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Gender Issues and Roles Essay

Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behavior, activities and attributes that a particular society considers appropriate for men and women. It is a basic organizing principle of society that shapes how we think about ourselves and guides how we interact with others. The distinct roles and behavior may give rise to gender inequalities, i. e. differences between men and women that systematically favor one group. There are differences between the sexes in that men weigh more than women and have more muscle. Women outperform men in some test of long term endurance and life expectancy.

However, biologically, the sexes differ in limited ways with neither one naturally superior. Origin of Gender roles The root of all gender issues which presently exist in society may be traced back to The Creation Story in Genesis. This crucial chapter of the Bible provides evidence supporting that God intended for man and woman to exist as equals, yet he assigned gender roles once Adam and Eve disobeyed him by eating the fruit from the forbidden tree of good and evil. Thus, men have been characterized as the “breadwinners” and women as “child bearers and housekeepers” since the beginning of humanity.

Men and women have been trapped in certain roles since the beginning of time, and have always had a power struggle between them. Gender issues have not evolved over time; they have always existed. Partriarchy and Sexism Partriarchy literally means “rule of fathers”. Conceptions of gender vary everywhere in the world and we find some degree partriarchy. Sexism is the belief that one sex is innately superior to the other and is built into the institutions of society. Sexism stunts the talents and limits the ambitions of the human population who are women.

Masculinity comes with a high price as it calls for men to engage in many high-risk behaviors, including using tobacco and alcohol, participating in physically dangerous sports, and driving recklessly. It is also closely linked not only to accidents but to suicide, violence and stress-related diseases. As men seek control over others, they opportunities for intimacy and trust. In general men have more social resources than women. Martriarchy is a form of social organization in which females dominate males. Although there is no clear case of matriarchy, women’s power can rival that of men.

Many societies count among their historical heroes at least one brave woman warrior or leader, but few are as reviled as the Kikuyu Wangu wa Makeri. Appointed as the head of Weithaga, in Muranga district, by the colonialists, Makeri’s legacy is as a woman who made hell for the men of her tribe, wreaking revenge and sewing humiliation for the gender roles she had broken out of. Born in 1856, according to Nairobi University historian Mary W Wanyoike, Makeri’s rise to fame came relatively late in her life, when, in 1901 she was appointed as the head of her district.

The elevation of a woman to such a position of power was unheard of in those days. Wangu, however, embraced the position with vigour. Tales abound of her demeaning men, riding on their backs on all fours, taking multiple lovers – among them one Karuri Gakure – and being very far from an “attractive’ woman. Certainly, such behaviour was anathema in early 20th Century Kikuyu culture. In those days, once men had paid the dowry on the women they were to marry, the women were considered their property. Women might be disgruntled, but they were expected to be silent victims.

Thus when Wangu “superwoman” Makeri got power, she felt it her personal mission to avenge for the exploited women. Her zeal, however, quickly made her a hate figure for men, as did her tendency to overstep the boundary of leadership. Yet she held on to power for a remarkable 35 years. In the end, what lead to her downfall and death, was the brewing conflict between the Kikuyu and British colonialists. From around 1910, colonial resentment was budding. The Kikuyus who later formed the Mau Mau saw Wangu Wa Makeri as a proxy for colonialists. They instigated a rebellion against oth the colonialists and her. With her support thinning, her back-riding tenure ended unceremoniously. Yet her reputation for multiple lovers and a passion to domineer the masculine species, is still used as a weapon today in the gender war, driving accusations that any women who loves power and money is of her line, and setting up a horror figure that no good Kikuyu women would wish to be associated with. In time, it seems, hers is one story that may yet be retold. In preindustrial societies, women have little control over pregnancy and childbirth, which limits the scope of their lives.

Similarly, men’s greater height and physical height and physical strength are highly valued resources. But industrialization gives people choices about how to live. Today, then, in societies like our own, biological differences provide little justification for partriachy. Legitimate or not, male dominance still holds. Some sociologists claim that biological factors “wire” the sexes with different motivations and behaviours, specifically more aggressiveness in males. Most sociologists, however, believe that gender is primarily a social construction that can be changed.

Gender Socialization From birth until death, human feelings, thoughts and actions reflect the social as different kinds of human beings. By age tree, they incorporate gender into their identities by applying society’s standards to themselves. Just as gender affects how we think of ourselves, so it teaches us to act in normative ways. Gender roles are attitudes and activities that society links to each sex. Male – female differences Most of the differences between men and women turn out to be socially created.

However there are some differences in physical ability between the sexes such as, on average, males are 10 percent taller, 20 percent heavier and 30 percent stronger, especially in their upper bodies. On the other hand, women outperform men in life expectancy. In adolescence, males show greater mathematical ability, whereas adolescent females excel in verbal skills a difference that reflects both biology and socialization. Research points no overall differences in intelligence between males and females. Biologically then, men and women differ in limited ways, neither one being naturally superior.

