Gender Roles


By Aliabbas Hameer (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

The role or behavior learned by a person as appropriate to their gender by the prevailing cultural norms, this is one of the most common type of stereotyping ­– some general phrases we commonly here are “Be a man” or “Get back to the kitchen”. Males are generally assigned to be heads of the family (earn a living), a built physique and be emotionless whereas, females are commonly referred take care of the house as well as never to dominate the males.

What externalities result to gender roles, how are they framed to take that shape/course? Ideally, gender roles are based on norms or standards created by society. Society nurtures a male role and associates it with strength, aggression and dominance, on the other hand feminine roles are associated with passivity, nurturing and subordination.

Gender roles over the years have been disputed due to the rapid growth of intellectuals which led to people becoming more open minded. However, a sub-sect of general roles in regards to sports has still not be treated. When we label sports according to genders, we are limiting people from trying wide range of sports and thus women have a small range of sports to select from and that is why they are less likely to pursue a sports career. A classic example of this scenario would be; if you see a man either cheerleading or play netball a stereotypical response to that would be questioning his manly hood or seeing a girl play football would be extravagantly amusing as we would feel she would get hurt. To conclude, the reason why women participation is very low is primarily due to tradition. Traditionally, females have been brought up or more of ‘required’ to raise children, remain passive, moral, wear alluring dresses which if they did not live by their ascribed qualities they would be deemed as a tomboy as they are supposed to act ‘ladylike’ as that’s how they have been nurtured.

With the introduction above, we realize that general roles is an effect and the cause is influencing the division, the clear distinction is that general roles take a form based on culture as peoples expectation about attributes, behaviors and relation are shaped by it, a critical perspective is how general identities and gender relations  as they are critical aspects of culture because they shape how life Is lived in the wider community, and lastly it does not function as an organizing principle for society because of the cultural meanings to being male or female, but simple the beliefs of people. There is  a very fine line when it comes to division of labor, the clear pattern that distinguishes ‘men’s work’ and ‘women’s work’, though they differ from time to time, and vary through societies, the principles are stagnant; women have less autonomy, fewer resources at their disposal and less influence over decision making processes. Despite the fact of biological differences this pattern of disparity based on gender is both a human rights and development issue, we undermine the impact of the outcome but this results in the shaping of our society.

A positive is cultures and societies are not in a static form due to vastness of its relativity, they keep on being changed and reshaped. A thought provoking question is culture is refined by how religion and traditions appeal, does that conclude that major religions do not believe in gender equality or emphasis in regards to empowerment? Christianity defines saints as exceptional holiness and the most prominent is Mary, she is considered as “Mother of God”. Hinduism illustrates a woman’s responsibility to devote her life to her husband but the aspect that is not referred to is that they chose that for themselves,  in history we realize the wives of the gods took great pride in their position and were highly respected for it, they did what they believed and so we should too.

Lastly, coming to the most controversial one ‘Islam’, where women coverts fear to be classified as second class citizens or as portrayed by the media, a religion that takes away her rights? In regard to Education, Nigeria and Yemen have been guilty of providing this service to Men over women, however Muhammad (peace be upon him) says “Education is compulsory for every Muslim”. Islam has been accused of not giving any legal rights to women, however in Chapter 4:7 “To the men a share of what the kinsman leave and to the women a share of what parents and kinsman leave” and another vital aspect is the right to work, the fine line is drawn in Chapter 4:32 “And to the men a share from what they have earned and to the women a share from what they have earned.” And lastly, the media is bombarding with the headlines showing that ’73% of Saudi wives are verbally abused’, some counter saying that this is an orthodox approach of dealing with a conflict, but going back to the time of Muhammad (peace be upon him) this is what he said “The best of you are those who are best (in treatment) to their wives”, the Koran further emphasizes and says in Chapter 4:19 “O you who believe, you are forbidden to inherit women against their will. And you should not treat them with harshness. Live with them honorably. If you dislike them – it may be you dislike a being through which God brings you a lot of good.”

Here is what is amusing, if the major religions do not create gender inequalities and gender roles, who gives society the authority to do so?

To conclude, if we go back in time as short as a decade ago, general roles were very prominent in society and are still, but society is developing just like You and I, we see this in miniscule aspect like increase in the number of stay home fathers, increase in woman empowerment. We should not limit ourselves and not let lies within take it’s form, let us not let those who dwelled in the past dictate our present and decide our future. We are not meant to abandon heritage, we should preserve be but not it as they are gone and you live for a purpose/cause.

So, even if these social pressures and gender roles were implemented onto us from a young age, are we still willing to change our perspectives of the respective genders and ourselves, as our society develops and becomes more accepting to change?

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