We are all familiar with those situations. Situations were we suddenly change our way of acting and become very aware of our sex. These are situations, where we are playing our gender roles. We, ladies, go out to a bar and all we have to do is blink our beautiful eyes and throw our hair back and we get free drinks whole night! Or we smile our best smile at the bus driver when we, ones again, forgot our bus key. We play our gender roles all the time and we are taking advantage of it! We are playing our gender roles without really thinking about what we are doing.
We just act and it feels like a totally naturally thing to do. It might be interesting to think about it for a second and wonder where we learned all those ideas about gender. It all seems to appear naturally, but maybe it isn’t that natural after all. Social sciences have been researching this subject for years now. A lot of them agree that we live a life that is structured by the social world. They feel that gender roles are forces by us and the challenge us to think about anything without relating it to gender (Connell, 2009).
Of course you cannot deny that there are biological differences between men and women, but, according to the sciences, that does not automatically explain the differences in gender roles and the inequalities that we are dealing with nowadays. We are creating those roles ourselves and they are just an illusion. It is a hard challenge to go out and see the world without any gender perspective. It is simply impossible to do that. Everywhere you go, everything you see and every conversation you have it is all defined by gender (Connell, 2009).
But having gender everywhere doesn’t have to be a bad thing. We are forces into our social roles, but we often select our gendered path our self (Risman, 2004). Whether you agree or not, it might be interesting to think about how gender infects our lives and how it influences our behavior. Sacha is the first respondent I interviewed. She is a young female, of 19 years old. She grew up in a very loving family with both her parents, happily married and her two sisters, so the only male in the family was her father.
Her parents played the gender roles perfectly, as her father was going out to work every morning. He was playing the instrumental role, while she stayed home and took care of the children and played her expressive role. When she grew up, Sacha noticed that her father was very protective over her and her sisters. He always insisted in picking her up from local pubs and work and there was no way that he would let her bike home alone after dark. She always had to let her parents know where she hung out and she always founds that really annoying.
Especially when she realizes that the reason why was, because she is a girl. Her male friends, which she had a lot, had a lot more freedom at the time to do whatever they wanted to do and she felt limited in her freedom. They taught her from childhood to be careful and responsible, because young girls or women are very vulnerable. She realizes more and more that it is truth, and that you have to be careful in certain situations, but she still hates the idea, that the reason why is, because she is a girl.
Sacha sees men and women as totally different sexes, but she is not convinced that gender is a natural difference. There are a lot of different views about this subject and Jackson and Rees (2007) are mentioning the evolutionary psychology theory in their article. In this theory sexuality and gender are seen as the basis of human behavior and gender is seen as a natural fact. Those ideas are quite similar to the ideas of my second respondent, Sylvester. Sylvester is 50 year old male, happily married and he has three daughters.
He grew up in a very religious catholic family with 9 brothers and sisters. He got married when he was 23 and he and his wife also painted the perfect picture. She took care of the children, while he was out working. From his perspective, that is a totally normal and logic situation. There was no doubt that, in his opinion, men and women are naturally different. He is referring back to the time of hunters and gatherers, were is was normal for men to go out hunting and make sure there was enough to eat, while the women took care of the children and cooked the food.
From his perspective who we are as humans, has everything to do with how natures works and how animals live. There is no other way where you can see gender roles appearing so clear. My male respondent sees nature as the perfect example to explain that the differences between sexes are not just created by people, but it shows us who we are. In the world we live in today, it is nearly impossible not to play by the gender roles, whether you like it or not.
Even though my respondents have different views about gender, both my respondents agree that gender roles are definitely influenced by the social world were we all in participate. We create our own social world and play it by the rules, as people expect us to. And when it really comes to it, neither one of my respondents see the gender differences as a necessarily bad thing as long as men and women are seen as equal, with equal rights and changes. And playing our gender roles can be a lot of fun and it can have a positive effect on us. And think about it, would you want to live without it?