Gender and Sexuality Gender Norms essay

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In fact, they allowed her to play, and then seemed to structure the entire game around keeping the ball away from her, except for allowing her to actually score; in an action that the observer was forced to conclude was intentional. Two of the men playing that game asked the author for her phone number after the game. No groups of men allowed the author to join the game and continued playing the same type of rough-and-tumble tackle football that they were playing prior to her request.

The third experiment involved the author changing a flat tire, with her male companion standing by and not helping. No female drivers stopped to offer assistance, nor did they seem to react to the author changing the tire. Four male drivers stopped to offer assistance. Two of them continued on their way when the author assured them that she had it under control. One of the drivers insisted that she allow him to change the tire, but did not act in an insulting manner towards the male companion. The fourth driver actually chastised the male companion, telling him that he should never let a lady change a tire, and politely insisted that the author allow him to help her. A fifth person stopped, came by to see if anyone needed help, and told the male observer, "Man, I wish my girlfriend could change a tire. Where'd you find her?"


Generally, people did not respond to the gender incongruent behavior in a negative or hostile manner.

In fact, the behavior that resulted in the greatest number of negative comments was a behavior that is not only highly indentified as masculine, but also generally considered to be a disgusting and unhealthy habit: chewing tobacco. None of the comments that people made about the chewing tobacco had a gender bias. None of the comments that people made to the author about the author playing football or changing the tire on the automobile were inherently negative. Therefore, on the surface it might appear that there is not a tremendous bias against people acting outside of their gender roles. However, the results of the investigation actually argue against just such a conclusion.

First, it must be noted that the study was flawed. The inclusion of chewing tobacco as a gender-incongruent behavior was not a wise decision. Chewing tobacco is a very weighted behavior in modern society. Using tobacco products of any kind is increasingly unacceptable in today's society. Although chewing tobacco does not expose bystanders to physical danger, like smoking does, it is still a behavior that reveals one to be not conscious about one's health. On its own, this behavior may make someone appear stupid or reckless, regardless of one's gender. In addition, chewing tobacco is also a behavior that appears to be divided among class lines; the mere fact that it must be spit out involves breaking social taboos, which are present for men and women in polite society. People simply are not supposed to spit things out of their mouths in public. Therefore, the inclusion of chewing tobacco in the study made it difficult, if not impossible, to determine if the negative reactions to the author's chewing tobacco were due to the fact that she was a woman, or simply due to the fact that she was doing something revolting.

However, the remaining two experiments did reveal something about how people respond to gender role incongruities. First, it was interesting to note that no women stopped to offer assistance with changing the tire. It is a gender norm for men to offer roadside assistance, but for women, because of a perception of danger, to neglect to do so. The author's experience verified that societal norm. Though not all male passersby stopped to render aid, the only people who did stop were men. The majority of the men seemed as if they would have stopped if a single male was on the side of the road changing a tire as well; they seemed genuinely helpful. However, the most hostile reaction that anyone in the entire experiment had was directed at the male observer when the author was changing the tire. However, it is important to note that this person was not hostile to the author for stepping outside of her gender role, but to the male observe for failing to comply with his gender role. That unequal reaction should come as no surprise, given that men generally face greater social pressure to comply with gender norms.

In fact, the responses to the author's requests to play football did much to reveal society's attitude towards women who step outside of prescribed gender roles. First, there is resistance, but that resistance is couched in paternalistic terms. None of the men refused to allow the author to play by stating that they did not want to play with a woman, but instead insisted that they were concerned that she would be injured if they did allow her to play. Moreover, the one group of men that allowed the author to play football with them changed their playing style once she joined the game. Women may not be as openly discouraged from defying gender norms as men are, but that does not mean that gender roles for women are any less rigid and unforgiving than those for men.


Aguinis, H., & Henle, C. (2001). Effects of nonverbal behavior on perceptions of a female employee's power bases. The Journal of Social Psychology, 141(4), 537-539.

O'Sullivan, L.F., Hoffman, S., Harrison, a., & Dolezal, C. (2006). Men, multiple sexual partners, and young adults' sexual relationships: understanding the role of gender in the study of risk. The Journal of Urban…[continue]

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