Stereotypical Gender Roles and Domestic Behaviors
Stereotypical Gender roles have been deeply rooted within the cultures of different societies around the world causing a breakdown in community between men and women and unfair biases at home, work and places of worship. Because religion is impactful in the way that it helps shape the character of people through its teachings, religion plays an important role in promoting or discouraging gender equality. In this paper, I will discuss the importance of equality between the sexes in the areas of home, work, and religion. I will also include biblical truths about the importance of gender equality and statistics on women’s representation in the church community.
Gender Stereotypes in Larger Society
Stereotypes are ideas about how people will act based on a specific group in which they belong. It presents an over simplified opinion, prejudice attitude or uncritical judgement of rather complex individuals. Gender stereotypes are oversimplified opinions that society assigns to male and female which results in behavior traits and socials roles that are considered masculine (male) and feminine (female). Gender roles have been engrained throughout different cultures and children are often taught conventional notions during early age development which cultivates as one’s self-image and the way that they interact with peers.
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One of the various gender stereotypes that can be observed in larger society can easily be attributed to the personality traits observed in men and women. In American society, women are often expected to be more accommodating and emotional, while men are usually expected to be self-confident and aggressive. In her book “Equal to the Task” Ruth Barton address this problem in society by saying “ Women have been understandably offended by the limited scope of images by which they have been understood, and most men have become aware that female stereotypes are harmful and limiting to women.” The problem with stereotyping gender personality traits is that it magnifies the differences between men and women leading to difficulties in communication, sexuality, leadership style and group behaviors.
Another gender stereotype of males and females that can be observed in our society’s occupational workforce. According to research from the American Sociological Review gender stereotyping of jobs presents a disadvantage to both men and women. “Using a unique set of data from a microfinance bank in Central America, co-authors Laura Doering, McGill University, and Sarah Thébaud, University of California-Santa Barbara, found that clients quickly treated previously gender-ambiguous roles as if they were male- or female-typed, and gave more authority to the managers who filled the role when they associated the job with men rather than women.” The study also suggests that cultural bias against female leaders in the workplace is of a pre-existing condition due to society’s gender bias. Employees respond in a more compliant manner to male leaders compared to their female counterparts.
I believe that gender discrimination in the work place based on stereotypes as a basis for unequal treatment is common in our society. Both men and women are known to experience unfair treatment based on gender-based stereotypes. Some people assume that certain job roles like doctors, engineers, mechanics and pilots are more appropriately filled by men. Likewise, because women are viewed as, emotionally expressive, unselfish, and friendly, the role of nurse, secretary, or teachers are better suited for women.
Many employers will rely on these biased stereotypes when making a hiring decision or when deciding to promote one employee over another creating gender inequality within the workplace. For example, women are often accused of being too emotional and therefore incapable of performing certain job tasks. Likewise, a man may be passed over for a job because the employer may feel that men lack the emotional sensitivity necessary for the position.
Gender Biases at Home
Domestic behaviors also have pre-conceived notions within larger society which creates stereotypical gender gaps within homes across the nation. “Individuals may experience conflict between their work and home roles due to limited time, high levels of stress, and competing behavioral expectations.” (Greenhaus and Beutell, 1985) For example, some people expect that women will take care of the children, cook, and clean the home, while men take care of finances, work on the car, and do the home repairs.
Ruth Barton addresses the issue in a chapter of her book called “Beyond Stereotyping” by saying “Until men and women share the responsibilities of childrearing and care of the home more equitably so that our “qualifications” develop at a similar pace, women will often be at a disadvantage in setting where such qualifications are being evaluated. As one woman stated, “Until there is equality at home, there will never be equality any place else”.”
I believe that society benefits when men and woman share equal responsibly at home. Unfortunately, the world view of “maleness” and “femaleness” has been engrained in society since the beginning of time, creating a disadvantage among the sexes. Having a partnership dynamic at home that aligns with God’s design of equality in resources and responsibility allow both partners to utilize their gifts and talents that extends beyond society’s stereotypes. God created the male-female in an equal partnership. They were both equal to share the responsibility of being fruitful, multiplying and subduing the earth. “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:28 KJV)
Traditional gender roles in the home, as it relates to specific household and family duties, decision making, and financial matters, can often present challenges in a relationship if they are not met with flexibility and equality. People often rely on society’s definition of the status norms when it comes to the breakdown of household matters. I believe that shifting the household expectations of equality and experimenting with other options tailored to what your personal reality looks like, presents a holistic approach opposed to society’s “one size fits all” traditional approach.
