Category Life in society

Gender Roles


n this unit you will hear people talk about gender roles. Chapter 3 deals with the issues that boys and girls face as they grow up. You will hear an interview with a mother about how she is trying to raise her son, and an interview with a young man who discusses how he, his brother, and his sister were raised. You will also hear a lecture on single-sex education and the benefits it can offer girls, in Chapter 4, you will hear interviews with a woman and a man about gender equality at home and at work. The lecture in Chapter 4 is about issues of gender and language.

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1 Belinda and Farnsworth talk about the increase in the number of women who work and the increase in the number of men who want to be active parents. One result of these social changes is that new types of arrangements have to be worked out for child care. Read the following problem situations. Discuss a possible solution to each problem with a partner, preferably someone of the opposite sex. Make notes about your solutions.

1 A divorced father has custody of three young children. When they get sick and cannot go to school, he has to use his own sick days – days that employees are allowed to take off if they are sick – so that he can stay home from work and take care of them.

Possible solution: oojd allow e-mwith cb’ildron a ocrfa’m mmb&r

of ЧісЛс child plan’d’ pe-r near in addHion fo fhe-ir own pc-rSonaf Qck. days._________________________________________________

2 A company often asks its employees to do overtime, that is work longer than the normal workday. One employee doesn’t want to do overtime because she wants to spend evenings with her children.

Possible solution:__________________________________________________

3 A young father would like to spend lime with his newborn baby. He requests a six- month leave of absence without pay. The company tells him that they cannot guarantee that he will get his job back after the leave.

Possible solution:__________________________ _______________________

4 An employee has a new baby. She needs to make more money so that she can afford child care because she and her husband both work.

Possible solution:_______________________________________________

Share your solutions with the class. Are other students’ solutions similar to or different from yours and your partners?


1 Look at the graph below. It shows Lhe “gender gap” in pay that is one of the most important issues for working women today.

I960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995

Source: From p. 258, Michael Hughes, Carolyn J. Kroehler and James W. Vander Zanden, Sociology: The Core, 6e, © 2002. Reprinted with permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies.


Work with a partner. Take turns describing what the graph in step 1 shows about:

1 the difference between men’s and women’s salaries

2 how this difference is changing over time

You can use these sentence structures to discuss the graph:

There was a

big / significant

increase / rise decrease

in X




rose / increased fell / decreased



Compared to DATE,

women / men



З I What do you think are some factors that cause women to earn less than men?

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1 Read the following passage.

Biology – detemiines what sex we are at birth – that is, whether we are male or female. However, society and culture determine our gender roles – that is, the socially learned patterns of behavior that distinguish boys from girls and men from women. Gender roles are learned through the process of socialization. In other words, we leant what society considers masculine and feminine as we grow up and interact with other people.

Becoming a man or woman is dramatically more complex now than it was a century ago. Boys and girls today have more freedom to explore their individuality and less

pressure to conform to traditional gender roles. For example, today both young men and young women can have jobs that were previously limited to only one sex. Children who are born today are given choices about the way males and females should behave and think. Many of todays gender roles were unthinkable in our parents’ or grandparents’ generations.

2 I Answer the following questions according to the information in the passage.

1 How do we learn about masculinity and femininity?

2 How have gender roles changed?


Read these questions and share your answers with a partner.

1 When you were a child, what did vour family, teachers, or friends tell you about mens and women’s behavior?

2 Do you think that gender roles will continue to change in the future? How?


1 Read the following list of personality traits. First, match the trail with the correct description. Then decide whether you believe these qualities are mostly biological (things you are born with) or mostly social (things you learn). For each trait, check (✓) the appropriate box. Then compare your answers with a partner.

Personality Mostly Mostly

Description Trait Biological Social

Gets along well with other people


Is good at sports—————-


Can make decisions alone


Is not afraid of doing things


Wants to be the best at things


Does what he or she wants to do


Prefers to be led by others


Is afraid to talk to others; is shy


Works well with other people


Behaves badly


Now work as a group. Look at the list of trails below and write a short description for each one. Do you think that these traits are mostly biological or mostly social?

adventurous aggressive cowardly gentle helpful

kind nice responsible sweet thoughtful

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