A PERSONAL VIEW OF GENDER NORMS

WHAT ARE NORMS?

  1. Norms are regarded as collective representations of acceptable group conduct as well as individual perceptions of particular group conduct. They can be viewed as cultural products (including values, customs, and traditions) which represent individuals’ basic knowledge of what others do and think that they should do.
  2. Norms are vital determinants of social stratification as they reflect and reproduce relations that empower some groups of people with material resources, authority, and entitlements while marginalizing and subordinating others by normalizing shame, inequality, indifference or invisibility. It is important to note that these norms reflect and reproduce underlying gendered relations of power, and that is fundamentally what makes them difficult to alter or transform.                         (Sen et al., 2007: 28)
  3. The term norm or behavioral norm can be used simply to mean a common practice, what most people do in a particular context. For example, most people in a given community use umbrellas or raincoats if its raining.

TYPES OF NORMS

According to Wikipedia, the following are the types of norms:

  • Descriptive versus injunctive
  • Prescriptive and proscriptive
  • Subjective
  1. DESCRIPTIVE VERSUS INJUNCTIVE -Descriptive norms depict what happens (what people actually do), while injunctive norms describe what should happen (what people believe they and others are supposed to do). Cialdini, Reno, and Kallgren (1990) define a descriptive norm as people’s perceptions of what is commonly done in specific situations; it signifies what most people do, without assigning judgment. [The absence of trash on the ground in a parking lot, for example, transmits the descriptive norm that most people there do not litter] An Injunctive norm, on the other hand, transmits group approval about a particular behaviour; it dictates how an individual should behave. [Watching another person pick up trash off the ground and throw it out, a group member may pick up on the injunctive norm that he ought to not litter.]
  2. PRESCRIPTIVE AND PROSCRIPTIVE – Prescriptive norms are unwritten rules that are understood and followed by society and indicate what we should do. Expressing gratitude or writing a Thank You card when someone gives you a gift represents a prescriptive norm in American culture. Proscriptive norms, in contrast, comprise the other end of the same spectrum; they are similarly society’s unwritten rules about what one should not do.[37] These norms can vary between cultures; while an acceptable greeting in some European countries, kissing a stranger on the cheek constitutes a proscriptive norm in the United States.
  3. SUBJECTIVE – Subjective norm is determined by beliefs about the extent to which important others want them to perform a behaviour. Social influences are conceptualized in terms of the pressure that people perceive from important others to perform, or not to perform, a behaviour. Gender stereotypes and roles can also be supported implicitly. Implicit stereotypes are the unconscious influence of attitudes a person may or may not be aware that they hold. A person is influenced by these attitudes even though they are not aware. Gender stereotypes can also be held in this manner.

WHAT IS GENDER

  1. Refer to the social differences between males and females.
  2. Socially constructed set of roles and responsibilities associated with being girl and boy or women and men.

WHAT ARE GENDER NORMS?

Here are the definition of gender norms from various research

  1. Gender norms are social norms that relate specifically to gender differences. In this series we use the term gender norms to refer to informal rules and shared social expectations that distinguish expected behavior on the basis of gender. For example, a common gender norm is that women and girls will and should do the majority of domestic work, early marriage or female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C).
  2. A “gender norm” is a behavior or attribute that society attributes to a particular sex.
  3. Gender norms define what society considers male and female behavior, and it leads to the formation of gender roles, which are the roles males and females are expected to take in society.

EVALUATION OF GENDER NORMS (CULTURAL AND HISTORY VIEW)

Gender norms change from culture to culture and throughout history, since they’re based on the expectations of societies that are consistently evolving. Anything society attributes to a particular gender can be considered a gender norm. In my research am able to evaluate gender norms using two factors as stated as follows:

  • using colour designated to a particular sex
  • type of work designated to a particular sex
  1. USING COLOUR DESIGNATED TO A PARTICULAR SEX – This is what gender norms has cause- Why the colour is blue designated for boys and pink for girls?  .  Concepts in terms of the colors boys and girls typically wear are gender norms; people usually consider pink to be a girl’s color, while blue is for boys. Until the turn of the 20th century, pink was a color reserved for male children and blue was assigned to girls showing that gender norms change over time. The color choices have to do with cultural gender norms. These gender norms have changed significantly over the years and continue to evolve.

