Gender Roles by Amanda Ryan and Sadie Hoxmeier

5 06 2009

genderEveryday, we experience Gender. From our classrooms, to walking down 13th street, to the art in Jordan Shnitzer Art Museum. This term in AAD 252 Art and Gender, we as a class have learned how gender is present in art. Gender in art is shown through everyday images like television, advertisements, magazines, and more. Gender has become a stereotype. Both Men and Women experience gender roles and the side effects every single day. Because of this, we have decided to discuss Gender and the way it relates to society today with the help of course readings and general experience.

What is Gender?


According to Boymel Kampen, “People don’t discover gender lying under a cabbage leaf; they build it over generations” (1996, p.17). What Kampen means by this is that gender is not set in stone. Every year, month, day, our perception of gender changes. “Gender is the social and cultural construction of femininity, masculinity, and anything in between as opposed to the biological sex (male/female/a combination thereof). In the U.S., people are generally socialized to be ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ based on the cultural norms and assumptions of society. These assumptions of gender difference are often so embedded into our cultural systems, beliefs, and behaviors that they appear ‘natural’, and thus we tend to take them for granted” (Morris, Lecture 1)

Sadie defines Gender:

Gender constantly surrounds us, whether it be in the clothes we wear, the actions we make, or even in the art we view. I feel that gender is represented in art almost always- there are going to be feminine aspects and masculine aspects depicted in the piece of work.   Gender is socially constructed so I think that you can find many different meanings or it can be debatable how gender is shown in art.

Amanda defines Gender:

Defining Gender is a little difficult for me. To most people, Gender just means whether or not a person is a male or female. On every application or survey, one of the first things we are asked is our gender. Gender however is not just that. We are surrounded by gender every day. There are different ways Gender is viewed in society. Men must act a certain way and females must too. That is called a gender assignment. 

Webster’s working definition of Gender is “the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones)”.

Gill Perry, the author of Gender and Art states that “gender is defined as the cultural construction of femininity and masculinity” (Perry 8).

What are Gender Roles?

Gender roles are collections of factors which answer the question, “’how do I need to function so that society perceives me as belonging or not belonging to a specific gender?’ some people would include appearance, sexual orientation, and methods of communication under the term, but I think it makes more sense to think in terms of things like jobs, economic roles, chores, hobbies, in other words, positions and actions specific to a given gender as defined by a culture. Gender roles, when followed, send signals of membership in a given gender “(Bornstein 26). Because of the presence of Gender Roles, a stereotype has been created. This stereotype meaning that men and women need to follow their specific gender roles in order to be socially excepted. Gender Roles have forced society to form a stereotype of what the “perfect woman” and “perfect man” should be. People base this “perfect woman and man” off of what they see in magazines, television shows, advertisements, music, and art. Bornstein, author of Naming All the Parts touches base to this idea by saying “Gender roles when followed, send signals of membership to a specific gender” (Bornstein 26). The qualities for the “perfect woman” include, femininity, beauty, respectful, in shape, nurturing, motherly, housewife, dependent, caretaker, and loving. For men, the “perfect man” is considered to be masculine, strong, a provider, in shape, strong and independent. If Men and Women do not follow these certain characteristics, they are often shunned and do not feel socially accepted. These roles have also forced the society to either embrace the outcome or reject it. Many have gone against the grain and have created their own individual identities but often are victim to being made fun of or being a social outcast. Jameson Green, the author of Art and Gender in Nature agrees with this by saying “Appearance has a lot to do with how we perceive gender and the kind of attributes we assign to people upon first meeting them” (Green 63).

Image73(Adrian Piper, I Embody, 1975. Lecture 7)



Gender Roles for Women

17-adbusters(Advertisement with cut out words stating “She’s pretty isn’t she? Wish you looked like her? Pitty she doesn’t exist. Just like most people you see in magazines. This girl’s face is a compilation of the faces of 64 individual girls. BEAUTY IS AVERAGENESS. The only reason you want to look like this. Is because WE TELL YOU THAT YOU DO. It’s an UNREALISTIC and UNACHIEVABLE goal. Good new is: If you’re average looking. You’re beautiful already.)

