Sex-Role Stereotyping

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In any culture, ideas of masculinity and femininity influence societal expectations. While these expectations are not inescapable, the new generation takes its cues from older generations, and thus, any change in them is slow. Few would argue that some differences do exist between men and women. However, are these differences significant enough to perpetuate male and female stereotypes? More importantly, do such stereotypes serve any benefit to an individual or culture? Jeanne Humphrey Block, author of Conceptions of Sex Role- Some Cross Cultural and Longitudinal Perspectives, uses the term “sex role” to describe the set of characteristics that define and differentiate men and women. This role is a “synthesis of biological and cultural forces as they are mediated by cognitive and ego functions.” (Block, p2) Perception of one’s sex role plays an important part in how an individual behaves and sees him/herself. Block uses Loevenger’s Milestones of Ego Development to identify the stage at which gender identity occurs. She suggests that sex role development begins with the Conformity stage, where the child first begins to be concerned with external social cues and rules. Periods following the conformity stage, Conscientious, Autonomous and Integrated, are influenced by the child’s initial exposure to gender characteristics and differences. Analysis of parenting styles indicates several differences in how boys and girls are typically raised. For example, parents put more pressure on school-aged boys to achieve and expect less from girls. Girls are expected to be nurturing while boys are directed towards self-reliance. (Block, p7) Reasons for these differences can be traced back to primitive society where men were hunters... ... middle of paper ... ...s of stereotyping on the basis of race, religion, age and gender. Why should sex-role stereotyping remain? Clearly, not everyone in our society develops according to their gender schema. With so many variations of “maleness” and “femaleness”, I, like Bem, question the validity of gender schema. Such schemas appear meaningless in modern culture and are essentially self-perpetuating fables. Works Cited Males and Females -- Do psychologists and certain personality theories hold stereotypic views of men and women? Do non-trivial differences in personality exist between men and women? If so, how do these differences develop? Block, J.H. (1976) Conceptions of sex role: Some cross-cultural and longitudinal perspectives. American Psychologist, 28, 512-526. Bem, S.L. (1981) Gender schema theory: A cognitive account of sex- typing. Psychological Review, 88, 354-364
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