Gender roles are well-established social constructions that may change from culture to culture and over time. For example, there has been an increase in children’s toys attempting to cater to both genders (such as Legos marketed to girls), rather than catering to traditional stereotypes. As society’s gender roles and gender restrictions continue to fluctuate, the legal system and the structure of American society, as well as other cultures, will continue to change and adjust.
We often make assumptions about how others should think and behave based on external appearance that represent biological characteristics but the process of defining gender and sexuality is complex and includes variations. There are some cultural universals but also culturally specific ways of defining masculinity, femininity, and sexuality. Furthermore, variations of sex, gender, and sexual orientation occur naturally throughout the animal kingdom. More than 500 animal species have homosexual or bisexual orientations (Lehrer, 2006). Gender inequality and discrimination are reinforced across cultures and within cultures through stereotypes and misunderstandings, as well as social norms and legal statutes. The traditional binary ways of understanding human differences are insufficient for understanding the complexities of human culture. As gender roles fluctuate, societies will continue to change and adjust.
Ambivalent sexism is the concept of gender stereotypical attitudes that encompasses both positive and negative qualities.
Benevolent sexism is the “positive” element of ambivalent sexism, which recognizes that women are perceived as needing to be protected, supported, and adored by men
Cisgender is a term for when a person’s birth sex corresponds with his/her gender identity and gender role
Gender refers to the cultural, social, and psychological meanings that are associated with masculinity and femininity.
Gender constancy refers to the awareness that gender is constant and does not change simply by changing external attributes; develops between 3 and 6 years of age
Gender discrimination or sexism refers to differential treatment on the basis of gender
Gender identity is a person’s psychological sense of being male or female.
Gender roles are the behaviors, attitudes, and personality traits that are designated as either masculine or feminine in a given culture.
Gender schema theory is a theory of how children form their own gender roles argues that children actively organize others’ behavior, activities, and attributes into gender categories or schemas.
Gender stereotypes are the beliefs and expectations people hold about the typical characteristics, preferences, and behaviors of men and women.
Hostile sexism refers to the negative element of ambivalent sexism, which includes the attitudes that women are inferior and incompetent relative to men.
Sex refers to the biological category of male or female as defined by physical differences in genetic composition and in reproductive anatomy and function.
Sexual orientation refers to the direction of emotional and erotic attraction toward members of the opposite sex, the same sex, or both sexes.
Heterosexual refers to opposite-sex attraction.
Homosexual refers to same-sex attraction.
Intersex is a term for an individual born with either an absence or some combination of male and female reproductive organs, sex hormones, or sex chromosomes.
Transgender is a term for a person whose gender identity or gender role does not correspond with his/her birth sex.