- Do the roles of men and women vary among cultures?
- What determines gender characteristics?
- Are effects of gender on one’s personality driven by physiology, culture or are they learned?
Many stereotypes infest our perception of gender differences. In many cultures such as American, men are described as dominating, aggressive, task oriented and they exhibit higher sexual drive than women. Women on the other hand have been stereotyped as delicate, home-centred and interested in love. There are more than a few exceptions to these stereotypes. The reality is very different and that is why we should be vary of pseudoscience, distortions and deletions that are used to justify these generalizations.
Culture is a set a common behaviour and we are exposed to in the ecosystem we live in. This shapes our sexual behaviour and personality. Culture tends to subtly reward and criticize certain behaviours. Men and women, boys and girls attend to different systems and models of behaviours. Mass media too contributes to the classical conditioning that takes shape in the early years. Boys playing with guns and cars and girls in pink frocks often appear in commercials, in books and cartoons and this contributes to the sense of “expected” social behaviour in children.
Many research studies on gender diversity have overthrown age old stereotypes about the nature of men and the nature of women. Many generalisations about masculinity and femininity have been debunked. While, there are significant differences, physiologically, between men and women, it is also suggested that there are as many if not more differences among women and among men than between men and women.
Gender differences have had a significant impact on the way we communicate and exercise influence on our environment. Gender stereotypes have had a negative effect, especially for women, in the way they are perceived as managers, leaders and employees at workplace. Many research studies (such as Mason, 1994) have shown that there seems to be a difference between the purpose of communication between men and women.
Women tend to communicate to build connections and nurture relationships while men tend to use communication to exert dominance and assert their point of view. This also stems from the difference in social objectives of the two genders as pointed out by Miller in 1976. Women tend to strive for social interactions and men for driving their independence. Together, these tendencies result in women being more expressive, they value cooperation and have a more communal orientation whereas men tend to assert themselves, establish dominance and focus on outcomes from every conversation (Maltz & Borker, 1982).
Based on the immediate surroundings and role models in early childhood, both men and women may develop varying degrees of masculinity and femininity in the classical sense. Because of the social pressure and social roles played by men, they often develop traits that are backed by physiological predispositions – like developing high order visual skills, sexual drive and a dominating nature. On the other hand, women may develop, based on the social roles, social exposure and their surroundings, and backed by genetic predispositions, high order verbal skills and a nurturing nature.
Overall, it is good to realize that our perception of gender differences is driven by stereotypes, false assumptions, distortions and deletions. While there is a physiological difference between men and women, it is social context that results in the formation personality or behavioural style of an individual. This includes social roles and social demands on an individual.