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Gender Roles: How Differences Shaped Our Identities

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There are countless differences between boys and girls. The moment a woman finds out she is pregnant, she begins to imagine what her baby would look like. Pink or blue, dolls or trucks, dresses or overalls. While the journey starts off the same in the very beginning, the numerous differences help define the type of influence we will receive, so the main point for the “Gender roles” essay is to reveal the topic with objective arguments and personal experience. 

Gender roles shape parental influence the child will receive, the type of values and beliefs the child will be taught and the behaviors that will be expected of the child, as well. These gender role differences are established at a very young age, and are continued throughout the child’s life. Culture leaves a heavy imprint on a child’s rearing and places a large influence on how boys are raised, as opposed to girls. The defining characteristics of how a boy is to carry himself are prevalent and concise according to society and the influences that that child has while growing up. The same can be said about girls, but lately, the stereotypical behaviors and attitudes expected for each gender are pushing new boundaries as each gender has added new responsibilities to their expectations.

A gender role is a set of cultural guidelines in place to determine how a person should behave, particularly around other people. Not all cultures hold the same values, beliefs or rules for each gender, and the differences are established as soon as a baby is born. In the first days of a baby’s life, they are adorned with tiny clothes that help accentuate the baby’s gender. A pink dress with flowers and a hair bow will inform onlookers that the baby is a girl, likewise, a blue onesie decorated with trucks will tell people that the baby is a boy. We instantly try to fit the baby into a mold of that specific gender, starting with the choice of clothing. Even before the baby is born, we decorate the room with blue walls, or pink bed linen as if to make a statement that all boys love blue, or all girls love pink. Such is not the case, though. I grew up in a culture that believed girls did all the chores inside the house, and the boys took care of all the rigorous outdoor duties. The minute I was old enough to wash the dishes was the second I was taught how. I assisted my mother with cleaning the inside of the house, and cooking, while my father and brother mowed the lawn outside and cleaned the gutters. There was such a vast difference, it nearly seemed unfair. This was the gender role I grew up in, and this is the template I use when raising my children, I’ve just made a few changes over the years.

Gender stereotypes are the beliefs or images about males and females that may or may not be true. Men are stereotyped as independent, active and rational individuals, and women are stereotyped as emotional, passive and sensitive individuals. I’ve been in a situation where I have stereotyped a child, and thankfully, I was spot on with my assumption, but this does not always happen. My family was invited to my friend’s daughter’s birthdays party, and knowing little about the child’s interests, I picked up a gift that I thought she would like. Needless to say, I opted for a “safe” gift for a 3-year-old girl, and decided on a baby doll with a push stroller. Had the child been a boy, I would have chosen a gift that I know a young boy would enjoy playing with. Stereotyping is not always so innocent, however. Although it happens all the time, it seems as though our society has become conditioned to placing everyone in a category. This turns into an issue when the mold that you are stereotyped into has expectations that you must uphold. Academic performance, job choice and extracurricular activities are defined by stereotypes. The toys we are expected to play with, the clothes we are expected to wear, and the job we are expected to keep are all held under the stereotype’s authority. At a very young age, children learn what their preferences are by watching what their mothers or fathers do and how they behave. This illustrates what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t, hence the development of gender identity.

A child gradually begins to identify with one group and develops a gender identity, or a sense of one’s self as a male or a female. Eventually, the child will show preference over dancing and singing or exercising and sports. Sometimes, girls are athletically inclined and artistically challenged, other times, boys are artistically inclined and athletically challenged. This wouldn’t mean that they do not identify as their biological gender, they may enjoy doing different things. Toddlers seek their parent’s approval before they interact with a new toy, or a new environment. A theory known as the gender-schema theory asserts that children learn about male and female roles from the culture in which they live. According to the theory, children adjust their behavior to align with the gender norms of their culture from the earlies stages of development. What we call mimicry is what this theory reminds me of, but I relate to this theory so deeply. I vividly remember looking at my mother for her facial “It’s okay” look. I also remember watching her, her mannerisms, and how she composed herself. I would compare them to those of my grandmother and my aunts, and I would realize the slight differences. I absorbed as much as I could from those around me and developed my own gender role and identity.

The culture I grew up in helped define the guidelines of what was expected of me. When I was a baby, I wore bracelets and had my ears pierced. My mother dressed me in the most ridiculous dresses and outfits, hand made by my grandmother. My gender role was already being influenced, even before I was aware. My mother hardly ever let me sleep over a friend’s house, but my brother would stay weekends at his friend’s house. As I grew older, I understand my mother’s perspective, and being a mother to a little girl, I can relate to the fear. The difference in treatment between my brother and myself was massive. However, these small cultural qualities play a significant role when establishing a gender role, and gender identity. In essence, our cultures determine what behavior is acceptable or not through years of values, beliefs and customs that get passed down from older generations.


  • Kail, R. V., & Cavanaugh, J. C. (2000). Human development: A lifespan view. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Thomson Learning.

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Gender Roles: How Differences Shaped Our Identities. (2023, February 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
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