In many countries, children between 5-8 years had less gender stereotypes than the adults and it was strong in male dominated societies. Though there were some differences which showed than some children do learn gender stereotype earlier, the pattern was very much common in adults. Every society has its own values and norms. This means that the society can shape one’s emotional makeup and behaviour. Advocates of nature believe that children learn their gender roles right from an early age.
The stimulation in the environment helps the individual by improving their behaviour, say, learning a language. It is urged that if it was a genetic creation, it would have been impossible or difficult for a child to learn the language and speak. Take for instance the story of ‘Genie’ who grew up in the jungle and could not speak and also had poor language abilities.
Researchers do believe that biological influence plays a very important role in early stage to bring about such behaviour. Campbell (1996), who studied babies as young as seven months, says that they prefer their own sex mates.
8 THE ROLE OF MEDIA IN SHAPING GENDER ROLES
Media has played a very important role in the development of gender behaviour. A lot of research has been made to find out if consistent viewing of television does create gender roles to change. Manstead and McCulloch (1981) found that stereotypes on television often do not reflect the reality. Men were portrayed as powerful and are always in control while women were seen as homemakers and mothers. Children tend to copy new fusions, designs and life styles of celebrities. This is most commonly found in young adults.
9. GENDER ROLE IN THE 20th AND 21st CENTURY
As soon as the ‘winds’ of industrialisation started blowing across the world, human behaviour and gender roles started to change. Prior to the 20th century, men and women have had specific roles to play in society. Men were seen as ‘breadwinners’, that is, they were responsible to look after their families financially while women were supposed to care and look after the children at home.
Women did not participate in politics, hunting and any physical activities, which can endanger their body. But now that that myth is gone, women are present in politics and are in forefront in decision making and running house activities that used to be the domain of men.
Women can now decide not to get married or not have children naturally. They might opt for artificial insemination or choose to adopt a child. Many women are now single mothers and a significant minority are now lesbians as well.
In England, gender roles have changed as well. In some societies marriage is done on contract basis, that is, a man and a woman can decide for how long they can be married and when to separate.
Also, subjects that were regarded to be a women‘s subjects like nursing, social work, catering, now see the involvement of men.