Americans’ perspectives on sex and gender roles evolved from erudition on the family social science. This study aims at clarifying the question of why men and women perform different roles in families. This early work on the family continues to influence current sociological thinking on gender roles. The paper concentrates on the sociological perspectives that give an explanation about sex and gender roles and responsibilities centered on the values of marriage and family as the pivotal functionalist assertions regarding social equilibrium.
By virtue of living in a social world, individuals learn the established or expected norms and principles changing their behavior and accepting or resisting the traditional gender roles. From this perspective, gender roles are a powerful means of social organization that influence many aspects of society. American women, for instance, can become leaders, which is not acceptable in the third world countries. For this reason, irrespective of their gender, individuals previously inevitably internalized conventional and stereotypic gender roles and developed their sense of gender in the face of strong messaging about the correct gender role for their perceived body.
Gender roles also shape and constrain individuals’ experiences. Men and women are treated differently and have diverse life trajectories as a result of their ascribed role and the degree to which they conform. For this reason, Americans have witnessed the emergence of varied roles that earlier were reserved for a particular sex or gender and now are played by both men and women. Conventional and dualistic understanding of gender roles has been problematic as enormous diversity exists within and across populations. The integration of dyadic gender roles in society has contributed to the discrimination of individuals who do not conform to these prescribed roles. In addition, the notion of gender as a whole has changed the roles and distinctive nature of gender, thus, resulting in a static situation (West & Zimmerman, 1987). Notwithstanding these issues, many scales have been developed to measure key aspects of gender roles and the degree to which individuals take up these roles.
When taking into consideration the measurement of gender roles, it is also important to recognize that a lot of people criticize the established measures for being crude or imprecise, and for a lack of reliability and validity (yielding inconsistent results across scales that purport to measure similar constructs). Therefore, this suggests that Americans’ perceptions of appropriate feminine and masculine traits have changed (Seem & Clark, 2006), which calls the decades-old scales accuracy and consistency into question and highlights the provisional nature of socially constructed categories. Many scores have been internalizing aspects of gender roles and negotiating their own gender identity in relation to the dyadic gender model.
Hughes & Dvosky (2008) state that transgendered individuals desiring surgery conform to strict hetero-normative roles in order to legitimize their transition. In this way, “the medical system restricts individuals’ ability to make gender transitions that do not produce normative sexed and gendered bodies” (Hughes & Dvosky, 2008). At the same time, most theorists appreciate that the medical system’s recognition of gender variance has its benefits.
Hundreds, if not thousands of people can question this phenomenon of sex and gender roles and responsibilities. They can also confirm and reinforce the conventional gender system in the way that individual gender and sex can be judged and evaluated as equal. For this reason, they acknowledge the ways in which this system reifies a dyadic and rigid view of gender and denigrates bodies that cannot be neatly organized into one of the two conventional gender categories: masculine and feminine.