In our society, there are traditionally different expectations and requirements for men and women. But are these role models universal or are there cultural differences? Comparing different societies offers exciting insights into the diversity of gender roles.
Margaret Mead's research
One of the best-known researchers in this area is anthropologist Margaret Mead. In the 1930s, she studied gender roles in three tribes on the island of New Guinea. She found that gender roles varied widely. In Arapesh society, for example, men and women were equally cooperative, nonaggressive, and sensitive to the needs of others.
In other societies, however, such as the Mundugumor, both men and women were aggressive and dominant. In the third society studied, the Tchambuli, traditional gender roles were even reversed: women traditionally took the dominant roles in society, while men were more passive and emotional.
Gender roles in different cultures
Margaret Mead's research shows that gender roles are by no means universal. In fact, there is a tremendous diversity of gender roles and expectations around the world. In some cultures, for example, women are responsible for hunting and fishing, while men take care of the household. In other cultures, women traditionally assume more dominant positions in politics or business.
One example is the Mosuo people of China. In this society, women traditionally hold the power and men live in the women's family. There is no marriage in the traditional sense, but women choose their sexual partners and can change them at any time. Men play a subordinate role in this society and are mainly responsible for agricultural work.
Influence on individual behavior
These cultural differences also influence individual behavior. In societies where women are traditionally dominant, for example, women are perceived as more self-confident and assertive than in societies where men are dominant. The meaning of terms such as "masculine" and "feminine" also differs across cultures.
However, research also shows that biological differences between the sexes may play a role in some areas. For example, studies have shown that, on average, men are better at spatial tasks, while women perform better on average in linguistic tasks.
This research has shown that gender roles are not based solely on biological differences, but are strongly influenced by the culture in question and the social norms there. By comparing different cultures, we can develop a deeper understanding of the diversity of gender roles and reduce prejudice against other cultures.
It is important to recognize that gender roles in any culture are a complex issue influenced by many factors. By examining these factors and challenging our own cultural biases, we can help create a society that is equitable and inclusive for all people.