Assignment 5.1: Gender Theories
Many people might not be aware of various gender theories. In most cases, we often relate sex to gender. However, psychoanalytic feminist Nancy Chodorow tries to explain the difference between sex and gender. Nancy describes sex as the biological difference between males and females, and gender as the role or personality differences in both males and females. Most gender theories suggest that maleness and femaleness are considered a collection of commonly created features that influence existence of humankind (Lips, 2017). In the modern world, there are numerous contradicting definitions on gender. For instance, there are academics who believe in gender perspective that holds that social difference between men and woman are outcomes of oppressive stereotypes. To them, social difference affects the choice of women and men, and therefore, it should be eliminated. There are those who hold the view that families and societies play a vital role in construction and analysis of gender theories or studies.
Gender theories and Social History
The advent of discourse on gender in history came from the position of working-women in the society. In the past, females were discriminated upon and treated as prostitutes and homemakers (Reinharz, 2018). Women were less valued workers while men were more valued. This was in respect to job opportunities in agriculture, cottage industries, leadership, and office work. In changing this position, women in teaching profession who taught in cities were not to marry or get married as they underwent further training to fit well for the teaching job. Consequently, this highlights the position culture has played as a significant component of gender theories when it comes to alignment of work, leisure, and rituals performance.
In developing countries, especially those facing economic and financial shortages, there is high susceptibility of gender discrimination on women, whether in education or within the society. For instance, traditional culture in most African countries discriminate against women by preferring to educate male children over female children (Gunnarsson, Martínez Dy & van Ingen, 2018). The belief is that educating a girl child is useless and of no benefit since most jobs and occupations are designed for men. Girls in such societies are seen as a source of wealth and are expected to learn from their mothers how to cook and take care of their families when they get married to wealthy men in the society.
Presently, in most countries and states, women hold voting rights and have occupied elected political seats in more than thirty countries (Robinson & Richardson, 2015). Changes have also been witnessed in job opportunities, where women have taken up jobs that were previously associated with men. Education too has also seen some improvement, with the present situation in United States showing women as the majority in learning institutions. Deeper discourses on cultures’ position on gender have since emerged as well in most societies. However, despite these gains, there still exist gaps and disparities in both the education sector and in some professions.
Types of Gender Theories
Several theorists have contributed to the development of gender theories, and they emerge from different disciplines such as philosophy, anthropology, and in some activities such as psychoanalysis. The theories on gender that exist are post basic gender theories, schema theory and queer theory. Anthropology produced the first gender theory when it discussed gender roles in research on World War I. In philosophy, literary source of gender theory was first introduced by a French philosopher, Simon De Beauvoir, in his novel The Second Sex. In his book, women acted according to what men thought of them.
The theory of Gender schema was introduced as a cognitive theory by Sandra Bem (Canevello, 2017). It aimed at explaining how individuals are grouped into gender by society, and how sex characters are maintained and inherited from generation to generation. According to Sandra Bem, gender-associated information is transmitted by schemata way in society. Bem argues that the difference in degree in holding the gender schemata is affected by sex type of individuals. On queer theories, they were heavily influenced by the work of Leo Bersani, Lee Edelman, Lauren Berlant, and Judith Butler. Queer theory addresses matters related to gay and lesbian views (Coates, 2018). It identifies any sexual activities that are considered normal, natural, or unnatural behaviour
Gender stereotype in the family system and Society
Most parents believe on equal treatment of children despite their gender differences. However, under some circumstances, parents may inadvertently reinforce gender stereotype in handling of boys and girls. This is often shown in choosing different toys, books, course, television shows, and friends for children based on their gender. The ability of parents to prevent gender stereotype duties and identities is highly important for infants at their early stage of growth and development (Our Watch, 2018). Children learn about values, behaviours, skills, and attitude from their surrounding environment at a tender age. Support of rigid gender stereotypes can hinder kid’s progress and negatively shape their career choice, ability to process emotions, and future relationships.
Gender stereotype is also witnessed in societies in treatment of expectant mothers. During baby showers colours such as pink and blue are used to reveal the child’s gender as either a female and male respectively. Some communities express happiness when the newborn is a boy and vice versa when it is a girl. Family friends and members of the extended family may even mock the parents if the new born is a girl and make comments on how difficult it is to raise a girl (Our Watch, 2018). This type of environment creates a challenge for parents to let their children freely choose what interest them without being affected by what people say. The society needs to encourage parents and guardians to form and structure children’s environments that are free of gender inequalities for they are their first primary source of information and education. There is need for parents and guardians to give children freedom to be themselves and choose what they would want to be in future (Hankivsky & Mussell, 2018). Recent surveys have shown that parents of young girls are very comfortable when their children are engaging in masculine games, whereas parents to male children are not so pleased with their kids playing girls games. There is an effect of most parents challenging stereotypes advanced by cultures, and are enabling their children, specifically, girls, to be whom they want to be.
Through gender theories, it is possible to change current stories that affect both men and women in the society. In contemporary society, most cases have been reported about gender violence in all media platforms. Both governments and the media can play an essential role in addressing gender violence activities, particularly for women gender since they are more negatively impacted by both traditional and cultural stereotypes. Most factors that cause gender inequalities are the same factors that lead to women violence as revealed by both national and international research surveys. In addressing the damaging gender stereotypes that drive violence against women, there is a necessity that non-governmental organizations, governments, the community, and the family unit, all work in cooperation.
- Canevello, A. (2017). Gender Schema Theory. Encyclopaedia of Personality and Individual Differences, 1-3.
- Coates, K. (2018). Queer Theory: The French Response by Bruno Perreau. QED: A Journal in GLBTQ World making, 5(1), 155-157.
- Gunnarsson, L., Martínez Dy, A., & van Ingen, M. (2018). Gender, Feminism and Critical Realism: Exchanges, Challenges, Synergies. Routledge.
- Hankivsky, O., & Mussell, L. (2018). Gender-Based Analysis Plus in Canada: Problems and Possibilities of Integrating Intersectionality. Canadian Public Policy, 44(4), 303-316.
- Lips, H. M. (2017). Sex and gender: An introduction. Waveland Press.
- Our Watch (2018). Challenging gender stereotypes in the early years: the power of parents. Melbourne, Australia:
- Reinharz, S. (2018). Friends or foes: Gerontological and feminist theory. In The other within us (pp. 73-94). Routledge.
- Robinson, V., & Richardson, D. (Eds.). (2015). Introducing gender and women’s studies. Macmillan International Higher Education.