British politician, Margaret Thatcher once stated “If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.” Statements such as this one exhibit the gender boundaries set for men and women in society. A gender role refers to a set of social and behavioral norms within a specific culture; it’s what is considered acceptable between men and women. Along with age, gender roles are one universal dimension on which status is determined. In modern society, while many expectations of men and women are still existent, many have reformed and will continue to change for generations to come. The obvious biological differences between men and women is used as justification, by some, to force individuals into social roles that limit and shape their attitudes and behavior. It seems that no society is satisfied with the natural characteristics that distinguish men from women, but each insists on assigning their own ideas of what and how a man and woman should be. The physical distinction somehow always becomes paired with psychological qualities. It’s not enough for a man to simply be a man; he must also be masculine, and a woman, feminine.
In American society specifically, males enjoy a socially dominant position. Therefore, from an early age, boys are taught to develop a masculine mentality so that as they age, they are able to assume and maintain that persona. Similarly, females are taught to think and behave femininely, to be nothing less than a “young lady” or woman at all times. This results in the male and female differences to be described as inborn, which defends the existing gender role arrangements. The “dominant man” is designed to be aggressive and achieve large accomplishments like running big businesses, while the pretty, passive woman, on the other hand, is designed to provide for her richer husband and his offspring. These gender roles are not to be tampered with, for these ways are considered “natural”. If one were to believe or behave otherwise, they would not only be against society, but nature itself.
The story of Joan of Arc serves as a perfect historical example, who as a young lady helped lead the French army to defeat the English in male clothing and was promptly accused of having violated the laws of nature. The term “double-standard” refers to the idea that there are different norms for the sexual behavior of men and women. These days, double-standards are largely based on social pressures, etiquette rules, and tradition. For a long time, society has held females to a higher degree of sexual restraint than males. Females are traditionally expected to keep their sexual endeavors private in order to uphold the “pure” and “innocent” image and are frowned upon for the smallest inkling of sexual expression. Males, however, are encouraged to “sow their wild oats” and often times are praised by other males for having multiple partners.