SEX ROLE IDEOLOGY

Finding that gender stereotype beliefs and self-concepts are related to differences in cultural comparison variables suggests that they may also be related to beliefs about the appropriate roles of females and males within various cultural groups. What is considered appropriate behavior for males and females varies across societies, but there are two possible cultural universals: At least to some degree, every society assigns traits and tasks on the basis of gender, and in no society is the status of women superior to that of men (Munroe & Munroe, 1975/1994).

In virtually all human groups, women have greater responsibility for “domestic” activities while men have greater responsibility for “external” activities. Women are responsible for cooking, food preparation, carrying water, caring for clothing, and making household things, and men are involved with hunting, metalwork, and weapon making, and travel further from home (D’Andrade, 1966). Women are responsible for child rearing (Weisner & Gallimore, 1977), and men have major responsibilities for child rearing in only 20% of the 80 cultures examined (Katz & Konner, 1981; West & Konner, 1976). Such pancultural similarities may originate from the biological differences between the sexes.

However, in many cultures these socially assigned duties are now being shared, with men engaging in more domestic activities and women in more external, particularly economic, activities. Nevertheless, even in societies where women have moved actively into the labor force, they have not had a comparable reduction in household duties. In the United States, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, Italy, Poland, and Romania, the overwhelming majority of household work is performed by women, regardless of their occupational status (Population Crisis Committee, 1988). The gender division of labor is reviewed in other chapters, but the beliefs and attitudes about appropriate role behaviors for the two sexes which are related to stereotypes will be discussed here. More Details Sex News & Mating Game

The different social roles that men and women play are based on the sexual division of labor and, according to social role theory, these role differences lead to differences in the behaviors of males and females. The division of labor and the status hierarchy of gender result from differences in reproduction and in the physical size and strength of women and men (Wood & Eagly, 1999), with differences typically favoring men (Eagly, Wood, & Diekman, 2000). Differences in position and power lead to differences in gender roles which include both beliefs and expectations (Cialdini & Trost, 1998) about what men and women do. Because women more frequently assume the domestic role, characteristics assumed to exemplify homemakers are stereotypically ascribed to women in general. Similarly, characteristics thought to typify providers are ascribed to men in general (Eagly et al., 2000). Cultural expectations promote conformity to gender roles and influence perceptions of masculinity and femininity in oneself and others. Indeed, gender stereotypes are often used to justify differential sex role assignment (Hoffman & Hurst, 1990; Jost & Banaji, 1994; Williams & Best, 1990a).