Gender and Identity

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Gender and Identity

Gender Identity refers to the cultural expectations attached to a person's sex, and whether they display masculine or feminine qualities that are culurally defined.

S. Bem (1971) - a psychologist, claimed that all of the above roled can be identified as either male or female traits. This is known as Biological Determinism - defining someone's identity or role by their sex. This approach is disputed by a group of sociologists who look at Social Constructivism - the idea that our identity and roles on life are shaped by society's notions of gender.

Gender Roles: A role is a set of norms that define how someone of a particular identity or status is expected to act. Roles are played out within social relationships; an iduvidual plays a role in relation to other roles. These interact properly with other people as they establish rules which tell us how others are likely to act/ react.

Parsons (1955) – Gender roles

  • Instrumental: The role men should adopt – go out and earn money.
  • Expressive: The caring role that women adopt. Usually based in the home.
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Gilmore (1990)A functionalist, he claimed there are three elements to masculinity: man the protector, man the provider, man the impregnator

 Mort (1996)Highlights the emergence of metrosexual men. These are heterosexual men who are concerned with personal image and invest in grooming products

Hegemonic Masculinity

  • Connell (1995) In the traditional working class most men were socialized into ‘hegemonic masculinity’. Men were expected to be breadwinners and authority figures in the family
  • As a response to the feminisation of the economy, he called this ‘marginalized masculinity’ to describe how they're pushed aside by women as superior breadwinners in society.
  • Messerschmidt said that different classes construct masculinity in a different way. Middle class individuals are more likely to shape masculinity through success and wealth, whereas working class youth may associate it with gangs and violence.
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Crisis of Masculinity

Crisis of Masculinity

  • Mac an Ghaill, M (1994) - study of masculinity in schools - claimed that ‘macho lads’ who previously would have engaged in manual labour after they left school were experiencing a ‘crisis in masculinity’ by not having this avenue to demonstrate their masculinity.
  • Mac an Ghaill, M (1994) extends Connell’s ideas to talk of how, if work is the defining feature of masculinity, unemployment leads to a loss of self-esteem and status (a crisis of masculinity’). This is compounded by the more feminised economy.

Winlow and Hall

  • Looked at how the decline in industry in the North East of England had created challenges for traditional working class masculinity.
  • Whereas the working class used to take pride in their work, they now just work as a means to an end (money).
  • Their identity was now formed around the drinking culture at weekends. Violence became a key part of this culture in Newcastle city centre.
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Wilkinson (1994)

  • Identifies a ‘genderquake’ amongst women under the age of 35
  • A feminisation of the workplace has led to a revolution in women’s ambitions.

Oakley (1971) - Socialisation

  • Gender identities are not determined by genes but are socially constructed
  • She believes that we learn our gender identities through contact with agents of socialisation.
  • Social constructivism - 'self-concept' shaped by manipulation - rewards for certain behaviour. Canalisation- toys which push children into gender channels. 'Verbal appelations' e.g 'You're a good girl' rather than 'You're a good person'. Activities such as DIY or cooking. Peer groups, the media also influence gender identities

Billington et al. (1998) - The media present women in a limited range of roles.

Blackman (1995) - Studied a group of girls at secondary school and found that these New Wave Girls were confident in challenging sexism and any remarks by male peers.

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Education an Gender Role Socialisation

A number of feminist studies in the 1970s found that girls were underachieving due to teachers viewing girls education as less important than boys. This led to girls viewing their education as a less important part of their identity.

Sharpe (1994) - a postmodernist studied girls in the 1970s and found that girls viewed the following aspects as being the most important contributors to their identity (in order); love, marriage, husbands children, jobs, careers. Doing the same study 10 years later she found that this order had flipped on its head and education was central to their identity.

The attention has now shifted to boys underachievementJackson (2006) argued that boys' laddish behaviour in the classroom is due to a multiplicity of factors;

  • Fear of academic failure (playing up so that they can attribute lack of success to 'messing about at school'
  • 'Uncool' to work - working hard at school was viewed by the lads as a feminine trait
  • Wanting to fit in

This echoes Willis' (1977) stuy of working class lads, who viewed school as a place to 'have a laff' before leaving school at sixteen and getting a job.

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