Gender Roles Essay

In a society, there are set of accepted norms that expected to be met by everyone that is included within that society. As time passes, society begins to evolve and the standards change. What was once a normal standard of living in the early 1920’s may be seen as old fashioned and is no longer acceptable in the late 1980’s. These standards are the base of how one should live and are enforced through influences such as peers, media, and literature. Seeing women and male portrayed in a certain light in the media will reflect onto its audience and will form them into those roles that are presented.

If one were to become defiant and stray away from these norms, it would be deemed unacceptable and unsuitable as the characters are not complying to what the gender norm says is appropriate for them to do. They would be outcasted and seen as the odd one out amongst the crowd that follows the given status quo. For this reason, there has not been much change in how gender roles are shown in the media as writers would much rather follow what is accepted than challenge it and take a gamble on whether or not the audience will accept it.

Gender roles are a set of learned behaviour that is based on the person’s gender. It is seen as the way of life for males and females as their behaviour throughout their lives is centered around society’s gender roles. These roles vary from culture to culture and some are quite outdated for today’s modern society. Women are typically told to be feminine, dainty, and submissive in comparison to males. Men, on the other hand, are forced to be masculine, powerful, and to be the more dominant gender.

These typical gender roles are still used throughout literature to portray the differences between the genders of the characters. The normativity of enforced gender roles in society has affected literature over the years as the standard for gender roles evolve. By constricting characters to typical female and male standards, gender roles are utilized in literature to present the stereotypical gender roles set in society and to set the base in which other characters will begin to defy these standards. Gender Stereotypes

Due to society’s set standard for women and men, gender stereotypes are used to in order to represent and differentiate between male and female characters. It makes the characters more easily identifiable amongst them all. Although, female characters are unequally represented compared to their male counterpart as “85% of the main characters in stories for children are male” (Tsao). Women are written to be less ambitious and courageous than men, whereas men are encouraged to independent, secure and explorative.

From children’s books to more advanced reading, male characters are written to be curious about their surrounds and to be more of an extrovert than female roles. It would be strongly discouraged to have characters written in an opposite manner than what is permitted by society. Women who are strong, self confident, and highly intelligent and men who dependent, emotional, and more compassionate are heavily looked down upon in media. It is because it goes against the majority of the crowd and what they have been told women and men are to behave like.

It shows the weaknesses and what are deemed to be flaws for men to show emotions. On the other hand, women were once not given an education and were told to tend the house, which led to women being written off as submissive and knowledgeable. The use of gender stereotypes in literature not only enforces these standards onto readers, but also prevents both female and male characters from having a more variety of character personalities. The idea of women and womanhood “greatly reduce the possibility of role development for the female character” (Savitt).

Writing about a female character who is self-confident and powerful is seen as improper as women with these traits are uncommon in media. Traditionally, women are never given the chance to be in charge and are only spoke when spoken to. These standards made it’s impact in women’s literature as the female characters were less likely to be given traits such as self-assured and independent of men. Male characters who were written to be more in touch with their emotions and are sensitive would have been seen as weak and unmanly.

These characters are discouraged from being more sympathetic and effeminate than other men as “responsibilities is a sign of weakness and will lead to a loss of freedom” (Jacobs 22). Although it is expected for each gender to follow it’s given gender roles, it is more common for females to venture out and have more masculine traits than for men to be given feminine traits. For female roles, it’s about going against the gender roles and being able to be their own individual, which may include masculine traits such as being daring and becoming outspoken and opinionated.

For male roles, it is frowned upon to have any effeminate traits as it is not what they classify as a “real man. ” Men are expected to be determined and fearless and are not shown without their tough exterior. All of these gender stereotypes are limitations in which authors follow as they are afraid of going against society’s gender roles. Yet, gender roles are not used for malicious intent in which is meant to stop female and males from varying from gender roles. It can be used as the set base for these characters to take the initiative and be the example for their audience to feel forced to follow society’s rules.

Gender Roles in Children’s and Young Adult Literature Gender roles are implemented from an early age in youth literature. From girl’s books about being a damsel in distress who wait for their prince to boy’s books that are about adventure and curiosity, these gender roles have unknowingly influence everyone in one way or another. This is what all of these children will grow up to believe and will begin slowly form their life and how they choose to live. Even in young adult literature are these gender roles still active in.

Although the main female character may have a more enticing and daring personality, they are still at the hands of romance and are ultimately dependent on males. The main male characters are still the same as in children’s books in which they are given even more freedom to do extravagant acts of bravery. The readers behave according to the young characters that they are able to identify with and mimic their actions. Gender roles are used to teach and encourage children to behave a certain way as they have learned and observed in their books.

Rather than changing the standards for main characters in children’s books, writers stick to what works with gender roles. As a result, rather than having children’s books of female and males acting in various and unseen ways that defy the gender stereotypes, children’s literature continue to follow gender roles and force this outdated way of believing women and men behave in real life. Gender roles play a major role in children’s and young adult’s literature as it is easy for the readers to be able “identify [with] and through which they can consider their own actions, beliefs, and emotions” (Tsao).

Young children are easily influenced and are able to make the connection between how girls and boys behave in book and in reality. Yet, the including these typical gender roles in literature with an easily impressionable audience may “limit children’s choices, interests, and abilities” (Tsao). If children see actions that are not done by the characters they relate to, then they are more likely to not engage in those actions. However, in young adult literature, there seems to be a different gap settling between males and females.

In the book series written by Diana Peters and Steve Pitt entitled Girlness: Deal With It Body and Soul and Guyness: Deal With It Body and Soul, they explain the explore the differences in girls and boys and explain how their behaviour differ from one another due to their gender. These books utilize gender roles to inform young and growing children about their role in society as a female and male. In Girlness, young girls are encouraged to gain confidence and to challenge their gender stereotypes (Robinson), which is much different from much younger children’s books that center around traditional feminine acts.

In Guyness, young boys are told that it is natural and okay for young boys to be violent at times (Robinson). This advocates the belief that boys are have more wild and rough tendencies, which follows outdated stereotypes of boys. These books influence girls to become more adventurous while keeping boys in the traditional mindset of male gender roles. Children’s books and young adult books continue to influence it’s readers with the use of gender roles as it can affect how their choices in behaviors and actions as they grow older and are able to make their own decisions.