Sex and the body At birth, females and males are distinguished by primary sex characteristics, namely the genital organs used to reproduce the human species. At puberty, humans exhibit secondary sex characteristics, whereby bodily development, apart from the genitals, that distinguishes biologically mature females and males. To accommodate pregnancy, giving birth, and nurturing infants, adolescent females develop wider hips, breasts and soft fatty tissue, thereby providing a reserve supply of nutrition for pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Adolescent males, usually slightly taller and heavier than females from birth, typically develop more muscle in the upper body, more extensive body hair and deeper voices. Sexual orientation Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions.

Research over several decades has demonstrated that sexual orientation ranges along a continuum, from exclusive attraction to the other sex to exclusive attraction to the same sex. However, sexual orientation is usually discussed in terms of three categories: heterosexual (having emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to members of the other sex), gay/lesbian (having emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to members of one’s own sex), and bisexual (having emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to both men and women). This range of behaviors and attractions has been described in various cultures and nations throughout the world.

Many cultures use identity labels to describe people who express these attractions. The most frequent labels are lesbians (women attracted to women), gay men (men attracted to men), and bisexual people (men or women attracted to both sexes).. Sexual orientation is distinct from other components of sex and gender, including biological sex (the anatomical, physiological, and genetic characteristics associated with being male or female), gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female) and social gender role (the cultural norms that define feminine and masculine behavior).

Sexual orientation is commonly discussed as if it were solely a characteristic of an individual, like biological sex, gender identity, or age. This perspective is incomplete because sexual orientation is defined in terms of relationships with others. People express their sexual orientation through behaviors with others, including such simple actions as holding hands or kissing. Thus, sexual orientation is closely tied to the intimate personal relationships that meet deeply felt needs for love, attachment, and intimacy.

In addition to sexual behaviors, these bonds include nonsexual physical affection between partners, shared goals and values, mutual support, and ongoing commitment. Therefore, sexual orientation is not merely a personal characteristic within an individual. Rather, one’s sexual orientation defines the group of people in which one is likely to find the satisfying and fulfilling romantic relationships that are an essential component of personal identity for many people. How people know their Sexual orientation?

According to current scientific and professional understanding, the core attractions that form the basis for adult sexual orientation typically emerge between middle childhood and early adolescence. These patterns of emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction may arise without any prior sexual experience. People can be celibate and still know their sexual orientation-–be it lesbian, gay, bisexual, or heterosexual. Different lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have very different experiences regarding their sexual orientation.

Some people know that they are lesbian, gay, or bisexual for a long time before they actually pursue relationships with other people. Some people engage in sexual activity (with same-sex and/or other-sex partners) before assigning a clear label to their sexual orientation. Prejudice and discrimination make it difficult for many people to come to terms with their sexual orientation identities, so claiming a lesbian, gay, or bisexual identity may be a slow process. What role do prejudice and discrimination play in the lives of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people?

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people encounter extensive prejudice, discrimination, and violence because of their sexual orientation. Intense prejudice against lesbians, gay men, and bisexual people was widespread throughout much of the 20th century. Public opinion studies over the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s routinely showed that, among large segments of the public, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people were the target of strongly held negative attitudes. More recently, public opinion has increasingly opposed sexual orientation discrimination, but expressions of hostility toward lesbians and gay men remain common in contemporary American society.

Prejudice against bisexuals appears to exist at comparable levels. In fact, bisexual individuals may face discrimination from some lesbian and gay people as well as from heterosexual people. Sexual orientation discrimination takes many formsSevere antigay prejudice is reflected in the high rate of harassment and violence directed toward lesbian, gay. Numerous surveys indicate that verbal harassment and abuse are nearly universal experiences among lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Also, discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in employment and housing appears to remain widespread.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is another area in which prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have had negative effects. Early in the pandemic, the assumption that HIV/AIDS was a “gay disease” contributed to the delay in addressing the massive social upheaval that AIDS would generate. Gay and bisexual men have been disproportionately affected by this disease. The association of HIV/AIDS with gay and bisexual men and the inaccurate belief that some people held that all gay and bisexual men were infected served to further stigmatize lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.

What is the psychological impact of prejudice and discrimination? On the social level, prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are reflected in theeveryday stereotypes of members of these groups. These stereotypes persist even though they are not supported by evidence, and they are often used to excuse unequal treatment of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. For example, limitations on job opportunities, parenting, and relationship recognition are often justified by stereotypic assumptions about lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.

On an individual level, such prejudice and discrimination may also have negative consequences, especially if lesbian, gay, and bisexual people attempt to conceal or deny their sexual orientation. Although many lesbians and gay men learn to cope with the social stigma against homosexuality, this pattern of prejudice can have serious negative effects on health and well-being. Individuals and groups may have the impact of stigma reduced or worsened by other characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, religion, or disability. Some lesbian, gay, and bisexual people may face less of a stigma.

For others, race, sex, religion, disability, or other characteristics may exacerbate the negative impact of The widespread prejudice, discrimination, and violence to which lesbians and gay men are often subjected are significant mental health concerns. Sexual prejudice, sexual orientation discrimination, and antigay violence are major sources of stress for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Although social support is crucial in coping with stress, antigay attitudes and discrimination may make it difficult for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to find such support No, lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations are not disorders.

