Gender is a complicated term that defines the inter-relationship between three individual components. These are; an individual’s sex, one’s internal sense as female, male, both or neither and one’s behaviours and outward expression related to that perception, encompassing their gender role. A combination of the three interactions produces an individual’s sense of gender, both in how others perceive one’s gender as w ell as how individuals experience their gender. It is, therefore, incorrect to use gender and sex interchangeably.
On the other hand gender, roles define the activities, self-presentation methods and behaviours that individuals should engage in depending on their sex as stipulated by cultural norms. Gender roles may vary from culture to culture and in the same way may be interrelated in some aspects. In some instances, gender roles can be seen as an expression of sexuality, that is, male or female and in other cases, gender roles can be perceived as a social oppression. It is unclear as to what extent should gender roles control gender occupation and whether some occupations are genetically determined.
Gender roles and gender differences
Gender behaviours are not only influenced by biological factors but also sociological and psychological factors. Gender behaviours are significantly determined during children’s development stage through the process of identification and cognitive, social learning. The most significant way through which children acquire values, beliefs, motives and behaviours regarded as appropriate for females or males is known as gender typing. Since children in their developmental stages learn much through observation, they acquire gender identification early in life and later influence their gender role preferences.
There are differences and similarities across cultures in the standards of desirable gender-role behaviour. Female are expected to be more supportive, passive and sensitive whereas men are expected to be assertive, competitive and independent. The standards gender-role behaviour varies considerably depending on education, age, occupation and education. Some of the gender differences that stipulate gender roles across cultures may be real but most of them are just mythical. Although there are many differences between girls and boys right from birth, it is crucial to remember that the overlap among the differences is always higher that the differences among them.
Effects of gender roles
Raising children in a society bounded by strong and rigid roles about what should be perceived as feminine or masculine can be harmful to both their physical and mental health. Many people view gender as a natural phenomena but it is constructed and according to the way it is constructed it may pose a significant health risks to both children and teenagers.