  2. TYPE OF WORK DESIGNATED TO A PARTICULAR SEX – Gender norms in the past have been deciding factors in the type of work someone can do. For example most women didn’t work and were expected to take care of the family from the home while men farmed or worked in industrial settings.

FORMATION OF GENDER NORMS IN SOCIETY

When you see a baby in a pink dress, there may be the assumption it is therefore a girl. Gender norms start forming early in development through a child’s interactions with parents, teachers, interactions in their surroundings and their peers.

A boy might be given toys designated as a male-gender toy like trucks or toy guns while girls might receive princess toys or dolls. Regarding a child’s surroundings, parents might choose to decorate their baby’s rooms emphasizing the same set gender roles.

Once a gender role is established, children who attempt to deviate from it may experience peer pressure and even bullying. This behavior may further reinforce the gender norm that is acceptable, even if the child wants to personally choose a different gender role path.

CONTROVERSIES OF GENDER NORMS 

Critics of gender norms say they put pressure on males and females to behave a certain way in the home. Women have been gender-normed to do more cleaning and not work outside of the home in past generations. Jobs in more physical settings have been assigned to men based on a perceived need for masculine strength, i.e. working in a construction zone.

Some people are also uncomfortable with the gender role society places on them because of their sex. A boy who has a pink bike or who is taking ballet classes may deal with the same negative responses as a girl with very short hair or who plays with trucks.


INFLUENCES OF GENDER NORMS

This gender norms have affected most especially our day to day job and our relationship in our family. These factors are:

  1. EMPLOYMENT – From an early age, children have learned societal expectations regarding gender-appropriate occupations from different places: in their homes, in businesses, restaurants, from the media, and from their peers. For younger children, girls often have been defined as playing “house” or “teacher” while boys are expected to play “war” or “fire-fighter” or bread winner. Children are exposed to occupational options through books, television programs, social media, news reporting and their own parents choosing less gender-defined roles. These early introductions to careers set the groundwork for a way of thinking about future jobs. Traditional occupations for women once were perceived to include secretaries, housewives, teachers, waitresses and nurses while men were defined as police officers, construction workers, truck drivers, CEOs or factory workers. With changes in family makeup and media portrayal of traditional occupational choices, children are exposed to many different career choices that are less defined by gender. When children see their mothers doing more household chores than their fathers or household tasks gender-designated as female, that observation can form future gender role ideas.
  2. FAMILY RELATIONS – Women have traditionally been the caregivers of children as well as homemakers. Historically, they have done more housework, including laundry, washing dishes, cleaning and cooking but gender roles and tasks in the home are no longer defined strictly by gender. Movies, TV and other forms of media reinforce these traditional roles through characters but are becoming more reflective of balanced roles in the household. Women also often report spending more time with childcare and elderly parents resulting. Studies show that women are still completing more household tasks than men. Narrowing this very well have often be attributed hiring housekeepers or dry cleaning services as women at home.  Even with more women working outside of the home, equity in amount of and type of household tasks hasn’t changed.

THE EFFECTS OF GENDER NORMS

The most important effect after my research are just two. Based on my own personal research

  1. SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR – Women are traditionally considered to be more “gentle,” “passive,” “emotional,” “dependent,” “patient” and “communicative” than their male counterparts. Adjectives such as “tough,”  strong, “independent,” “powerful,” “inexpressive” and “straightforward” are used to describe men. With these cultural labels tied to gender expectations, cultural expectations then influence how people react to each other and how they view themselves based on those labels. If the gender labels are used in a positive way, the gender bias associated with them can be lessened or even removed. In a negative sense, some people can take this gender adjective labels so serious and it becomes the sole way people define themselves. For example, a woman who believes she is “dependent” may continue to be dependent for her entire life because she can’t see past the gender label. A woman who sees herself as strong and capable may also be more inclined to strive for advancement in the workplace. If a man is labelled as being sensitive or emotional, that may affect his life choices just as much as if he is labelled as a strong man.

