Precisely, Gender is the very definition of men and women, not of the same sex. It is determined by the concept of tasks, roles and functions in the human society. Gender roles is what can determine how females and males are supposed to think, dress, speak, and interact with society based off of what’s “OK”.
How has gender been defined throughout our history in 1880-2015?
Gender has been through a course of many ideal definition changes that have been developed through society’s views and our personal perception. Gender is the state of distinctively being either male or female. Throughout history, until the 21st century, it was determined by biology, roles, and how the media and society view gender. Gender roles are starting to change and are no longer determined by what you were biologically born as.
Digging earlier and deeper into the history of gender and roles, in the 19th century roughly around the 1880’s, it was an age where the impact of the industrial revolution caused a sharp separation between the gender roles, especially on the upper and middle classes. Men and women were thought to have completely different natures, people saw those differences as dictating separate and different functions in society. Men were thought to have abilities that fat in the public world, while women were thought to be private. Not all but most men from all classes had an upper hand financially which was socially acceptable while on the other hand, lower-class women could be servants, domestic help, factory workers, prostitutes, etc. Middle- and upper-class women could help in some cases, with a family business, but generally, the economy and the society dictated that women should work in their home, taking care of the household (family). Now from the 1880’s to the uprising of the 1900’s the roles stayed quite similar, men would take care of their families financially while the women would nurture the household. Ultimately, during the mid-20th century few areas of American life demonstrated rapid and dramatic changes during World War II on the social and economic roles of women. Just a few months before Pearl Harbor, more than 80 percent of American men and women declared that it was wrong for wives to work outside the home if their husbands were employed. It wasn't till the exact year 1960 when the women stood up for their rights, that movement was called The women's liberation movement. That movement was a loose agreement of women and feminist thinking that emerged in the United States, U.K, and other developed countries during the late 1960s and persisted throughout the 1970s.
Furthermore during this time, society relied on biology and science to define and assign gender and these gender roles discussed. One prime example is in the article ‘Are Women Really More Compassionate’ by Emma Seppala. She states, “.. women may at times have higher levels of "oxytocin" - sometimes called the "cuddle hormone" or "love hormone" because it is linked to bonding, social connection and monogamy. Oxytocin is produced during sex for both men and women but is particularly important during childbirth. It is produced in women during labor and lactation in women and is believed to trigger bonding and nurturing behaviors.” The roles that 1900’s men and women were expected to live up to may be offensive and objectionable by today’s standards, but it was a very different world than the one we have become accustomed to in our time.
During the 20th century society was very influential on gender and gender identity. In the 80’s, men took over the “manly” things because there was no war. Manly things such as farming, and hunting. For example, Chris Mccandless being a prime example of being influenced from society. In the book ‘Into The Wild’, the author Jon krakauer tells Chris’s story of going into the wild and trying to survive off of the land. Such a thing relates to the 1880’s when men were influenced to be manly since there was no war.
The media in the society in the 21st century is a large part to how, “gender roles” or the norms of gender roles comes in play, through the advertisements, television, movies, books, and trailers. As Allison Lantagne, author of “Gender Roles in Media” stated that, “Gender roles, as an example, exist solely because society as a whole chooses to accept them, but they are perpetuated by the media”. Meaning that people are in the world of media, how it portrays gender roles of men and women should be like. The basic stereotypes for boys and girls, as we spoke about Chris McCandless from the book "Into The Wild " above and how it prevails a stereotypical male who is taking a "manly" journey on his own. Another example, Tide commercials show the leading role of a man proudly stating, “I’m a stay-at-home dad” and goes to braiding his daughter’s hair. Tide represented a more equal society with the man showing feminine behaviors. Of course there’s nothing wrong with accepting gender roles because they’re just roles to fill, and it’s up to us individuals to decide whether to fill it or not, it should be something that you want to fulfill but not the stereotypes norms of how one individual gender role should be.
All in all, gender roles have changed drastically and are constantly transitioning to fit in with society. The timeline for gender roles is undeniably very complicated and quite unorganized but at the end of the day the fight for equality between men and women or those who are lost between the idea of who they want to identify themselves as in society. Being defined from what you were born as doesn’t define who you are, but who you are inside and out as person, that’s for you and only you to decide! :)