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Masculine/Feminine Traits

Masculine/Feminine Traits

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand that various cultures identify certain behavioral traits as masculine or feminine

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Video Transcription

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We've been talking about culture and how it shapes the way we see the world, what we perceive as normal, proper, correct. I'm Marlene, and in today's tutorial, I'd like to talk with you about gender, the cultural view of masculine traits and feminine traits. Now, masculine traits are those traits that a given culture thinks is appropriate for men to display, behaviors and traits, but inappropriate for women, whereas feminine traits would be those behaviors or traits that are considered appropriate for women, females, to display but inappropriate for men.

So there's a difference here between masculine and feminine traits as perceived by any given culture. And all cultures identify some particular traits with each gender. Now, it's true that any individual, male or female, is certainly able to express any of the wide variety of traits or behaviors that are sometimes assigned to either gender. But cultures have their opinions about this.

And that's true even here in the US. I mean, here we've grown up with for years sayings like boys will be boys, or about girls, sugar and spice and all things nice. Girls read fairy tales where they're waiting for Prince Charming. We dress them in pink. Boys hear be a man, don't cry. We dress them in blue. It's almost inappropriate for a little boy to be called girly or to act like a girl, whereas little girls at a certain age are smiled upon if they're tomboys. However, when you get to a certain age, all that is supposed to change.

Culturally it's been that way. And we've been in a rather period of upheaval in the last 30 or 40 years where there's been a lot of change in terms of our cultural perceptions of gender. But some things still remain. In fact, I'm going to show you a list of traits here in the United States that still may be pretty common for many people to associate with a particular gender.

So here we have competitive, strong, thick-skinned, forceful, self-directed, tough, leading. I'll let you imagine which gender that applies to. And over here we have emotional, weak, sensitive, graceful, submissive, nurturing, and supportive. Now, we might call these stereotypes. And yet they are cultural ideas about gender that have been around an awfully long time. And I probably don't have to tell you that these words here even in the United States typically are applied to men, males. OK. And these words over here are typically applied to females, women. So these are traits that are considered more common with men or males. And these are more common with women or females.

Now, what happens when a particular gender steps out and acts in a way that is considered gender inappropriate? And this is a term for when, say, a woman begins to be more forceful or self-directed or tough. That might be considered still in some circles, in some contexts as gender inappropriate. Or perhaps a man may be submissive, graceful, sensitive. There are places and contexts where there are those within the culture that might still perceive this, even within the United States, as being gender inappropriate.

And when that happens it can lead to conflict. And what happens is that you might have a man that's considered a weak man, a weak male. And that would be frowned on, whereas a woman who in a particular environment would stand up strongly, maybe speak up for herself, raise her voice, could be considered pushy. Or any other number of terms could be applied to either gender when they step out of what's considered an appropriate role.

Now, there's also, of course, gender neutral. And that would be traits that are considered appropriate for either gender to express, things like looking for attention or self esteem or respectful. These are things that we would expect from either gender, and there's not a weight carried to it as being more appropriate for one gender over another.

Now, these tendencies are still in the culture in many places and could underlie conflict even in the conflict resolution process. For example, in a work conflict you could have two people bringing a tangible issue in to a conflict resolution process. And underneath it you could find that perhaps, let's say, you had a woman who was in a management role could be thought to be inappropriate because she's portraying, perhaps, some of these traits that have traditionally been considered masculine. Perhaps people are thinking she's competitive or too tough or forceful or pushy. And underneath the conflict over the tangible issue that could be at play. That could be at play.

Or you could have a domestic conflict of some sort, something between spouses where there's a conflict, an argument, perhaps. Maybe it's financial. And woman thinks that the man is being too weak, because he's not doing what a man should be doing. So we begin to view-- either gender can view the other gender in ways that are prescribed by these masculine and feminine traits.

Now, there are changes. And we've seen a number of changes in the culture. For example, there are a number of stay at home dads who are certainly exhibiting nurturing behavior, supportive behavior. That's more and more accepted, more and more seen as normal. There are more and more women in the workforce taking more leadership roles.

Now, this change has happened over time. It's not fully accepted at all levels among everyone. But there is change happening. However, these traits, even within the United States and within all cultures, are still persistent, and in some cultures moreso than in others. So I've enjoyed being part of this tutorial, and I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know
Feminine Trait

A trait considered by a given culture as "right, normal, or proper" for women to have or display but not for men to have/display.

Gender-Inappropriate Behavior

Behavior displaying traits or assuming roles considered "not normal or proper" for one's gender.

Gender-Neutral Trait

A trait considered by a given culture as "right, normal, or proper" for either gender to display.

Masculine Trait

A trait considered by a given culture as "right, normal, or proper" for men to have or display but not for women to have or display.