized inupholding traditional notions of manhood. Male children are mostlyshown participating in sports while their female equals are mainlydepicted playing with dolls or helping their mothers with householdchores (Dill-Shackleford, 2013). The movie industry also portrayswomen as sex objects whose sole purpose is to service the men in thefilms. In contrast, men are shown as the epitome of machismo,aggression, emotional detachment, and violence (Gallagher, 2013). Forexample, in the Twilightseries, the main female character is referred to as weak and helplesshuman who is surrounded by powerful and dominant male figures.Therefore, the media plays a critical role in promoting gender dutiesand norms have been defined by the traditional cultures because theyhave a platform to reach many people. Accordingly, there is muchprogress needed before the communities can start assigning rolesbased on experience or skills instead of relying on sexual identity(Hemmings, 2013).
Inconclusion, sex is defined by physiological characteristics whilegender refers to the behaviors and attitudes associated with males orfemales. Gender identity is determined by biological and socialfactors where people learn to behave and associate with theirperceived sexual category. The gender roles are defined by the socialnorms and practices, which require men and women to act according totheir assigned responsibilities. Hence, masculine and feminineidentity is formed through the interactions between males and femalesin the community and the constructs that society imposes due tocultural influences on the notions of gender. In a conventionalsociety, females were assigned homemakers duties while males wereconsidered the providers. The men were also expected to beaggressive, competitive, dominating, and repress their feelings whilewomen were warm, compassionate, and emotional. However, these tasksand behaviors have significantly changed as women are increasinglyinvolved in duties that were traditionally considered masculine.Today, men are also engaging in household activities as some of themhave taken up the task of taking care of their children while thewomen are involved in full-time employment. Nonetheless, the mediahas also promoted stereotypes that uphold the traditional genderroles. Most commercials portray women as homemakers while men aredepicted undertaking “masculine” tasks. Thus, in most cases, menare considered superior to women despite the changes and advancementsaccomplished in the modern society due to the entrenched structuralsexism that still exists up to date. Besides, some cultures stillmaintain the notion people should carry out roles depending on theirgender-defined duties, which offers a foundation for promoting malesuperiority. Consequently, most cultures have a long way to go beforeeveryone can be considered equal and assigned responsibilitiesdepending on his or her capabilities despite their sexual category ortraditionally-assigned duties.
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Fuller,K. (2013). Gender,identity, and educational leadership.London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Gallagher,M. (2013). Masculinity in Film. OxfordBibliographies.DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0048
Gross,I., Downing, J., & D`heurle, A. (2012). SexRole Attitudes and Cultural Change.Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
Hall,M. (2014). Metrosexual Masculinities. Basingstoke, UK: PalgraveMacmillan.
Hemmings,C. (2013). Telling feminist stories. FeministTheory, 6(2),115-139.
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