7th Class Social Science Gender, Religion and Caste Notes - Role of Gender

Notes - Role of Gender

Category : 7th Class


Role of Gender


When a child is born, the first thing one wants to know about the child is whether it is a boy or a girl. To be a girl or a boy is an important aspect of one's identity in a society. The society we grow up in tells us how a girl should behave, what kind of behaviour is expected from a boy, what a girl or boy can or cannot do, etc. This forms fixed ideas in our minds about gender roles and we form gender stereotypes. Not all societies behave in the same way as ours. Ours is a patriarchal society where the roles played by women are valued less than the roles men play. But there are matriarchal societies also though very rare, where women are valued over men. This chapter will deal with all gender roles and try to wipe out gender bias against women in our society.


It is Sunday. Aarti and Sohan are excited about their grandmother's visit. Her train will arrive in two hours. There is a lot of work to do. Aarti has already got up early and taken a bath. "Aarti, come and help me set the breakfast table. Spread butter on these slices and then prepare the tea," mother orders. Solian is still languishing in bed. "Aarti, I need another packet of milk for preparing klieer. Could you go over to Sheela auntie's house and bring one?" says mother. Aarti goes to her neighbour's house. Sohan wakes up and calls out for a cup of tea. Aarti returns with the milk packet and keeps it in the kitchen. "Mother, I want to call up Sunidhi. It is her birthday today," she tells her mother. "Do that later, Aarti. Solzan has got up. Go and give him tea in his room," says her mother. Aarti does as told. Sohan is playing a video game. Aarti's eyes brighten for a minute and then she remembers that Sohan never lets her play with it. "It is not for girls," he says. Aarti calls up Sunidhi to wish her. Sunidhi invites her for her birthday party. Sohan comes out of his room and informs his mother, "Mother, I am going to see a movie with Raj in the evening. It is the latest Disney release...all right?" "Okay, but meet dadi before you go," mother answers. Aarti too wants to go out. Meekly, she asks, "Mother, can I also go out in the evening? Sunidhi has invited me for her birthday party." Aarti's mother is silent and then says, "Aarti, it would be dark before you return. It is not safe for you to stay out after dark. Besides, I will need your help in the house." Aarti tries again, "But mother, Sohan is going out too." Aarti's mother replies firmly, "Sohan is a boy. He can do as he pleases." Aarti does not argue.


From the day Aarti was born, she has been constantly reminded that she is a girl and cannot have her free will to do as she likes.


The girl does household work while the boy plays video games


This is a glimpse of a household in a typical patriarchal society where the male dominates and the female submits. Now answer these.

·      Why does Aarti help her mother while Sohan does not?

?    Why does Sohan not share his video game with Aarti?

?    Why does Sohan inform his mother of his plans while Aarti, his sister takes permission?

?    Why is Aarti not allowed to do what she likes?

?    Have you also as a girl or a boy seen such behaviour in your family or in another family? To answer these questions you need to know about gender.




Gender refers to a set of characteristics that differentiates a male (man or boy) from a female (woman or girl). Gender is a socially constructed definition of women and men. It differs from the word 'sex'. 'Sex' refers to the biological characteristics of a male and female. Gender is determined by the specific tasks, functions and roles attributed to women and men in society and in life. On this basis, there are two main categories: masculine and feminine. Femininity is a set of attributes, behaviours, and roles generally considered to be typical of girls and women.

Masculinity is the counterpart of femininity.


Do you frown when you see a boy playing with dolls and a

Girl playing with automobile?


Playing with dolls is considered feminine and playing with a ball is masculine. If a boy likes to play with dolls, though his sex is male, he is considered feminine. If a girl likes to play with a ball or car she is considered masculine. It is a well-known fact that if a boy adopts a female gender role, he is called 'sissy' and if a girl adopts a male role, she is called a 'tomboy'.




The growing up of girls and boys and their behaviour, likes, dislikes, interests, all are expected to be according to some preconceived notions. Stereotype, as you have already studied in Class 6, is a fixed idea or belief about a specific group, individual or thing that is based on prior assumptions. In this context, gender stereotyping or gender role refers to the set of social and behavioural norms that are considered to be appropriate for a 'man or boy' and a 'woman or girl' in their society. As gender stereotypes and biases are prevalent in our patriarchal society, children regularly learn to adopt gender roles.




A child's earliest exposure to what it means to be male or female comes from parents. Parents treat sons and daughters differently. The girls are dressed in pink and frilly frocks, while the boys are made to wear jeans and shirts in colours of blue and green. Dolls and kitchen sets are bought for the daughters while boys are given cars, cricket bats and footballs. So, toys greatly reinforce the traditional gender roles: boys are active and adventurous, while girls are passive and homely.


