Cultural Influence on Gender Role - Essay Plan

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Cultural Influences on Gender Role
Point 1 ­ Cultural Similarities (Division of Labour)
One of the greatest values of cross cultural research is that it indicates whether or not
patterns of behaviour are universal.
o Crosscultural similarities = gender roles are innate.
o Crosscultural differences = gender roles are influenced by nurture ­ socialisation.
One aspect of gender role that appears to be universal is the division of labour.
In most cultures, men hunt and otherwise provide resources and women look after children
and prepare food.
However, Mead provided evidence of cultural role differences.
o Arapesh ­ men and women were gentle and responsive.
o Mundugumor ­ men and women were violent and aggressive.
o Tchambuli ­ women were dominant whereas men were emotionally dependent.
Thus demonstrating that gender roles are determined by culture.
However, Mead later changed her view from cultural determinism to cultural relativism.
o Although both sexes of the Arapesh were nonaggressive and both sexes of
Mundugumor were aggressive, in all 3 societies, then men were more aggressive than
the women.
o This suggests that some behaviours are innate and universal, but to the degree that
these behaviours are expressed is relative to a particular culture.
Point 2 ­ Cultural Similarities (Division of Labour)
The fact that labour divisions are the same in most cultures suggests that biology rather
than culture explains the development of gender roles.
Buss ­ explored what males and females looked for in a marriage partner (10,000 people
from 37 different cultures).
o Women desired mates who bought in resources, or qualities that were linked to
resource acquisition ­ i.e. ambition.
o Men desire physical attractiveness ­ an indication of health, fertility and reproductive
o The fact that these attitudes to gender roles are apparent in such a large sample
suggests that they are universal and therefore innate.
However, Whiting and Edwards ­ found that it was fairly universal for girls to be
encouraged into domestic and child caring roles, while boys were assigned tasks involving
o This suggests that it could be an interaction between nature and nurture as there are
universal attitudes to gender roles (nature, said attitudes are innate) which then are
encouraged (social, nurture).
Therefore, it is difficult to separate the influences of nature and nurture, leading to the
conclusion that an interaction of both could be the best explanation.
Point 3 ­ Cultural Similarities (Sex Stereotypes)
Another aspect of gender role that appears to be universal is gender stereotypes.
William and Best ­ participants asked to decide whether an adjective was more
frequently associated with men or women.
o Men were seen as more dominant and aggressive, whereas women were more

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This suggests that there are universal gender stereotypes about malefemale
However, it could be argued that it is hard to place a high degree of validity on the study
due to:
o 1) participants had to select male or female ­ there was no `equal' category ­ thus
meaning that the division between male and female stereotypes may be exaggerated.
o 2) task was related to stereotypes and not to actual behaviours.…read more


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