Example research essay topic: Maintaining Gender Roles In Contemporary Australian Society – 1,282 words

A distinction is sometimes made between gender and
sex, such that gender refers to socially
conditioned characteristics or typical behaviour,
and sex to the physical characteristics of men and
women. The definition of gender is sociological
concerns of sexual difference and human behaviours
or a set of classes, such as masculine, feminine
and neuter, which together include all nouns. The
discussion of how the differences of gender are
maintained in society today covers many different
areas, such as growing into gender roles, sources
of gender socialization, masculinity and
femininity and expectations that humans live with
daily. These will all be discussed and analysed in
the following argument. We are born either male or
female. Depending on the sex that you are, your
parents, family and friends try and teach you
certain stereotypical ideals.

For instance, a
little girl may have a pink coloured nursery and
clothes. She may be given dolls and tea sets to
play with. Whereas a boy may have a blue nursery
and toys, and be given trucks and train sets to
play with. This is encouraging the child to have
feminine or masculine personal qualities,
depending on their sex. When these adults are
choosing gifts, it immediately comes to mind that
a doll for a baby boy is not an appropriate gift.
It has been shown that these actions by adults
have been taught to them by culture and their
surroundings as they themselves were growing up.
These children do not have the ability to choose
their own gender pathway, and therefore have to
rely on their parents to lead them in the correct
direction and trust their selection of gender
roles. Once a child has become old enough to be
able to choose for itself, they develop a more
individual personality and variance of gender.
Researchers have been debating whether or not
males who have been raised as females develop
features of masculinity once they reach puberty,
and whether the biological sex will prevail.

is still much debate about this issue, but if this
were to happen, the male would have to be taught
acts of masculinity. The child would have to see
what masculinity is to be able to act in this
manner. Phrases such as tomboy have been used to
describe females who act with some masculinity,
and the opposite characteristics may be found in
males that decide that they prefer to play with
dolls than trucks. Different levels of masculinity
and femininity can be found across the wide
stretch of humanity. Women produce children; women
are mothers and wives; women do the cooking,
cleaning, sewing and washing; they take care of
men and are subordinate to male authority; they
are largely excluded from high-status occupations
and from positions of power. (Haralambous and
Holborn 1995, Sociology Themes and Perspectives,
HarperCollins Publishers) These generalisations
have come from our past and have now become quite
commonly used.

Women have been seen as the
maintainers of the household while the men go out
to work and earn a living. When our ancient
ancestors switched to hunting as a way of life,
the relationship between males and females was
dramatically altered. Females with their heavy
reproductive burden were unable to play a major
role in this new feeding pattern, which had become
so vital for survival. A much greater division of
labour between the sexes arose. (Tiger 1969) This
quote shows the view that males have become the
more successful sex, as they managed to maintain
survival and keep their family alive. With this
image in mind, it is quite easy to see how gender
differences have been initialised and maintained.
Young girls have grown up seeing their mother
cooking and performing women duties, whereas young
boys are able to see their father going out to
work for the day and then coming home and being
able to sit down and put his feet up.

From these
roles being passed on through
generation-to-generation, people in contemporary
Australian society have fell into their gender
roles in life. In a way, it can be seen that
gender roles in contemporary society, and like
social clothing. Men and women are seen to be
wearing clothes that indicate their position in
society. Sources of gender socialization are
varied and influence humans at every stage of
life. The six main sources of gender socialization
identified by Wearing (1996) are; family,
education, peers, media, leisure and work place.
Through these six foundations of socialization and
the effects that they have in individuals, we can
see how gender differences are maintained in
contemporary Australian society. Families are the
basis of our learning and the backbone of our

They are the ones who teach us how to talk,
walk, and complete everyday tasks. They provide an
idea of how life works and which roles we are
supposed to take up. As we see our parents doing
household tasks, such as cleaning, cooking, yard
maintenance etc, we learn how we are supposed to
live day to day. Through our parents having main
beliefs and principles, which they teach their
children, they maintain the expectancies of
genders. Education can take on many different and
varied forms. These vary from primary school and
high school to higher education such as
university, TAFE or other adult learning courses.
This source of gender socialisation can also be
included with peers and workplace.

Friends are a
very influential aspect of our lives and can make
a person feel excluded because they act
differently. For example, people, who discover
that they are transsexuals, usually realise once
they reach adulthood. This has been shown to occur
because of the stronger influence peers have on
children than adults. As children, anyone who
seems different to everyone else is ostracised and
mocked. These standards that friends and peers
have, influence people to act the way their sex is
supposed to act. Through different influences and
demands on a person, they are forced to conform to
the majority and hence, maintain gender
differences in contemporary society.

Leisure and
extra curricular activities are also important in
the social construction of masculinity and
femininity. Males use sport as a way of enforcing
their gender, whereas women may prefer socialising
or more relaxing forms of leisure. For males,
competitive outdoor pursuits, like organised sport
activities, seem to prove to other males that they
have the competence, strength and aggressiveness
to be successful. Wearing (1996 Gender; the Pain
and Pleasure of Difference, pg 110) has said that
gender division strengthens mens level of
competence, strength, (and) aggressiveness. These
traits have become “social requirements” of the
male sex. These requirements for women are often
quite different.

Women may prefer to socialise and
entertain and may use that as their way of showing
how good a female they are. All of these ideas of
gender roles have once again been learned from our
culture and our history. Although contemporary
Australian society has become a lot more relaxed
about gender roles, there are still stereotypes
that people maintain. It feels natural for females
to sit around and talk while the men are out
showing how tough they are. And while ever it
feels natural, it can be seen that these above
mentioned gender roles have been maintained
through culture, into todays society. Bibliography
Barrett, M.

& McIntosh, M. 1991 The
Anti-Social Family 2nd Edition, Verso, London
Dempsey, K. 1988 The Australian and New Zealand
Journal of Sociology No. 24 pp 420 – 36
Haralambos, M. & Holborn, M. 1995, Sociology:
Themes and Perspectives 4th Edition, Collins
Educational, London.

Wearing, B. 1996 Gender: The
Pain and Pleasure of Difference, Longman,
Melbourne. The Learning Centre, The University of
New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
http://www.lc.unsw.edu.au/onlib/print/essay p.html
(9th April 2001)[/b].

Research essay sample on Maintaining Gender Roles In Contemporary Australian Society