Research has found no inherent association between any of these sexual orientations and psychopathology. Both heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Both have been documented in many different cultures and historical eras. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience.

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships are normal forms of human bonding. Therefore, these mainstream organizations long ago abandoned classifications of homosexuality as a mental disorder. What is “coming out” and why is it important? The phrase “coming out” is used to refer to several aspects of lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons’ experiences: self-awareness of same-sex attractions; the telling of one or a few people about these attractions; widespread disclosure of same-sex attractions; and identification with the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community.

Many people hesitate to come out because of the risks of meeting prejudice and discrimination. Some choose to keep their identity a secret; some choose to come out in limited circumstances; some decide to come out in very public ways. Coming out is often an important psychological step for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Research has shown that feeling positively about one’s sexual orientation and integrating it into one’s life fosters greater well-being and mental health. This integration often involves disclosing one’s identity to others; it may also entail participating in the gay community.

Being able to discuss one’s sexual orientation with others also increases the availability of social support, which is crucial to mental health and psychological well-being. Like heterosexuals, lesbians, gay men, and bisexual people benefit from being able to share their lives with and receive support from family, friends, and acquaintances. Thus, it is not surprising that lesbians and gay men who feel they must conceal their sexual orientation report more frequent mental health concerns than do lesbians and gay men who are more open; they may even have more physical health problems.

What about sexual orientation and coming out during adolescence? Adolescence is a period when people separate from their parents and families and begin to develop autonomy. Adolescence can be a period of experimentation, and many youths may question their sexual feelings. Becoming aware of sexual feelings is a normal developmental task of adolescence. Sometimes adolescents have same-sex feelings or experiences that cause confusion about their sexual orientation. This confusion appears to decline over time, with different outcomes for different individuals.

Some adolescents desire and engage in same-sex behavior but do not identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, sometimes because of the stigma associated with a nonheterosexual orientation. Some adolescents experience continuing feelings of same-sex attraction but do not engage in any sexual activity or may engage in heterosexual behavior for varying lengths of time. Because of the stigma associated with same-sex attractions, many youths experience same-sex attraction for many years before becoming sexually active with partners of the same sex or disclosing their attractions to others.

For some young people, this process of exploring same-sex attractions leads to a lesbian, gay, or bisexual identity. For some, acknowledging this identity can bring an end to confusion. When these young people receive the support of parents and others, they are often able to live satisfying and healthy lives and move through the usual process of adolescent development. The younger a person is when she or he acknowledges a nonheterosexual identity, the fewer internal and external resources she or he is likely to have.

Therefore, youths who come out early are particularly in need of support from parents and others. Young people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual may be more likely to face certain problems, including being bullied and having negative experiences in school. These experiences are associated with negative outcomes, such as suicidal thoughts, and high-risk activities, such as unprotected sex and alcohol and drug use. On the other hand, many lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths appear to experience no greater level of health or mental health risks.

Where problems occur, they are closely associated with experiences of bias and discrimination in their environments. Support from important people in the teen’s life can provide a very helpful counterpart to bias and discrimination. Support in the family, at school, and in the broader society helps to reduce risk and encourage healthy development. Youth need caring and support, appropriately high expectations, and the encouragement to participate actively with peers.

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth who do well despite stress—like all adolescents who do well despite stress—tend to be those who are socially competent, who have good problem-solving skills, who have a sense of autonomy and purpose, and who look forward to the future. In a related vein, some young people are presumed to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual because they don’t abide by traditional gender roles (i. e. , the cultural beliefs about what is appropriate “masculine” and “feminine” appearance and behavior).

Whether these youths identify as heterosexual or as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, they encounter prejudice and discrimination based on the presumption that they are lesbian, gay, or bisexual. The best support for these young people is school and social climates that do not tolerate discriminatory language and behavior. What can people do to diminish prejudice and discrimination against lesbian,gay,and bisexual people? Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people who want to help reduce prejudice and discrimination can be open about their sexual orientation, even as they take necessary precautions to be as safe as possible.

They can examine their own belief systems for the presence of antigay stereotypes. They can make use of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community—as well as supportive heterosexual people—for support. Heterosexual people who wish to help reduce prejudice and discrimination can examine their own response to antigay stereotypes and prejudice. They can make a point of coming to know lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, and they can work with lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals and communities to combat prejudice and discrimination.

Heterosexual individuals are often in a good position to ask other heterosexual people to consider the prejudicial or discriminatory nature of their beliefs and actions. Heterosexual allies can encourage nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation. They can work to make coming out safe. When lesbians, gay men, and bisexual people feel free to make public their sexual orientation, heterosexuals are given an opportunity to have personal contact with openly gay people and to perceive them as individuals.

Studies of prejudice, including prejudice against gay people, consistently show that prejudice declines when members of the majority group interact with members of a minority group. In keeping with this general pattern, one of the most powerful influences on heterosexuals’ acceptance of gay people is having personal contact with an openly gay person. Antigay attitudes are far less common among members of the population who have a close friend or family member who is lesbian or gay, especially if the gay person has directly come out to the heterosexual person.


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