The Role of Gender

Whom do you see when you look in the mirror? I do not know about you , but I am sure about myself. I am a woman in my body and soul. I never thought deeply about gender role before writing this essay. After reading few essays, I am sure,we need harmony in our lives which is a

balance of all elements that present us as a whole. Once the individual is liberated from a confined gender role , he gets more freedom to understand who he is and chooses whom who he wants to be. This freedom of his choice ultimately leads him to a harmonious and a balanced life. Since harmony leads to happiness , then society starts to consist of satisfied individuals, instead of disturbed ones. That is why both male and female look for a partner that can bring this harmony into their relationship.

In Becoming Members of Society : Learning the Social Meaning of Gender , Aaron H. Devor explains differences between gender and sexuality. Gender is typically based on anatomical differences between men and women, but does not necessarily match with them. Gender role “ may be changed without changes being made to biological sex characteristics” . Gender is socially and culturally determined; it is not biologically determined. Gender roles can influence all kinds of behavior, such as choice of clothing, choice of work and personal relationships; for example , parental roles. Everyone since childhood absorbs “the generalized standards of society into their personal concept of what is correct behavior” . “History shows us how completely our gender derives from cultural myths about what is proper for men and women to think , enjoy , and do.” However, during childhood and adolescence, gender identities which differ from the norm are often the cause of ridicule, mockery , and banishment, which often results in psychological problems. Some are able to camouflage their differences, but others cannot. Even though people have become more tolerant, there are still some who are not willing to except things out of the norm which is why the society has not gained the balance it needs.

I agree with Aaron H. Devor who writes : “As children, and later adults,learn the rules of membership in society, they come to see themselves in terms they have learned from the people around them.” I am not an exception from them who “ learn their culture’s social definitions of gender and gender identity at the same time that they learn what gender behaviors are appropriate for them” . I grew up in the USSR where article 35 of the Soviet Constitution clearly stated that women and men have equal rights and possess equal access to education and training, employment, promotions, and remuneration and to participation in social, political, and cultural activity. My mother and I , as most married women in the Soviet Union , worked outside the home in addition to fulfilling their roles of wife, mother, and homemaker. As in other industrialized countries, Soviet women had difficulty adjusting the demands of career and home. At home, Soviet women spent more than twice as much time on housework as men. Finally, the idea of Clara Zetkin and Eleanor Marx who “ were against the demonization of men and supported a proletarian revolution that would overcome as many male-female inequalities as possible” has led to women to exhibit masculine characteristics , to the ideal of the Soviet woman who "will stop a galloping stallion, will enter a burning house"(N.A.Nekrasov from poem “Russian Women”).Women became courageous, aggressive, heroic, bold who did not need protection and helping from men. Is it bad or good? Maybe for society , it is good because educated and strong women would be useful for its economy. For the individuals, I do not know. However, I miss Bunin’s , Pushkin’s, Tolstoi’s woman who is feminina, affectionate, and tender. So, for the most part, Soviet women lost the many qualities of being feminine.

“ The clusters of social definitions to identify persons by gender are collectively known as femininity and masculinity” . What are femininity and masculinity ? Basically, it is not a difficult question for anyone because we are adults who have our own meaning about these words. According to Devor , every gender role has his own characteristics : “ masculinity usually characterized by dominance and aggression, and femininity by passivity and submission“; “masculine thirst for power, which can, but need not, lead to aggression, and the feminine quest for harmony and communal well-being, which can, but need not , result in passivity and dependence.” . I think that this statement gives us a point of view about our natural roots which we all have.

Devor writes that the dominant gender schema in North American society “ leads us to believe that female and male behaviors are the result of socially directed hormonal instructions which specify that females will want to have children and will therefore find themselves relatively helpless and dependent on males for support and protection” . What does the dominant gender schema mean ? This cultural schema is a matrix of rules which govern the organization of sex, gender, and sexuality. In outline, those rules teach members of their societies to believe that sex, gender, and sexuality interact in a dichotomized and biologically deterministic fashion. Thus, according to the dictates of the dominant gender schema, all persons can belong to one, and only one, sex throughout their entire lifetimes, and all persons automatically and permanently belong to their corresponding genders. (from Devor,H. (1997).”Female Gender Dysphoria : Personal Problem or Social Problem?”)