In order to fulfill the gender role for women they must be feminine. To be feminine means  having qualities and or appearances traditionally associated with women. These qualities and appearances have been listed above. For generations, there has been a stereotype that women need to be “perfect”. This “perfect” notion has come from the media. If a beautiful woman in a magazine or television show is always thin, with perfect skin and a flawless complexion, then the typical female viewer who is most likely not all of these things, will find herself alienated by the very image with which she is supposed to identify. Gill Perry, author of Gender In Art states that “woman are often objectified in visual representations as a decorative or beautiful spectacle” (Perry 18).The need to be feminine is important for women in order to feel socially accepted. John Berger, author of Ways of Seeing, states that “She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to others and ultimately how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life” (Berger 2). Along with women, men will witness this media and begin to feel that women need to be this way in order to be liked. Despite the fact that the “perfect body” is manufactured meaning that most often women in magazines have been photoshopped to the extreme, there is still a gender role that women need to be feminine and fulfill their roles in order to be socially excepted by others around them. 

revdykim_21834620Korean Mother and Child-Elizabeth Keith. An example of art showing the gender role that women are nurturers and loving

vintage-coca-cola-advertising-coke-marketing-poste1(Example of Advertisement showing a beautiful woman selling the product to make the product seem more desirable) Men and Women see these advertisements and create stereotypes.



Gender Roles for Men

Abercrombie_Model(Typical masculine male men aspire to be. Good looking and great body)

In order for men to fulfill their gender role, they need to be masculine. To be masculine means having qualities or appearances traditionally associated with men. These qualities and appearances have been listed above. Gender roles for men usually consist of a strong individual, who brings home the bacon, is respectful of women, is athletic, and who is independent being able to take care of his own needs and also his family’s. Men are often thought of as less emotional and nurturing and have the stereotype of being “tough guys.” Often in our society if a male fails to be a rough and tumble kind of guy he is considered “soft.”

Gender Attribution 

Bornstein, in his article Naming All the Parts states, “There is Gender Attribution, where we look at somebody and say ‘that’s a man’ or ‘that’s a woman’. And this is important because the way we perceive another’s gender affects the way we relate to that person” (Bornstein 27). Historically this has not been a very big issue for people in the past because there were for the most part just males and females. Now in the modern day and age there are what we refer to as “third party gender” who are people that do not associate with either male or female or they are of one sex biologically but identify with another. In documents now there are boxes that say “transgender,” “third party gender” or “other” although many are still not sure how to treat this new situation or if they can accept these people’s decisions.

Social issues with Gender

  • Not being socially accepted if a man or woman does not follow their gender roles.
  • If a man or woman does not feel socially accepted, confidence will decrease and can lead to problems such as eating disorders, depression, or suicide
  • Third Party genders have still not received recognition beyond having their own checked marked box on applications.


Cultural/Religious Norms with Gender world wide

  • In the Muslim culture, women have to cover their body and not show skin. This goes against what we precieve as “feminine” here in the United States but to their own culture, wearing head scarves and long dresses represents feminism.


  • In Africa, women often go through “Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).  In an FGM society, a girl can not be considered to be an adult until she has undergone this procedure. As well as in most cultures a women can not marry with out FGM. In Africa, this is based off of a female gender role which is to be pure.


  • In the Church’s latest statement on the matter of having females as priests, Pope John Paul II, using his full authority as the successor of Peter, states categorically that the Church cannot — not will not, but cannot — ordain women, now or in the future. In many churches, they feel that it is still not a gender role for women to be in the priesthood.
  • In India the bride’s hands and feet are decorated with henna to ensure her good fortune in marriage.



Economical Issues with Gender

  • Economically, women still have trouble finding jobs because of their gender.
  • Often times men will make more money than women in the workforce.
  • It is rare to find females with higher wages in the same occupation.
  • In the 2008 Presidential Elections, it was the first time ever a woman has made it to the primary elections.


(Children’s Interpretation of Gender Roles)

(I Love Lucy episode showing gender stereotypes)

(Funny clip from the show Friends showing how women and men react differently to situations)



We decided to write about Gender Roles because we felt as if it has surrounded our lives in many different ways. It has started a social phenomenon that has established both positive and negative norms. We hope our blog has been informative and fun to read. 

Words of Wisdom for AAD 252

lyrics from “Video” by India Arie

I’m not the average girl from your video

and I ain’t built like a supermodel

But, I learned to love myself unconditionally

Because I am a queen

I’m not the average girl from your video

My worth is not determined by the price of my clothes

No matter what I’m wearing I will always be the india arie

always be the india arie

When I look in the mirror and the only one there is me

Every freckle on my face is where it’s supposed to be

And I know our creator didn’t make no mistakes on me

My feet, my thighs, my lips, my eyes; I’m lovin’ what I see


Works Cited

Berger, John Ways of Seeing.  British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books.

Bornstein, Kate “Naming All The Parts” Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us.  (1994) 

Green, Jamison “The Art and Nature of Gender” Unseen Genders: Beyond the Binaries. 

Perry, Gill “Gender and Art” Blackboard

Morris-Voelker, Julie. Lectures from Blackboard


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