Outline and evaluate the effect of cultural influences on gender roles

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Outline and evaluate the effect of cultural influences on gender roles (24)

Differences in gender roles, identities and practices have been found across many different cultures throughout the world. Gender is affected by culture in various ways. One aspect of gender roles, which can be argued to be culturally dependent, is the division of labour amongst different gender types. Division of labour refers to the work, tasks, and behaviours, which are traditionally assigned to men and women. Children are socialised into recognizing what is a stereotypically ‘masculine’ role and what is a ‘feminine’ role. For example, in western cultures, stereotypically roles such as being a builder or a policeman are predominantly male gender roles, whereas other careers such as nursing and dancing are seen as predominantly female gender roles. Therefore gendered labour division shows how culture defines our gender roles. There are also 3rd and 4th genders in cultures such as South America and Thailand, for example the Thai Kathoeys have male genetalia but dress in women’s clothing, and are considered a third gender. They are not men wanting to be women, nor are they “trapped” inside a mans body, like western transsexuals sometimes describe themselves. The Kathoeys take pride in their male genetalia and do not wish to be accepted as women.  This shows that gender is a culturally specific phenomenon, as in the western world we have only male and female genders, however in other cultures this is not the case.  Cultural researchers must be careful not to establish an imposed etic when conducting fieldwork. Cultural relativism is regarding the beliefs, values and practices of a culture from the viewpoint of that culture itself, and using research methods, which are applicable to researchers own cultures, can lead to the data being ethnocentric. Conclusions drawn from research should ensure as far as possible that ethnocentricity and imposed etic is minimised as far as possible.

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Mead (1935) conducted a study on social groups in Papua New Guinea, providing evidence of cultural role differences and thus supporting the theory. She found that one tribe was gentle, responsive and cooperative, regardless of their gender. In another tribe, men and women were violent and aggressive and valued power and social position highly. By contrast, a third tribe showed gender role differences, the women were dominant, impersonal and managerial whereas the men were emotionally dependent. Mead’s study supports the influence of culture on gender roles as it shows that gender roles clearly vary depending on the culture in which ...

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