Gender significance and gender function as it relates to family, community and personal responsibility has been, in many circles a topic that evokes deep discussion and review; often unfettered and unfiltered. This conversation has been visited and re-visited, in town halls and great cathedrals; in bed rooms and bar rooms; at work or at play over many centuries, in many cultures, during many events of great magnitude, or small events of little importance. It has captivated the imagination of us all, with responses emotional in style and substance. There is not one person of legal age who has no opinion on this topic.
The social science community has examined and re-examined this topic since “big bang” went boom, pardon the hyperbole. Theories have been developed and redeveloped, debunked and lauded, debated and discarded, but most have taken a position in one of three sociological perspectives: functionalism, conflict theory, or interactionism.
A functionalist point of view embodies, in a practical sense, human kind in tune to, or at odds with the elements of nature. The need to survive when faced with the harsh realities of nature’s forces that define the struggle, allowed the logical evolution of each gender’s biological strength to blossom. Men hunted as the possibility of danger and death loomed over head; women nurtured their offspring to help maintain the species. These defined roles worked well in reference to what was indeed necessary.
However, conflict theorist further refined and stratified the roles once it was clearly established that “power concedes nothing.” Men were considered the stronger of the sexes and by way of natural progression should lead by virtue of that fact. By establishing “the pecking order” as defined by the stronger sex (men) ensured that dominance. The power to design and interpret the direction of the family and, by extension the community, was secured, sanctioned and ultimately valued as a guarded function of said gender. Thus maintaining the status quo became the top priority.
Consequently, as socialization within and between the sexes evolved so did the roles of the sexes. The interactionism theory explained this phenomenon in the following manner. Levels of detailed stratification were taught to youngsters by adults, and when appropriately, understood to each other. All were encouraged to internalize, adapt and live by these responsibilities. The solidification of these gender roles was critical to cultural competency. The need to purposely commune and interact as the sex roles outlined, relative to the aforementioned description, provided the means by which the community grew and evolved. Based on my interpretation and non-scientific observation, this may have helped to establish institutional sexism.
The above theories seem to have a complementary relationship. The first complements the second, the second complements the third. The reciprocal may not however hold true. Given the evolution of the populous, expansive evaluation of social interconnection and formal observation inevitably followed. All offered a significant contribution when needed. Each theory sought to galvanize and reinforce the controlling position developed, defined, and promoted by the stronger of the two, men. This of course under scores the premise that enhances and highlights inequality of the sexes.
Nurture or nature: The question of comfort, tolerance and which is most functional in western civilization invites a reasonable discussion on androgyny. If roles are so profoundly defined, categorized, and labeled, is then the observation that women are more at ease with both male and female characteristics an inevitable one? Men essential have designed the gender roles to fulfill and accommodate their power and solidify their control. By encouraging everyone to accept a basic premise, they established a superior and inferior dichotomy that is difficult to refute or overcome. Hence, the fundamental design of the socialization process deeply contributed to the development of attitudes encouraged by it. Females became the nurturing providers, expected to be tolerant, loving and supportive. Men were expected to meet goals and objectives, be less tolerant and forgiving; and above all abhor weakness and failure. If one were a male, one would be expected to engender all characteristics attributable to that status. Having female tendencies is not considered a male characteristic. Thus displaying such invites ridicule and disdain. In contrast, females were programmed to accept, what herein is considered a flaw in the human genome. So tolerance, love and acceptance would be expected and observed.