Gender roles

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Gender roles refer to the roles held by men and women in society. While cultures worldwide have had disparate conceptions of gender roles, in the American and Catholic traditions, the roles are those of men as breadwinners and women as homemakers.

The concept of gender roles is often associated with modern feminism and with their belief that said gender roles are merely "social constructs", rather than real and essential differences between masculine and feminine traits.

Choice as a Factor of Modern Gender Roles

Moderate feminists fight the idea that gender roles should be forced on women, either by those who seek to force women to be homemakers, or by those who seek to force women to choose careers. Therefore, modern feminists embrace the precept of choice, that women should be able to choose whether to be a homemaker, or a career professional.

This accommodates the view of some feminists, who view homemaking as a restrictive waste of time, and also upholds the beliefs of other women, who believe that homemaking is one of the most challenging and rewarding pursuits, and many women are happier caring for their homes and children than pursuing a career, contrary to feminist positions. Thus, the major point of the moderate feminist approach to gender roles is that the woman be able to choose her role with freedom, and without pressure from friend or institution.

Different Feminist Perspectives

Since feminism is less a single idea, than an umbrella term for a number of belief systems which exalt women as (at least) the equals of men, feminists can and often do diverge as to the value, or existence of gender roles. Some feminists are openly hostile to men. Others - the majority - are not.

Moderate or Mainstream Feminist Quotes

Modern moderate feminists, or early feminists who later came to define the mainstream, tend to view feminism as a larger field, embracing choice and opportunity rather than restrictive anti-motherhood or anti-professionalism beliefs. Elaine Heffner is a key example.

Women do not have to sacrifice personhood if they are mothers. They do not have to sacrifice motherhood in order to be persons. Liberation was meant to expand women's opportunities, not to limit them. The self-esteem that has been found in new pursuits can also be found in mothering. -- Elaine Heffner
Does feminist mean large unpleasant person who'll shout at you, or someone who believes women are human beings? To me it's the latter, so I sign up. -- Margaret Atwood
A feminist is a woman who does not allow anyone to think in her place. -- Michele Le Doeuff
I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat. -- Rebecca West

Radical Feminist Quotes

The early feminist Simone de Beauvoir sought to stop women from being housewives, whether they wanted to or not. She wrote:

[W]oman's work within the home [is] not directly useful to society, produces nothing. [The housewife] is subordinate, secondary, parasitic. It is for their common welfare that the situation must be altered by prohibiting marriage as a 'career' for woman." - The Second Sex, 1949. [1]

Complementarian Christian Perspective

It is important to note that God created men and women equal but different. People are chosen by God to fulfill his purposes according to their talents.[1]

God declared in Genesis 2:18, "It is not good for the man to be alone."[2] God created men and women to work together to accomplish what neither could do on their own.

Sociology Perspective

According to some writers,[Who says?] gender may be understood more as a cultural concept and a complex set of learned behaviors that is contingent not only on culture, but also on history. Gender roles and expectations are always in flux and vary from one society to another and one time to another. Thus, the qualities and behaviors expected of women by a particular society at a particular historical time is called femininity; masculinity is what is expected of men in a particular cultural and historical setting.

Gender and homosexuality

  • “Gender nonconformity in childhood may be the single most common observable factor associated with homosexuality.” [2]
  • Sexual orientation is assumed to be shaped and reshaped by a cascade of choices made in the context of changing circumstances in one’s life and enormous social and cultural pressures.” [ibid]

See Also


  1. Understanding the Times (Summit Ministries, Manitou Springs, Colorado 2006)