  2. SELF-AWARENESS(SELF-ESTEEM) – Culture influences how men and women think about themselves within their gender role. Advertisements, movies and TV often depict the female as being promiscuous or vulnerable, a message that can influence how women view their body and their abilities. According to a study, around 30% of clothing that is marketed toward young girls is considered “sexualizing”. These expectations for physical beauty can have an effect on self-esteem or self-awareness and confidence of girls and women.

    Another aspect in which this self-awareness occur is the role of the children in the house-While female gender roles are often defined when children watch their mothers or sisters complete more household tasks or household tasks gender-designated as for women and  also affect  how men form their own gender role perceptions (watching their father showing authoritative roles at home). If a young boy grows up in a household with a masculine character which  put women as a subordinate roles, a child may grow up to reflect those same attitudes in their own relationships and behaviours. This gender norms is been past to the children and it continues like that.

WHAT ARE THE UNDERPINS (SUPPORT) OF GENDER NORMS AND PRACTICES?

After much research on this topic I was able to found three main factors that underpin norms and practices, they include:

  •  Son bias
  •  Ideologies of femininity
  •  Ideologies of masculinity

1.   SON BIAS

Son bias is a deep perceptions (rooted in culture and religion) of the relative roles and values of boys/men/males in the society. Son bias is often seen in some society where daughters are perceived as an economic drain on the family, because they will join another household/ or husband upon marriage. Son bias can also be compounded by the fact that economic opportunities are often gendered, so parents perceive that it is more worthwhile to invest in boys as they will bring better financial returns to the family. It can also contribute to parents regarding daughters as assets who can provide labour or bring in resources upon marriage, rather than as individuals with equal rights to their sons. Son bias manifests itself in a range of norms and practices that lead to negative outcomes for girls. These negative outcomes include;

  • unequal access to education (because parents regard boys education as a better investment or boys as more deserving of education)
  • a greater burden of household duties (with girls typically working longer hours and having less leisure time than boys)
  • lower aspirations for girls futures on the part of parents
  • Limited opportunities for girls to influence household decision making
  • For married girls, son bias can mean pressure to continue childbearing until a son is born( this affect mostly the kingship throne)

2. IDEOLOGIES AND NORMS OF FEMININITY (THROUGH GIRLHOOD AND WOMANHOOD)/ IDEOLOGIES OF FEMININITY


This is another gender ideologies, values and norms that are related to girlhood and the transition to womanhood. These values translate into commonly accepted roles and standards of behaviuor in the society. For example, girls are expected to do more of household labour. This serves two purposes: helping households run smoothly, and training the girl so she has the skills she will need as a wife and a mother.

In Africa especially girls are expected to serve food to the men in their family and any visiting guests. Working hard is a defining feature of what it is to be a good girl or woman or wife. In some society in Africa, sexual maturity (the onset of menstruation and developing breasts) signaled the end of a girls childhood and the start of womanhood, and therefore her readiness to assume adult responsibilities and behave as an adult woman.  In some society, chastity and virginity at marriage were considered important elements in a girls personal and family honour. These norms severely limit girls freedom of movement outside the home: girls feel they must avoid being seen in situations where they could be accused of unchaste behaviour, or where they would be at risk of sexual harassment.

Limits on girls mobility and the high value placed on virginity before marriage in some cultures affect girls access to education. Parents can be reluctant to send girls to mixed schools where they can form relationships with boys, or fear they may interact with (or be harassed by) boys and men while travelling to and from school. This cluster of values and norms contributes to the persistence of child marriage in some areas.  Theses norms and practice has limited girls opportunities for education.

Furthermore is has led to more health problems among these child girl (for example, the likelihood of early pregnancy and repeated pregnancy where there is son bias). Finally it has  also undermine/ underestimate  girls ability to express their own opinions, make decisions  their capacity to make decisions based on their own will, and act on them.