As children move through childhood and into adolescence, they are exposed to various factors



Hold an open discussion in class. Ask the boys and girls about the kind of games they like to play, the colours they like, the clothes they like to wear and what they would like to be when they grow up. Record the choices of girls and boys separately. Differentiate the kind of toys, activities, clothes and sports that the girls chose and those that the boys chose respectively. Make this graphic organiser in your notebook and fill in the bubbles accordingly.



Which influence their attitudes and behaviour regarding gender roles. This is eminent in the story given at the beginning of the chapter. Parents grow more protective towards girls. Girls are expected to return home before it gets dark while boys are given more freedom. Moreover, girls are not allowed to have boyfriends, while boys have fewer restrictions. For household errands, boys are preferred over girls and for household work it is the girls.




Teachers influence girls towards feminine ideals. Girls are praised for being neat, quiet and calm, whereas boys are encouraged to think independently, be active and speak up. Girls are encouraged to participate activities like doll making, stitching, needle work and craft, while boys are encouraged to take part in sports and athletics. Even storybooks and texts describe a world in which boys and men are bright, curious,




A five-year-old boy whose favourite colour is pink wants his first bicycle to be pink in colour. The parents have no problem. The boy tells the salesman. The salesman tells him that boys should ride blue or red bicycles. The boy says that it is just a colour. Later, the girls in his neighbourhood tease him about his pink bicycle. The boy does not like pink colour any more. Discuss the situation.


Brave, inventive and powerful while girls and women are silent, passive, compassionate, loving and beautiful.


Thus, attitudes and behaviour are learnt first at home and are then reinforced by the child's peers, schoolmates, teachers and book reading, and also television viewing.


Q. Gita wants to play cricket with the boys in the school. She is a good player. What must the coach say to convince her parents to help them overcome gender bias?




As one grows into an adult, the society prescribes different roles to men and women. A girl's beauty and gentleness is appreciated; a boy, on the other hand, is praised for what he can do or achieve. Over time, the girl leams that she is most appreciated for her appearance and not for what she can do. So the will to pursue a good career takes a back seat. A boy becomes conscious of his career to achieve a good position in society and earn well. As a girl comes of age, she is expected to be desirous of nothing but to marry and have children. Once the girl is married she is expected to put her family's welfare before her own?be loving, compassionate, caring, sympathetic, intuitive and submissive, and tend to the house. On the other hand, the male stereotypic role is that of a financial provider. He is expected to be aggressive, rational, dominant, and career-oriented. Thus, social norms stifle the growth of a woman as an individual and as an equal partner to a man.


The gender symbols for female (pink) and male (blue) have been adopted from the symbols of planets?Venus and Mars respectively.




Gender role or gender stereotype affects the relationships between men and women. It sets up inequality between males and females. For ages it has been believed that women are weak and need protection. Hence, society prescribes different roles for men and women. The origin of the Indian concept of appropriate female behaviour can be traced to the rules laid down by Manu in Manusmriti, a book of Hindu Laws in 200 BCE: "by a young girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house". This implies the attitude that a woman must never be independent.


It is a known fact, that a woman faces gender inequality right from birth. While the birth of a son is celebrated, the birth of a daughter is lamented. The sex ratio according to the report of census 2011 stands at 914 females per 1000 males. Female infanticide and foeticide are rampant in many parts of India.




Gender inequality in India is most noticeable in the fields of education, employment and health. In Indian patriarchal societies, a girl child is considered more of a burden than an asset. She has to be married off someday which is a big task for the girl's family. Investment in the girl child's health and education, is often ignored. On the other hand, the son is provided good education and all kinds of facilities and care that growing children need. He inherits his father's property and carries the name of the family forward. He has to earn well to support the family. This partial behaviour adversely impacts the overall well-being of the woman. Two-thirds of the world's illiterates are females. Many states of India also record a high mortality of the girl child.


Statistics by the United Nations

1.     Of the more than 110 million children not in school, approximately 60 per cent are girls.

2.     By age 18, girls have received an average of 4.4 years less education than boys.

3.     Of the more than 130 million primary- school-age children worldwide who are not enrolled in school, nearly 60 per cent are girls.

4.     An estimated 450 million adult women in developing countries are stunted, a direct result of malnutrition in early life.


Know a Little More

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. She is known mainly for human rights advocacy for education and for women in her native Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school.




In India, due to traditional division of gender roles, even if a woman has a job, taking care of her home and family is her primary responsibility. In most houses, women are responsible for most of the shopping, child care, laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc. Women bear almost all responsibilities for meeting the basic needs of the family, yet they are denied the resources and freedom. The household work she does is taken for granted. Her work is never recognised.

