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Gender Roles

What is meant by gender role differences? Men and women have few choices about their 'core gender identity' which is their basic sexual differences.  However, 'gender role identity' or identification as a process or concept is more complex.

Gender role identity is the internal, unconscious beliefs of what 'being a man' or 'being a woman' means.  The meaning each individual makes of these internal schemas are generalisations gained from family, society and culture.

There is a wide range of healthy alternatives or engendered identities which include heterosexual and homosexual identities.

Some cultures set rigid standards that can put the range of 'normal' into a straightjacket.  A new set of attitudes and values called 'the gender role strain paradigm' suggests that modern gender roles are incongruent and inconsistent. 

Violation of gender roles is high and this violation leads to condemnation, which leads to negative psychological outcomes. 

Males experience more severe consequences for violating gender roles than females do.  Many prescribed gender role traits are dysfunctional.  These gender role stereotypes are imposed on the developing child by teachers, parents, society and peers.

The traits considered worthy of preserving  in men are:

  • Willingness to work hard and sacrifice to provide for family
  • Withstanding hardship and pain to protect others
  • Showing affection through action - doing for others
  • Integrity and loyalty
  • Persistence in solving difficult problems
  • Ability to take risks and stay calm in dangerous situations

The traits considered problematic in men are:

  • Emotional numbness - difficulty in feeling, identifying, and expressing emotions
  • Inability to feel and respond to emotions of others
  • Overindulgence in anger and violence
  • Simultaneous dependence on and distance from female partners
  • Fear and shame of failure to be a man
  • Exaggerated investment in work
  • Disregard for health risks
  • Substituting unconnected lust for sexual intimacy

Masculinity is being examined and this examination is hoped to bring about gender role change that supports men's positive traits and rebuilds the destructive traits which are problematic to themselves and others.  Anger and aggression are predominant features that underlie men's destructive ways of being.  These problematic traits are being successfully changed by many men with the Anger Management & Domestic Violence (Compassion) Program.  Reference: A New Psychology of Men Edited by Ronald F. Levant and William S. Pollack