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What Is a Gender Role?


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Photo credit: Stockbyte/Getty Images What Is a Gender Role?
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Question: What Is a Gender Role?

We learn what is a gender role intuitively, beginning as a young child, by observing our family interactions and the community around us. On the playground, we may break out of our defined gender role and face criticism. But just as we learn what is a gender role, we should also make our life and work choices based on our goals and priorities, not simply what society says we must do.


A gender role is the place you hold in a family, relationship or society as a whole because you are male or female. Typically, your gender role is action-oriented and focused on whether you work outside the home or play a nurturing role within the family.

Historically, a man's gender role was the breadwinner, earning money to support the family through outside work. A woman's gender role was to care for the family and household, providing support for the man.

In the last few decades, however, the question, "What is a gender role?" has become harder to answer, as gender roles grow increasingly closer together. More breadwinner wives are providing the majority or all of the household income. And more stay-at-home dads give an example of a male being able to nurture and raise children.

To be sure, there will always be differences between men and women, and we should celebrate and enjoy the natural variety of human existence. But increasingly, we aren't limited by a gender role when it comes to our career and family choices, and instead can make decisions based on our personal strengths, interests and feelings. Isn't that good news for our children?


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