The existence of stereotypes, contradictions, and double standards has played a critical role in the shaping of the role of women and their position in contemporary society. Despite the social advances that have been made over the years, stereotypes of women are still in existence today. Contradictions are also evident between traditional beliefs, which overlooked the rights of women, and the present day's community functioning that to a large extent gives emphasis to justice, education and equality for both genders. When it comes to double standards, the idea of superiority arises whereby men are considered to be superior to their female counterparts. As a result, various principles are applied differently to women than to men. Based on these, the following paper discusses women's identity in contemporary society by looking at the existing stereotypes, contradictions, and double standards. Specifically, these elements will be considered in relation to occupations in contemporary society.
According to Doering and Thebaud (2017), various research works have explored how gendered nature of work gives rise to social inequalities. The gendering of an occupational role has been one of the key developments in the field whereby scholars have indicated how such gendering can affect the expected role outcomes (Doering & Thebaud, 2017; Stroink, 2004). For example, research has demonstrated that a job that has been labeled as either feminine or masculine determines the applicant groups, appointment decisions, rates of pay as well as performance evaluations (England et al. cited in Doering & Thebaud, 2017). Therefore, the classification of occupations as more suitable for men or women influences the outcomes of gender labored force. The process occurs through social interactions that require an individual to categorize one another based on their sex (Stroink, 2004). Once people categorize their fellow workers as either male or female, their interactions are organized on that basis which results in gender stereotypes being permeated into occupational roles (Ridgeway cited in Doering & Thebaud, 2017). This influences the manner in which the job is performed, understood, and its representation to others.
To illustrate the phenomenon, Doering and Thebaud (2017) provided an empirical examination of how occupations become gendered, drawing on evidence from a commercial microfinance bank. According to their findings, an individual can singly gender an occupational role in that the person who serves in a role that is otherwise gender-balanced has enduring effects on the compliance levels of subordinates to future managers. The dual found that when the manager position is initially filled by a woman, borrowers express less compliance with succeeding managers compared to the case when the position is initially filled by a man (Doering & Thebaud, 2017). Also, the study by Doering and Thebaud (2017) revealed that a male loan manager experiences higher compliance levels than a female manager when a borrower who previously dealt with a male manager is inherited. Though the authors state that women may also have an advantage over men when they occupy roles that are female-typed, generally, a majority of studies show that women are more exposed to gender stereotypes in the workplace than their male colleagues (Doering & Thebaud, 2017).
Gender status beliefs and attitudes have also been key to depicting issues of stereotypes for women in today's workplace. According to Ridgeway (cited in Doering & Thebaud, 2017), gender status beliefs can significantly affect the ability of women to successfully exercise authority and influence in the workplace. Often, members of the male gender are considered to be generally more competent and status-worthy than females. This is underpinned by a study by Fiske et al. (cited in Doering & Thebaud, 2017) in which it was found that it is widely believed that men have a higher rating in terms of intelligence, competitiveness, independence, confidence, and competence than their female counterparts. Attitudes related to gender status and roles have also been described by Updegraff et al. (2014) as key determinants of the distinct roles played by men and women in the contemporary society. The authors state that gender role attitudes strongly influence the choices and aspirations of adolescents regarding education and occupations. Based on their findings, Updegraff et al. (2014) argue that gender role attitudes in both adolescents and young adults have a significant influence on their educational pathway and occupational role outcomes.
Some gender role attitudes of the past are still in existence in the contemporary society which leads to various contradictions due to the fact that these traditional attitudes are grounded on principles that interpret social roles through a gender lens. For instance, according to the traditional gender status and role attitudes, female gender members should primarily involve themselves in household tasks and childrearing (Updegraff et al., 2014). According to Stroink (2004), there are various contradictory societal expectations to which women are subjected, and they vary depending on their source. For example, for several decades now, parents and educators in the contemporary society have been giving explicit encouragement to young members of the female gender to be career oriented and independent. However, the young women may be in pursuit of certain expectations from the society expressed through popular media which makes them strive to achieve unattainable body images at the expense of marriage and family goals while trying to model themselves (Stroink, 2004). From this, therefore, it is evident that the contemporary society presents the female gender with contradictory messages regarding what the society expects of them. Such contradictions bring about an experience of personal conflict to women which Stroink (2004) refers to as Conflicting Standards Dilemma (CSD). According to Stroink (2004), such an experience comprises multiple standards that are incompatible such as feminine and non-feminine societal expectations. These contradictions are said to result in significant inconsistencies among women's attitude and perceptions regarding societal femininity and masculinity expectations.
Further, a study by Raffaelli & Ontai (cited in Updegraff et al., 2014) revealed that societies that endorse traditional gender role attitudes tend to benefit males than female members because these attitudes are tangled with certain privileges such as authority, economic resources, educational affordances, and decision-making. Additionally, the authors state that traditional values that have been retained in the society today imply freedom for males including that beyond the family life while their female counterparts are highly disadvantaged and are expected to remain at home. This implies that women are discriminated against occupations, unlike their male counterparts. The expectation of having women remain at home with children is a clear form of double standard for women as the issue applies differently depending on an individual's gender. The fact that women have limited freedom in the family which extends to workplace settings (Stroink, 2004) can also be viewed as a form of double standards against women in the contemporary society.
In conclusion, as depicted herein, women's identity in the contemporary society is influenced by stereotypes, contradictions and double standards which are mainly experienced in workplaces, in addition to the traditional domestic behavior expectations that still exist in the modern society. The classification of occupations as more suitable for men or women has been found to be one of the key routes through which stereotypes for women break into the workplace. Regarding contradictions, it has been evident that the contemporary society presents the female gender with contradictory messages regarding what is expected of them which leaves the young female gender in personal conflict as they try to pursue differing societal expectations. Finally, this paper has demonstrated how double standards affect women of the contemporary society through occupational discrimination as well as limited family and workplace freedom compared to their male counterparts.
Doering, L., & Thebaud, S. (2017). The Effects of Gendered Occupational Roles on Men's and Women's Workplace Authority: Evidence from Microfinance. American Sociological Review, 82(3), 542-567.
Stroink, M. L. (2004). The conflicting standards dilemma and gender: A mediating model of its affective implications and coping styles. The Journal of social psychology, 144(3), 273-292.
Updegraff, K. A., McHale, S. M., Zeiders, K. H., Umana-Taylor, A. J., Perez-Brena, N. J., Wheeler, L. A., & De Jesus, S. A. R. (2014). Mexican-American adolescents' gender role attitude development: The role of adolescents' gender and nativity and parents' gender role attitudes. Journal of youth and adolescence, 43(12), 2041-2053.
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