The concept of gender roles is a particularly stereotyped and sexualized issue to examine that plays a fundamental role in shaping modern society. The notion of gender is connected with social, cultural, and psychological characteristics, which relate to both genders in terms of social backgrounds. According to Hillard, gender roles are the socially shared expectations or standards of behavior of men and women that “function to support and maintain cultural gender differentiation” (36).
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However, the violation of male and female gender roles is regarded differently, given that male gender roles obtain a higher position in society today. Therefore, the violation of the male gender role might be seen as having a more adverse impact than the role of women.
Gender-related behavior is always dictated and regulated by the society in which one grows and lives. Considering the gender role distribution in literature, cinematography, and television shows that altogether significantly affect its audience, men and women are depicted differently. Men are commonly referred to as strong, business-oriented, logical, dominant, aggressive, and reluctant to share their feelings. Women, in turn, are supposed to be passive, gentle, caring, sentimental, and more inclined to express their emotions. Under established societal norms, men are allowed to be loud, use harsh language, not very talkative, blunt, and have very little need for security. As such, women are expected to embody all the opposing features and behaviors as compared to men.
Gender Norm Violation Study
Gender roles incorporate a set of norms that can be prescriptive or proscriptive, depending on whether they correspond to specific situations. The prescriptive standards regulate what both genders should do in social settings and, hence, leads to social disapproval (Hillard 44). For the following study, I chose to violate the male gender role by wearing makeup and bright nail polish in public. The study aims at examining society’s readiness for men to express themselves through the beauty habits that are generally accepted as female.
By drawing inspiration from the social media influencers, I decided to apply several beautiful female routines, such as wearing makeup and nail polish, since this gender norm is still not equally perceived by modern society. When choosing the exercise to examine, it is crucial to stay confident and have a specific goal to achieve. As for this research, my target goal was to study the public’s response to such a gender norm violation, as well as its impact on society and myself.
The Outcomes of Violation
Gender role violating activities have both an interpersonal and personal basis. Most commonly, such behaviors always receive critical and disapproving reactions from witnesses, as in my case. Taking into account the acute stigma of the female beauty routine, I frequently had to explain myself and mention that this was made specifically for the project. The gender norm violation proved to be generally sexualized with different patterns for males and females. With that said, male gender role violation is often homosexualized in the majority of cases. Society usually supposes a man who wears makeup or paints his nails to be gay.
As described by Thompson et al. (2018), a gender violation for men “threatens a loss of masculine heterosexual privilege” (277). Thus, a gender-role norm violation is often sexualized; it is typically regarded as heterosexual terms for women and homosexual terms for men.
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The Environmental and Personal Reactions
It is possible to consider that the gender role conflict for men has a negative evaluation, especially in the female-dominated area and vice versa. Only the smallest percentage of the public normally interprets such a violation as the self-expression approach or does not react at all. While makeup consumption by females pursues making themselves more attractive and feminine, its usage by men concerns seeking a more perfected and more appealing image. The public needs to comprehend that this approach does not represent an act of pushing traditional norms and ideals. Within the rapid growth of modern society and changing values, people are changing as well and should become more liberated in expressing themselves despite the gender role stereotypes.
Such an issue directly leads to the examination of disparity between men and women in terms of suffering from gender role standards. Following the ideas of Helgeson, many scientists assume that men experience more negative outcomes for gender-role violations than women (6). Nowadays, it is more acceptable for women to dress and behave like men since childhood than for men to do so. Furthermore, manhood is considered a more unstable and complex state comparing to womanhood. I felt entirely secure about doing this gender norm violation since subconsciously I knew it was conducted for the study. However, taking into account the public pressure in the form of questions, looks, and ambiguous reactions, it would be a complicated task to get used to.
The Influence of Gender Roles on One’s Behavior
The clear division of gender roles and the behavioral patterns related to them are closely intertwined. This can be further illustrated in terms of biology, culture, and social learning theories. For instance, the social role theory is the social structural theory, which suggests that gender disparities are “rooted in a gendered division of labor and resulting hierarchy” (Hillard 38). As such, the allocation of tasks between men and women forms gender roles. By watching both genders in different social roles and activities, one established the set cultural stereotypes that bring pressure to perform a behavior to these roles.
The gender schema theory indicates the explanation of the world’s differentiation by gender throughout life. According to Lindsey, this theory is regarded as the best alternative to illustrate the development of people’s gender identities and the ways gender stereotypes can be modified (75). It is a cognitive model that suggests that limited and stereotyped images for boys and girls might impede them from considering different choices and options in life. Ultimately, the social learning theory is concentrated on observable behavior. This theory implies that socialization is based upon rewards and punishments. The imitation of the specific behavioral model might be an impulsive act of a child, however, the behavioral patterns eventually become habitual and accustomed through strengthening them.
The complexity and level of distinction of the gender roles and activities related to them vary across different cultures and society’s willingness to accept their modifications. Men are considered to have a higher status in most countries, which defines their endurance of the gender role norms and their violation. In this study, I attempted to research violating the male gender norm by wearing makeup and nail polish to analyze the people’s reactions and their influence on me.
The results proved that modern society is still guided by a set of stereotypes concerning gender roles that are formed since childhood. However, it is important to understand that the social category of gender in the Western world dramatically varies from other regions. Gender roles are the basic approach to the social differentiation of the population and the system through which people develop their gender identity and individualize themselves.
Helgeson, Vicki S. Psychology of Gender. 5th ed., Routledge, 2017.
Hillard, Amy L. “Modern Gender Roles And Stereotypes: The Cultural Funneling of Individuals Toward Gender Choices.” The War on Women in The United States: Beliefs, Tactics, and the Best Defenses, edited by Joel T. Nadler and Meghan R. Lowery, ABC-CLIO, 2018, pp. 36–57.
Lindsey, Linda L. Gender Roles: A Sociological Perspective. 6th ed., Routledge.
Thompson, William E. et al. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 9th ed., The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2019.