3. IDEOLOGIES AND NORMS OF MASCULINITY (FROM BOYHOOD TO MANHOOD)/ IDEOLOGIES OF MASCULINITY


Traditional or idealized norms of masculinity were often defined in opposition to norms of femininity. So, for example, in all countries, good men were expected to be breadwinners, and boys were expected to learn skills or study hard so that they could fulfil this role in future; with this role as family provider came the expectation that a man would be the head of the household and be the ultimate decision-maker, with women and children deferring to him. Girls, by contrast, were typically expected to earn some income but this was secondary to their main role as mother and home-maker.

In some society adolescent boys workloads are generally lower and they typically have greater freedom than girls to meet with friends outside the home and to move around their communities independently. As they do so, they are further exposed to norms of masculinity modelled by adult men and by their peers.

Norms of masculinity include being virile (interpreted in different contexts as freedom to have more than one sexual partner, and fathering many children, particularly sons). In some society, norms of masculinity condone physical violence against women and girls in certain circumstances, and particularly once a girl is married.

10 POWERFUL QUOTES ABOUT GENDER NORM AND ROLES

Here are some thought-provoking gender role quotes i need to share with you. They include :

  1. ” You are you and just because you have a different way of thinking doesn’t mean you are a certain type of person. Everybody is not made for everyone and that’s perfectly fine. Acceptance is key and when you are firm in who are you there is nothing no one can say that can change it. I had several friends who were atheist and because we didn’t try to change each other the friendship worked. No arguments, we could have conversations without screaming or yelling, and even our families were cordial to each other. Once you are comfortable in your own skin nothing can penetrate it “-Kogwuonye patrick onyeka

  2. ” I hate being subjected to particular assault or being grouped as “women and children” while there are lots of things that show that I have quality features to make me valuable as a strong individual, not being grouped as  weak because I’m female. Maybe physically, intellectually, etc. ” – Fiona Achieng’ Omollo

  3. ” Teach her that the idea of ‘gender roles’ is absolute nonsense. Do not ever tell her that she should or should not do something because she is a girl. ‘Because you are a girl’ is never reason for anything. Ever. ” – Feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  4. ” In politics, If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman. ” -Margaret Thatcher

  5. “Women have a much better time than men in this world; there are far more things forbidden to them”-  Oscar Wilde

  6. ” I have not lived as a woman. I have lived as a man. I’ve just done what I damn well wanted to, and I’ve made enough money to support myself, and ain’t afraid of being alone.” -Katharine Hepburn

  7. ” Girls can be athletic. Guys can have feelings. Girls can be smart. Guys can be creative. And vice versa. Gender is specific only to your reproductive organs (and sometimes not even to those), not your interest, likes, dislikes, goals, and ambitions. “- Connor Franta

  8. ” Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short and wear shirts and boots because it’s okay to be a boy; for girls it’s like promotion. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, according to you, because secretly you believe that being a girl is degrading.” – Ian McEwan

  9. ” When women’s sexuality is imagined to be passive or “dirty,” it also means that men’s sexuality is automatically positioned as aggressive and right-no matter what form it takes. And when one of the conditions of masculinity, a concept that is already so fragile in men’s minds, is that men dissociate from women and prove their manliness through aggression, we’re encouraging a culture of violence and sexuality that’s detrimental to both men and women.”-  Jessica Valenti

  10. ” The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”-  Matthew Henry

I will like to ask a simple question  for my fellow readers and viewers.


1. What is your own views and contributions on this articles?

2. What was you own experience  of  being a man or a women in a gendered norm/role society?


3. Do you agree the the society perception about gender norm designated to male and female is wrong or right?

Please let me know all your reactions, views and insights in the comment box below!

Written by:

Kogwuonye Patrick Onyeka

Writer/Blogger/Educator/Tutor

University of Benin

Credited to :

1. Women who fight very much to be self independent and to all feminist.

2. To my father and mother ( MR &MRS KOGWUONYE) who inculcated in me the idea of rejecting gender norms and live as a full person.

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