Role Dimensions

The issue of gender goes beyond the processes of a subjective sense of maleness or femaleness. A set of behaviors that are considered “normal” and appropriate” for the sex are ascribed by society. The ascribing of gender roles leads to assumptions about how people will behave. Once these assumptions or expectations are widely accepted, they may begin to function as stereotypes. A stereotype is a generalized notion of what a person is like based only on characteristics such as sex, race, religion, ethnicity, or social background. For example, in Western culture, men have been expected to behave independently, aggressively, and non emotionally. Women have been expected to be passive, submissive, and dependent.

Stereotyping has clearly influenced the ability of women to succeed in traditional male arenas such as sports and professional careers. Stereotyping also influences the sexual health and behavior of women, who naturally find conflict with assumptions and expectations that they be passive, submissive, dependent, emotional, and subordinate. Despite the limiting impact of rigid, stereotypical gender roles, many men and women behave in a manner remarkably consistent with the norms that these roles establish. Socialization refers to the process whereby society conveys behavioral expectations to the individual. These expectations are reinforced by parents, peers, schools, textbooks, and the media.