Stereotypes of the Church
For decades, the church has misrepresented God’s instruction to mankind as it relates to His church and leadership responsibilities throughout. Cultural biases and society patterns have deeply entrenched religious views, which has created blockages in the community of men and women working together. Different theological views on women in leadership within the church has spilled over into faith-based organizational behaviors and norms. Unfortunately, Biblical interpretations have combined with historical, cultural, and economic reasoning to help justify gender roles.
In many churches, seminaries and ministries around the world, gender stereotyping is widespread when it comes to leadership roles and ministry assignments. A great number of women in the church community strive for gender balance in church leadership. Unfortunately, women have been hindered from fully entering the work of the church. Conservative attitudes throughout have hindered progressiveness for women in church leadership roles.
Although outdated, “The Faith Communities Today 2010 national survey of a fully representative, multi-faith sample of 11,000 American congregations found that 12% of all congregations in the United States had a female as their senior or sole ordained leader.” The statistics for women in leadership positions, particularly in the pulpit are outrageous. Remarkably, women outnumber men in the pews of many U.S. churches. In fact, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, in the United States, women are more likely than men to say religion is “very important” in their lives (60% vs. 47%). “
“Women, on average, are more religious than men. Yet, two-thirds of religious Americans belong to a community that won’t consider women for leadership positions.” The church’s unwillingness to share leadership with women leaves the church without the benefit of a larger contribution of Spiritual gifts. In the New Testament Romans 16:1-2 Paul urges the church to receive Phoebe “our sister”, who is a deacon and leader of the church in Cenchreae. He describes her as a benefactor of many people including himself. Phoebe’s role as “deacon” in the Church indicated that she served the church in a leadership role. Perhaps by ministering, aiding others who were poor or sick or providing a place to stay as Paul also mentioned that he benefitted as well from her acts of service. He also instructed the Roman church to assist her in whatever business she has need of, clearly indicating that Phoebe was sent to lead.
Barton points out in “Equal to the Task that, “Paul knew what it was to share in leadership with women and to benefit from their caring direction without any diminishment of his own leadership contributions.” In fact, throughout scripture, Paul mentions the benefits of women in ministry often. He mentioned the names of Priscilla and Aquila, Junia, Euodia who are referred to as his fellow coworkers and laborers in the faith. He greets Julia, and Nereus’ sister who worked and traveled as missionaries and who’s ministries he respected. In a letter written to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5), Paul calls to remembrance the genuine faith that was passed down to Timothy from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.
Additionally, the Gospels of Christ and the New Testament redirects the roles of women in biblical history from human possessions belonging to men, to disciples like Mary Magdalene who sat and learned at the feet of the Messiah, helpers, advisors and leaders of the Church community. Without a doubt, women are important members of the Christian movement. Women and men were joined together in a community as the founders of Christ church.
Many will argue that when it comes to leadership, gender biases are typically slanted in the male’s direction. Because men are revered as emotionally stable compared to women, as well as assertive when in the face of tough decisions, society views men as the better choice for leadership. I believe that both men and women can possess traits to be competent leaders. Moreover, I believe that different individuals are suited for different roles and giftedness is not gender specific. The gifts of the Spirit are available to believers, both men and women alike. Because God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34 KJV) and He shows no partiality to any specific gender, the wonderful gift of leadership is given to both men and women.
Men and women working together in leadership roles at home, work, and church breaks historical barriers. Because domestic partnership changes are occurring at home, advancement pertaining to leadership equality in the outside community is absolutely necessary. In my research I was surprised to learn how less progressive we are as a society when it comes to gender equality at home, work, and in ministry. We need to acknowledge that women are a benefactor to leadership roles in these different community settings and address that different stresses that occur when men and women work together.
In conclusion, women’s contribution to the world is smothered when she is shoved behind a man or worst, not given a voice in important decisions. Incorporating the voices and men and women together gives our societies a sense of wholeness that it needs and was created to have. The world has begun to make strides toward progressiveness when it comes to men and women sharing leadership responsibilities, however, we still have a long way to go.”