Gender Dynamics

Defining Terms

Gender Roles – The "appropriate" social roles, responsibilities, expectations and behavior of men, women, boys and girls as defined by the culture or society and by the times in which people live. Gender roles are often assigned at birth based on an individual's sex and are reinforced over time. Gender roles are also often related to a person's race, class, age and ethnic background.

A culture's definition of "man" = male sex + masculine gender role (also known as "a real man," "manly," "masculine"). A culture's definition of "woman" = female sex + feminine gender role (also known as "a real woman," "womanly," "feminine").

The important point to remember is that gender roles are not necessarily related to any biological differences between males and females. For example, women are not biologically "wired" to perform household chores more effectively than men. Nor are men biologically wired to be more effective politicians than women. Gender roles can be quite different from one context to another, and may also change over time.