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How to be a Lady

Updated on July 26, 2012

Women: How Closely Do You Follow Gender Roles?

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Men and women have different sets of rules to follow

The moment parents learn their child's gender, they start to purchase. For a girl, they go wild on pink curtains and flowery infant skirts. For boys, they pick out little blue overalls and glue up fireman wallpaper. As we get older, this division of gender becomes clearer, we learn the rules of the world: boys don’t cry and girls don’t shove.

Routinely debated is weather girls are born frillier, more prone to like pink, or are we simply trained into these roles through culture and example? Either way, or a combination of both, gender roles are demanding little things, taking hostage of our entire lives.

I didn’t realize myself just how much being a woman has impacted my life until becoming engrossed in the sociological study of gender. Now, I notice it all! After moving in with my boyfriend a year ago, no one asks him if he’s picked up cooking yet, instead they only seem to ask me. I’m not complaining (at the moment at least), my boyfriend has his own list of gender specific chores- such as taking out the trash and killing spiders.

Simply due to our gender, there are specific rules we are channeled to follow. Breaking these rules does not result in jail time; instead it’s social sanctions keeping them in place. The roll of an eye, the sneer of a colleague, the disapproval of a new friend, the pride of your family; all of these social ties have control over our actions and by not following the norm (or gender roles in this case) these ties become threatened.

Media Adds Weight to Gender Roles

The Kardashians might not be a great example for much, but at least two of them have more normal sized figures than other celebrities.
The Kardashians might not be a great example for much, but at least two of them have more normal sized figures than other celebrities.
Jessica Simpson has constantly been critiqued for her weight. She's either too thin or too fat, what message does this send normal people?
Jessica Simpson has constantly been critiqued for her weight. She's either too thin or too fat, what message does this send normal people?

The Good News

Any of these gender roles not sit well with you? The best thing about socially constructed norms is that they can be changed! If we created it, we can re-create it.

Can't live without high heels? Try these more comfortable styles with height

Four gender roles that might be controlling your life.

Minding Manners

In grade school the “cool” guys can rip farts in class, only receiving the laughter of their peers in return. But when one of my dearest girlfriends totted loudly in her fourth grade class, the rumors flew around campus quicker than the foul scent. Not to mention, her social status was dampened for the remainder of the month.

If a guy burbs or has to go “number two,” it’s all right, heck it’s guy stuff! But really, it’s human stuff. Women are held to a higher standard than men when it comes to manners, especially through youth and early adulthood. Women even judge other women more harshly than they do male company.

The movie Bridesmaids has recently made headlines for it’s fresh take on “grungy” female humor. Including a scene where the bridesmaids become ill while dress shopping, one girl unloading in a pearly white sink, her dress hiked up over her head.

Keeping Thin

It’s estimated that 1 in 3 college students will battle an eating disorder. An unsurprising statistic, considering nearly all of my closest friends fear fat like some sort of plague.

Eating disorders are born and breed in the pursuit of perfection, the look fashion magazines deem ideal.Socially created, the popular body type varies worldwide, in the western world women are pressured to be unnaturally thin. In third world countries, where people are dying to get their hands on a loaf of bread, the idea of choosing a hungry lifestyle makes no sense. For why would one want to live in misery in hopes of looking unhealthy and frail?

Being small gives us less power and by not eating enough we decrease our overall energy supply.

In the West African country of Mauritania, the fatter a woman is the more pride she brings her husband. Based on the ideology that fat people are well fed and therefore rich, women are seen as beautiful if they are ginormous. Before a women is married she is sent away to a camp where she will bloat with beauty by eating painful amounts of food- up to 16,000 calories a day. Rolls and stretch marks are sex symbols in Mauritania, while in America these same sights are erased with crèmes, surgeries, and starvation.

Ordering Food

You’re on a first date, the menu spread out before you.Perhaps if you were here with your girlfriends you’d go for that juicy burger on page 2, but since you don’t need onion breath or the new guy to see you chowing down a messy burger, you stick to the salad, dressing on the side. Let him order the beefy burger. It’s manly to eat, not womanly- even though all women must eat to live!

Of course, on a first date there are nerves involved and impressions to make- all of which interfere with gender roles, making them more prominent. But the menu is gendered on any occasion, as there are stereotypically female and male items. Ribs? Male. Caprese salad? Female.

High Heels

While men can go out to a nightclub, dinner, or even work in a comfortable and supportive pair of shoes, women are burdened with the pressure to wear heels. We can follow all the tricks (walk on the soles of our feet, lean back on our heels when idly standing…) but it’s still more comfortable to go out in flats.

For years I forced myself to wear heels going out to night clubs and events, recently I started picking up cute flats instead; the nights are easier, less painful, and I’m able to dance a lot more before burning out!

My fashion-conscious Grandma spent nearly her entire life in ill-fitting shoes, which doctors contribute to the painful bunions she now has. Even after undergoing surgery, my granny suffers from constant pain and an abnormal shape to her foot that drives her mad.Had she only worn heels sometimes or not all, doctors are sure she her bunions wouldn't be nearly as painful today.

While women who dream of becoming a model wish to be tall, height is stereotypically more important to men- I know many short men who would love some sort of high heel to become fashionable, simply so they could be the height they desire! Men who are shorter than most women are more likely to develop a complex about their height, yet it’s women who wear high heels- making it even harder on the short guys out there!

Take Back Control

Keeping polite, ordering light, staying small, and wearing heels to be tall; these are only a few of the many gender roles woman are burdened by based on the standards of popular culture. Become more aware of the ways you bend your life to fit what you have been taught a woman should be. Lead the life you want to live, not the one your gender dictates.


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    • Becky Bruce profile image

      Becky Bruce 5 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Hey there Cindee- thanks so much! :) Glad you enjoyed!

    • Lovelovemeloveme profile image

      Lovelovemeloveme 5 years ago from Cindee's Land

      interesting hub. i enjoyed it.

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 5 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Interesting Hub!!! The quiz summed me up to a near tee--Free- Spirit and I try to raise my girls the same way!! Great Job!!