Women are also not allowed to speak freely with men outside, dress as they desire and stay out of the house after dark. However, this perception is slowly changing.




Gender roles of men and women are slowly changing in the Indian society. Today's woman has redefined her status and role in society. Over the past few decades, Indian women have made great strides in accepting and adjusting to new definitions of gender roles. Many women's liberation movements have fought hard to redefine traditional stereotypic gender roles. This is due to women education resulting in an increased number of women in the workplace. This has led to the suggestion that an androgynous gender role orientation may be more beneficial to social growth than strict adherence to traditional gender roles. Androgyny is the blending of feminine and masculine qualities in one individual. For example, a woman can



Know a Little More

In India, there are also societies which are matriarchal in form. A matriarchal society is a society in which females, especially mothers, play the central roles. Small pockets of south India and north-east India have this kind of society Nairs and Mappilas of Kerala, the tribal groups of Minicoy Island and the Garos and Khasis of Meghalaya are some examples of this kind.



Find out more about a matriarchal society. Write down the features that you find are different from that of a patriarchal society.


Do household work but also be employed as a policewoman. A man can be a software engineer and at the same time he can cook dinner for his wife and children.




The equality of men and women has been accepted as a fundamental principle of human rights since the adoption of the United Nations Charter in 1945. To bring a change, the Constitution of India has also ensured gender equality as a fundamental right in its Preamble. Today, the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, (1994) has banned sex-determination tests and female foeticide. While women in the West had to fight for over a century to get some of their basic rights, like the right to vote, the Constitution of India gave women the right to vote from the very beginning. As a part of its commitment to bring in equality of sexes, the government is tracking the reasons for the existence of such inequality and finding ways to correct them. For example, the government has set up anganwadis in several villages where women can work surpassing the barriers of homely life. Unfortunately, women in India are mostly unaware of their rights because of illiteracy and the oppressive tradition of established gender roles.




With the increased presence of women in the workplace, old attitudes and behaviours have gradually changed. Most women in India work and contribute to the economy in one form or another, but much of their work is not documented or acknowledged when there is gender division of work within family. In fact, most of the times no value is placed on a women's work within an outside the house. Women gather firewood, the plough fields and harvest crops on the farm, they weave and make handicrafts at home and even sell food on the roadside. In addition, women take care of daily household chores (cooking, fetching water, and looking after the children and cattle). However, all this work is considered insignificant and taken for granted resulting in invisibilisation of women's labour. Further, women do not earn a salary with this work.


The informal sector has mostly women at work. It includes jobs such as domestic help, small traders, artisans and field labourers. However, most of these jobs are unskilled and low paying. They do not provide benefits such as minimum wages, medical care and pension. Women with jobs in shops, factories and in the public sector are probably better off. But most of the women hand over their earnings to their husbands and in-laws and have no say on their own money.




Today, more girls are going to school. In recent years, the condition of working women in India has also improved considerably. More and more women are getting employed in positions of respect, and are earning equal wages as men. The Government announced the National Policy for empowerment of Women in 2001. In recent years, women have been given representation in the Panchayati Raj and there is 33 per cent reservation for them in the local government bodies. At the Central and State levels, we have a number of women Chief Ministers. Dowry Prohibition Act has also been formulated.


Women today know how to exercise their rights


Today know how to exercise their rights today, we have great women achievers who have set an example for the society. They have proved that, given a chance, they can move much ahead of their men counterparts.


India's first female Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, first female President Pratibha Patil, Justice Rohini as the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and Justice M. Fathima Beevi the first female judge to be appointed to the Supreme

Court of India are all role models.





The woman of today is aware and fights for her rights. She voices protests against violation of her interests. She expresses her independent opinion through campaigns, protests, rallies, etc. Studies show that when women are supported and empowered, all of the society benefits. Their families are healthier, more children go to school, productivity improves and income increases. In short, communities become more resilient.


International Women's Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women's Day is celebrated on March 8 every year all over the world. In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from women's economic, political and social achievements to general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women.




In Maharashtra there was anti-price rise agitation as a result of the drought and famine conditions in the 1970s. These led to a sharp price rise. In 1973, the United Women's Anti-Price Rise Front was formed. Large groups of women held demonstrations at government offices, houses of Members of Parliament and merchants. This movement spread to Gujarat, where it was called the NavNirman Movement. In Gujarat, the movement started as a student's movement against increase in costs, corruption and black market. Thousands of women joined it.

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Notes - Role of Gender

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