Sexual identity and gender stereotyping
Culture is a body of common beliefs, traditions, values and principles which are shared by members of a particular group. A culture helps to determine the behaviors, attitudes and expectations of its people. Every society or community has some traditions, beliefs and customs regarding either gender.
Most of this expectations are based on the sexual identity of one being either male or female which emanate from their different roles in human reproduction and variations in their physical characteristics. Cultural views on sexual identity comprises of beliefs, expectations and constraints of what men or women are supposed to do or not to do.
Sexual identity refers to the level or degree to which we identify ourselves as male or female depending on various social, cultural and biological aspects . Our culture has various ways of distinguishing between the two major sexual identities. As a result, the expectations and constraints imposed on a woman are different from those imposed on the males. The fact that women give birth and lactate exposes them to certain constraints in their motherly roles in the society. For instance, our culture tends to view females as receptive and the males as intrusive in their respective sexual behaviors.
Though such constraints are presumed to be less pervasive in the society today due to the fact that our culture is evolving into a modern social structure away from the hunter-gatherer kind of socio-economic life it used to be, the distinction between the two sexes still remains quite pervasive in terms of behavior, roles and interests . Many sociologists have traced the origin of such differences to the different cultural norms put forward by our culture to the society. Since birth, boys and girls become accustomed to different cultural standards either consciously or unconsciously which reflect their respective roles later in life.
For instance, girls tend to take up the role of mothers and caretakers in the family while boys are taught to be the heads of the family as the bread-winners and protectors. The differentiation between male and female behaviors is a matter which is deeper than the concept of contextual relativism in the culture. Apart from behaviors, roles and expectations based on sexual identity, our culture has led to the evolution of some gender stereotypes which are associated with a particular sex whether male or female . The spread of such classical stereotypes in the media particularly dominates the society today.
Both print and electronic media clearly indicate the different cultural standards of men and women in the society together with their varying capabilities based on their sexual identities. Until recently, the media has depicted the female gender as a weaker sex in terms of the roles, professions and the society expectations as compared to the male gender. However, the continued calls for gender equality has led to certain media portraits which show that women are as capable as their male counterparts thus removing the long held constraints and stereotypes imposed by our culture on women which tend to undermine their professional capabilities.
Houston stresses on four major gender stereotypes. She puts them across as; men are afraid of commitments, men are bound to say or do anything in order to prevent their partners from discovering that they are cheating on them, women concentrate too much on what men say or do and finally, a woman can use any available strategy to keep a man. Such gender stereotypes she adds, are the source of certain phrases like ‘just like women’, ‘men are dogs’ and so forth which tend to associate men and women with certain behaviors and not others.
As a young woman, all these cultural views have shaped my behavior and my self-understanding as such in various ways. For a young person to understand his or her sexual identity, it is vital to solve the tension caused by numerous cultural values between ‘who i am’ and ‘what how the society views or expects of me’. As a woman, the culture expects me to be submissive and to behave as so especially when dealing with the male gender. Moreover, our culture expects women not to show their interest towards men as they are said to be the ‘hunters’ and women the ‘hunted ‘.
Such cultural values expect women to suppress their feelings and behave in a particular manner in matters concerning their sexual orientation and identity in the society. All these cultural views have shaped my personal behavior as a woman and my view on the whole concept of sexual identity. Due to the numerous gender stereotypes, behaviors, expectations and constraints imposed on the different sexes, there arises some tension between religious and societal values.
Our culture which views women as second to men has consequently put some cultural restrictions which burr women from top positions in the religious matters and other societal issues. However, some cultural values tend to be in consistency with religious value in that in both cases, women especially those who are married are expected to act in a submissive way when dealing with their husbands. It can thus be said that, the environment and the cultural background in which one is brought up largely influences his or her future relationships with the opposite sex and other people in the society.
Many gender stereotypes have adverse effects on future relationships especially for the young people who wish to establish stable and strong foundations for their future family lives. For instance, the stereotype that all men promoted by our culture are polygamous or unfaithful can have detrimental the women’s ability to trust men hence the increased number of divorces in the modern society . From a theological point of view, marriage is seen as a vocation, covenant, sacrament, communion and a lasting partnership . However, this views are exposed to various interpretations especially in the cultural context of the modern society.