Gender Norms

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"Gender" is a term that can be used to categorize the different roles of men and women, as determined by the society in which they live. Gender refers to psychological characteristics and social categories that human culture creates about being male or female.

A gender role is a set of social and behavioral norms that, within a specific culture, are widely considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific gender. Proponents of gender role theory assert that observed gender differences in behavior and personality characteristics are, at least in part, socially constructed (the Similarities Perspective), and therefore, the product of socialization experiences; this contrasts with other models of gender that assert that gender differences are "essential" to biological sex. Research supports this theory, finding gender differences in almost all societies, but with differences in the norms adopted, suggesting that gender differences are, at least partly, influenced by culture (Maitlin, 2008).

According to the concept of doing gender, we express our gender when we interact with other people; we also perceive gender in these other people. For example, you provide gender messages to other people by your appearance, your tone of voice, and your conversational style. At the same time, you perceive the gender of your conversational parnter, and you are likely to respond differently to a male than to a female (Maitlin, 2008).

Some examples of gender role norms are men pay for a dinner/date, so it would be a gender role violation if the woman paid; women wear make-up, so, it would be a gender role violation if a man wore make up; women do the cooking and cleaning in the home, so, it would be a gender role violation if a man did the cooking and cleaning; men do household repairs like plumbing, so, it would be a gender role violation if a woman did such household chores; women wear heels, so it would be a gender role violation if a man put on heels.

I am female, and now that I am taking this class, I see how my personality, values, expectations and daily activities conform to so many female gender roles, in ways that had never occurred to me. For example, I wear fitted clothes, heels, and makeup, and I always wear my hair long. I also do a lot of cooking and cleaning at home.

In class, we learned that physical attractiveness is very important for women. Also, the textbook talks about how physical attractiveness is more important for women than for men. For example, in Chapter 3 of the book on Infacy and Childhood, the author discusses research findings where less attractive preschool girls were more likely to be hit, pushed, and kicked, whereas the cutest girls rarely received this treatment, but attractiveness was not related to aggression directed toward boys. Also, in Chapter 8 of the book on Love Relationships, we learn that for men, physical attractiveness is the third most important characteristic when they are seeking a marriage partner, and that attractiveness and slimness are especially important when men are judging women (Maitlin, 2008).

To boost attractiveness, women wear fitted clothes to flatter their figure, make-up to enhance their beauty, diet, exercise, etcetera. I decided to violate some of these gender norms.

For this project, I decided to do something I've never done - cross-dressing. I acted like a tom-boy for a day: I put on clothes that would typically be considered “guy's clothing”. I dressed in some boxers, baggy jeans, an over-sized white teeshirt, an over-sized hooded sweatshirt, and a hat with some sneakers, and I did not wear any form of make-up, or jewelry. I walked in a more masculine way, and sat down so that I would occupy more space, by sitting with my legs open, instead of crossing my legs, as I usually do.

In dressing like a tom-boy, I was very sure to disguise myself in such a way that people would barely recognize me. I did this because I...
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