Knowing Your Role:
The Challenges of Gender Stereotyping and Nonconformity
John Mayer won a Grammy award for Song of the Year in 2005 for a song entitled “Daughters.” The song is essentially telling fathers to rear their daughters in a way that will be beneficial to their future relationships with men. As someone that once wanted to be a songwriter, I can appreciate this from an aesthetic perspective. It’s very organic in it’s composition; however, one of the primary messages of this song can be interpreted as girls are fragile emotionally and are unable to cope with anything but a good relationship with their fathers or it could spell doom for other men that may come into her life. At the heart of this lies a well-known stereotype that precludes a conundrum of sorts. If parents, particularly fathers, enforce the belief that the daughters are very emotionally sensitive, what message does this send to sons? Are they any less important? And what about females that grow up and become attracted to other females? These questions only produce more questions about the state of gender in modern American society. As children, we tend to build up prototypes and schemas of ideas prior to actually knowing what they mean. That is to say, before deciding what is right and what is wrong we try to find out what is right in other people’s opinions. We consider that we behave in a right way when we behave the same way as others. The strong influence of gender norms on our behavior can be explained by the combination of informational pressure and normative pressure (). On the one hand gender stereotypes, like all other stereotypes, serve as tools simplify our life and reduce the amount of stressful unknowns. In our childhood we discover this and learn to follow them without thinking and without making any effort to change them. But on the other hand gender stereotypes limit the development may serve to limit human personality growth and lead to social intolerance (). Gender-role development is one of the most important areas of human development. In fact, the sex of a newborn sets the agenda for a whole array of developmental experiences that will influence the person throughout his or her life. The study of the development of gender is a topic that is inherently controversial and interesting to parents, students, researchers, and scholars for several reasons. First and foremost, one's sex is one of the most evident characteristics that is presented to other people. Second, whether a person is described as male or female becomes a meaningful part of one's general character; it is one of the primary descriptors people use about themselves. Labeling oneself as a "boy" or "girl" can begin as early as age eighteen months (Beale, 1994). Third, gender is an important mediator of human experiences and the way in which individuals interact with each other and the physical environment. A person’s choices of friends, toys, classes taken in grade school, and occupation all are influenced by sex (Maccoby, 1998). Finally, the study of sex, gender development, and sex differences becomes the focal point of an age-old controversy that has influenced the field of developmental psychology: the nature-nurture controversy. Within this scope, questions pertaining to the biological impact of gender roles and sex differences, as well as the effects of society, and how they interact and influence each other are asked and answered. If one begins to decipher the academic perspective of gender-role development, the definitions of the terms "sex" and "gender" need to be understood. Referring to the nature-nurture controversy, scholars have found it critical to differentiate those features of males and females that can be credited to biology and those that can be credited to social influences. The term "sex" denotes the actual physical makeup of individuals that define them as male or female. Sex is determined by multiple items that include genetic makeup, internal...
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