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Gender Roles In Society: A Look At Masculinity And Femininity

1110 words - 4 pages

"The Dangers of Femininity" by Lucy Gilbert and Paula Webster discusses gender roles in society, and Messages Men Hear: Constructing Masculinities by Ian Harris discusses specifically the gender roles of men. According to Gilbert and Webster, "the two-gender system mandates masculine and feminine beings who are unequal, giving one set social power and the other none." (41) These masculine and feminine qualities are not just determined by sex. They are defined by the certain characteristics that a person exhibits. These characteristics are shaped by the culture of a society. Males and females are encouraged to behave by these codes. Harris has a similar argument. Harris proposes, "gender role messages set standards for appropriate male behavior."( 12) These messages are a set of codes that are given by family members at a young age. These messages possesses, " ways of thinking, feeling, and reacting that form the basis for his world view" (Harris, 17).Gilbert and Webster argue that society pressures both genders to behave a certain way and that this established system is in favor of males, but Harris argues that this system can also have a negative impact on males.Although both "The Dangers of Femininity" and Messages Men Hear: Constructing Masculinities discuss the cultural influence of gender roles, they have some conflicting arguments on how society specifically forms male behaviors. Gilbert and Webster generalize male gender role as "The Real Man". The real man "exhibits all the traits of a strong and self assured person by being rational, competitive, proud, self-protecting, physically powerful, and sexually attractive" (42). Harris, however, is more specific about male gender role. He classifies gender role in 24 messages and mentions that there are many other messages men receive as well. Some of these messages are considered classic because they have been established by society for many generations, but there are emerging messages that have appeared in society more recently. Harris mentions that these new messages are not popular with culture (17). These emerging messages do not conform to Gilbert and Webster's definition of "The Real Man". Some examples of these gender roles are labeled as Good Samaritan who does good deeds and acts, nature lover who respects plants, and nurturer who is gentle and sensitive. They do not agree with being proud, self-protecting, and physically powerful as is "The Real Man". The classic gender roles, however, can agree with the definition of "The Real Man". These classic messages are defined as the Playboy who is sexually aggressive, the President who seeks power, and the Sportsman who is physically strong (13). Gilbert and Webster generalize the gender role for males, but Harris claims that there are many forms of this gender role that is accepted by society and some gender roles that are less favored, and these gender roles are vastly different.Although Harris, Gilbert, and Webster disagree on the way...

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