Are Gender Roles Natural?

Topics: Gender, Male, Female Pages: 2 (412 words) Published: April 20, 2014
Sociologists argue that the expectations we have of males and females are not based on any natural, biological differences between them, but, are the result of the different upbringing in different cultures.

In ‘Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies’, Margaret Mead describes three New Guinea tribes: The Arapesh, The Mundugumor and the Tchambuli. Among the Arapesh, the ideal male adult has a gentle, passive and cherishing nature and resembles the feminine type in our culture. In relationship between the sexes, including the sexual, the Arapesh recognize no temperamental differences between the men and the women. The main work of both adult men and women is child bearing and rearing-they call sexual intercourse ‘work’ as the objective is to get the woman pregnant. The verb ‘to give birth’ is used for both of the sexes. Mead observes that if one comments on a middle aged man as good looking, the people answer ‘Good looking? Yes. But you should have seen him before he gave birth to all those children!’

Amongst the Mundugumor, the opposite of the Arapesh holds true, where both the sexes follow the idea of the ‘masculine’ pattern. The women are as forceful and vigorous as the men, thus, they detest bearing and rearing children, and, the men in turn detest pregnancy amongst their wives. Both sexes are reared to be independent and hostile, and, the boys and the girls have similar personalities.

In the third tribe, the Tchambuli, there was a great difference between the sexes. The males showed what we would say are ‘female’ characteristics and the women showed ‘masculine’ characteristics. Women are self-assertive, practical and manage all the affairs of the households. Men are skittish, wary of each other, interested in art, in the theatre, and, in a thousand petty bits of insults and gossip. The men wear lovely ornaments and the women shave their heads and are unadorned. The men do the shopping, and, they carve, paint and dance as well.

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