If liberation in Western society gives all people freedom for making choice of their gender role, how do these rules work? How is it possible to choose between both gender roles when the individual is multifarious? “ It is possible to point to multitudinous exceptions to, and variations on, these themes” . For example, nowadays we have a lot of new words which characterize uncounted gender roles and whose definitions I do not understand well. There are Transgender, Transsexual, Crossdresser, Gender Queer, Intersex, Two Spirit, , Kathoey, Drag King, Drag Queen, Queer, Lesbian, Gay, Straight, Butch, Femme, Faerie, Homosexual, Bisexual, Heterosexual . When Devor uses the term gender, he refers to persons' social statuses as women, girls, men, boys, or variously transgendered. In contemporary North American societies, genders are generally assumed to be direct social demonstration of persons' sexes. However, when Devor uses the term gender, he does not share that assumption. Rather, when Devor calls people women, men or transgendered , he assumes only that they demonstrate enough femininity or masculinity to make them recognizable as women, men or transgendered. Devor does not assume anything about their sexes without further information (from "How Many Sexes? How Many Genders? When Two Are Not Enough," 3rd Western Canadian Sexual Health Conference, Edmonton, Alta, May, 1998.). So, everyone in Western society has to choose his own gender role because we have many options to choose from in order to retain balance in ourselves.

Now we have many versions of gender role, but this variability is not understandable for me because I grew up and matured in society where the individual had to choose only one from two gender roles : “ All persons are either male or female. All males are first boys and then men; all females are first girls and then women” . But I understand other people and I am sure that every individual should have his own choice of his own gender role. Our world does not have only white and black colors, it is multicolored. Everyone should find harmony and balance inside himself because it is one of the part of our happiness. And I am sure that after he will find his own life’s partner , who will complete him as whole. So, it is good for the individual. I am sure, if the every person , who has found his own balance , becomes more polite and patient to others’ choices , our society will become more harmonious. So, it is good for society.

Certainly, gender revolution gives us liberation from binary and permanent vision of gender. For example woman’s revolution leads to “equality between the sexes….But we need to recognize that there have been both gains and losses in this revolution” . I think, this equality leads to wipe off the definition of gender at all. I very often hear a word, that is new to me—unisex which means gender-blind. But I do not like that. I like to be a Woman who needs a Man . For me, dependence on a man is not a bad thing because it is not submission or worship. I like to evoke the romantic feeling and to be ladylike in mans’ eyes . I do not want to be “ strong and aggressive—like men” . I think that the woman’s power is in her weakness. But it is my choice . Certainly, women’s revolution brings bear on society and , as a result ,” a woman today has the choice of every occupation that used to be reserved for men , plus traditional women’s role.” It is not too bad. On one hand, an educated and strong woman should be useful for society, its progress and evolution. But on the other hand, now feminists go too far and as a result I see men’s discrimination. I know some examples: women may get marred at younger ages than men in Ukraine and some U.S. states ;men pay higher premiums for auto, health, life and disability insurance. I think that for balance in our life we need equal opposing forces as a result after the fight at both antipodes.

If a woman chooses masculinity, what kind of partner will give her a balanced relationship? What kind of a partner completes a strong and a manlike woman for balance? Someone gives an ansver : we need to go back to nature . Basically, I agree with Mansfield completely , when I read his words: “For the most part, men will always have more manliness than women have, and it is up to both sexes to fashion this fact into something good” . But I think, we should find harmony and balance in our life, but first everyone should find his own equanimity and understand himself. Then , when you look in the mirror , you will know who you are.

1.Alexes de Tocqueville,” How the Americans Understand the Equality of the Sexes “. From Colombo ,G., Cullen, R., Lisie B.Rereading America. Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. Bedford/St. Martin’s , Boston, New York. Seven Edition.2007, p. 376-380.
2.Bebel, August, Woman under Socialism (University Press of the Pacific, 2004),
3.Colombo ,G., Cullen, R., Lisie B.Rereading America. Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. Bedford/St. Martin’s , Boston, New York. Seven Edition.2007.
4.Devor , Aaron H.,” Becoming Members of Society: Learning the Social Meanings of Gender.” From Gender Blending : Confronting the Limits of Duality by Holly 5.Devor. Copyringht 1998 by Indiana University Press.
Mansfield, Harvey. “ The Manliness of Men.” From Manliness by Mansfield, Harvey .2003 Originally published in The American Enterprise,2003.

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