What are gender roles?

What are gender roles?

Examples of Female and Male Gender Roles in the United States

A gender role refers to the social or theoretical construct of acceptable behavioral practices for a specific sex. Much debate surrounds the origin of gender roles with many researchers believing these roles evolved from physical differences overtime such as men being generally stronger than women, lending men to becoming fighters or hunters. This thinking has merit but is not universal to all cultures. More importantly, this type of thinking breeds assumptions and bias often resulting in gender role stereotypes. Thinking of biological sex as binary with assumptions about male and female biological sex lack critical thinking since intersex individuals (people who share both male and female sex organ characteristics) and exist. Beyond anatomy, gender is not a purely biological factor evidenced by cases in which children underwent unsuccessful sexual reassignment that caused catastrophic results. The cause of such procedures to “normalize” children results from a polarized belief in gender roles and the need to fill these roles. In reality, people are not born with gender roles. Gender roles are purely a product of socialization and culture.

There are many different gender role examples. For females, gender roles often pertain to occupation, intelligence, skills, interests, and even physical appearance, and these roles carry expectations limiting to individual opportunity and performance. Women’s gender roles include such beliefs as women should be teachers, women should be stay-at-home mothers, girls play with dolls, or girls are not good at math. Women are also lumped into the gender role of acting and looking like women, manifesting as the expectation to be thin and petite.

Men also have gender roles. Some of these roles include: becoming a police officer, being good at math, boys play sports, or men should be managers. These roles also extend to the way that men appear and act such as expectations to be masculine and muscular. Men are also expected to act in a masculine way such as being tough or not crying. These roles can have both negative and positive consequences. In a superficial manner, gender roles give people a role in society as an example of a mother or father and add cohesion to society; however, this benefit does not necessitate becoming a father or mother as seen in the many LGBT parents today. In many ways, traditional gender roles are limiting.

Gender roles shift and they can change as well as our views and beliefs in these roles. Key to understanding gender roles is their fluency and nonbinary form. While there is nothing wrong with having a gender role of a mother or father, those who chose to live outside these roles are not wrong either.


Article Updated: 9/27/2021


Triola Vincent. Tue, Mar 02, 2021. What are gender roles? Retrieved from

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