Virginia Woolf once asked, “Why are women... so much more interesting to men than men are to women? ” Did she ask the right question or is it the other way around like most men actually think? In the modern day of this age, the world is immersed in complicated relationships that shape the very roles each person portrays. In the midst of it all, some assumptions are made turning society into a blur with respect to the very ideas that define gender roles. The world has changed. People who want to have something said will ask a man.
On the other hand, people who want something done will ask a woman. Therefore, allow me to state that the social factors that shape gender roles give far more influence than that of the cultural and biological ones. In society, gender roles are related largely to the set of acceptable standards in society. These standards define what is to be a female and what it is to be a male. Generally, the focus of how to understand gender roles is mostly dependent on the social, biological and cultural factors seen in every society.
According to Reiter, “this is due to the fact that gender is an essential part of the gender or sex system. Every society and community holds a gender or sex system in which its characteristics will mostly be different in all aspects” (Reiter, 1975). Thus, for every country, nation or culture, there are certain social, biological and cultural influences only relevant and limited to that time and place. There are so many ways and guidelines which influence gender roles.
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A large chunk of the social influence is about the interactions and relationships people have with one another. A person’s family, friends, peers or community are the models and critiques a person has to follow or copy in order to fit in. There are “proper” ways in which a man or a woman have to act with his family, friends, peers and community. Those people who cannot live up to these standards are labelled as outcasts or weirdoes. Moreover, television shows and films are society’s perfect role models of how they must act as a man and as a woman.
The acting in shows and movies are transformed into the very roles each person plays with regard to their own genders. The essential point to why the social factor is the most influential is because of the need of every person to be accepted by the people around that person and the society where he or she lives in. The biological and cultural factors are not as influential as the social factor. First of all, the truth is that the sex in which a person is actually born does not directly determine his or her abilities or roles.
The proponents of the biological factor say that, “The biological influence proposes that the differences with respect to gender roles are rooted from the differences in the body. There was even an extensive research in the late 1980’s to prove the connections between biology and gender roles” (Connell, 1987). However, the studies have not concluded anything. When a person is born, there is no exact way of determining how she or he will be in the future. Lastly, the cultural aspect of gender roles explains that ideas of the proper behaviour in relation to gender vary among time and place.
An individual processes information and regulate their behavior based on whatever definitions of femininity and masculinity their culture provides” (Bem, 354 - 367). But culture and tradition can be easily altered or changed. People are becoming more aware each day of their unbounded potential and abilities. As people strive to become better and more successful, they will not allow themselves to be limited by culture or tradition. In essence, everything really influences gender roles whether in a miniscule or gargantuan level.
The quintessential point is that first, culture or tradition can be broken and set aside without having far reaching consequences. Moreover, biological influences on gender roles can be overcome by simply seeing that people are not limited to their genetically inherited make up. And most importantly, the social factor gives the most considerable influence simply because it is but natural for any human being to socialize, interact and find a place where he or she can fit.
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