Gender: male and female, female and male. Traditionally, the two sexes have been differentiated and have been seen to have different characteristics and roles. The passive, obedient and affectionate woman who brings up and takes care of the children and their home. The tough, dominant and aggressive man, the task is to work and provide for the needs of the family.
These roles have throughout history been taken for granted and natural, and have led to criticism and revulsion against those who have strayed from them. Even today, it is not uncommon to feel critical that someone is not very masculine / feminine. But gender roles are not a natural thing but a social construct, which in different cultures may not be shared. Aware of this fact, which over time has enabled gender equality, greatly contributed to Margaret Mead’s gender theory.
Who was Margaret Mead?
Born in 1901, at a time in history when differences between males and females were considered to be due to their biological differences Innate being the productive man and the expressive woman, Margaret Mead was an American psychologist and anthropologist whose field of interest focused on researching the culture and ways of raising children in different cultures, and how these have an effect on human development.
Mead has made many trips throughout his life analyze the different cultures and the differences they present between them and in relation to Western culture, observing among other aspects that the consideration of the role of each sex can vary enormously according to the beliefs of the population.
In this context, would be one of the pioneers in the description of the concept of gender, Unlink gender roles from biological sex.
Analysis of cultural groups in New Guinea
One of Mead’s most iconic works on the genre appears in the book Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, based on their analysis of the different ethnic groups in New Guinea in which the roles assigned to the two sexes differed greatly from the traditional roles considered by the Western world.
Specifically, Margaret Mead analyzed the Arapesh, Tchambuli and Mundugumor tribes. In Arapesh society, she observed that regardless of biological sex, all individuals were brought up in such a way that they adopted a calm, peaceful and affable demeanor close to what would be considered in the West as feminine.
His observations on the Tchambuli would reflect that in this society the woman is engaged in foraging in activities such as fishing and leads the community, While the man performs household chores, assuming behaviors attributed to the opposite sex in other societies and showing them greater sensitivity in aspects such as art and the pursuit of beauty. In other words, the gender roles of this society could have been seen as the reverse of Westerners.
Finally, the behavior of the Mundugumor is practically the opposite of that of the Arapesh, be both genders educated to be aggressive, violent and competitive in a manner similar to what would be considered typically masculine at the time.
Margaret Mead’s Gender Theory
Observations in these and other societies have shown that in different cultures the roles assigned to men and women were different. It follows that, contrary to what was thought at the time, biological differences between the two sexes do not determine social functioning that they must have men and women, but it is education and cultural transmission that encourage the existence of most social differences.
Thus, the behavior, roles and traits attributed to each sex are not related to the sex itself. The reason why in some places the role is one or the other can be found in the fact that every culture, in its early stages, establishes a desirable character or pattern of action for its components. A model that ends up being internalized and reproduced through the generations.
Based on it, the author found it necessary to reduce the rigidity of gender roles and the differences that this implies, so that both sexes can develop fully.
Consequences of Mead’s theory
Mead’s gender theory, which reflects this as a social construct, has had repercussions in several ways. The quest for gender equality and the gradual blurring of gender roles and stereotypes has been facilitated by these surveys.
Likewise, although the author has not given this much importance in her research, she has also contributed and encouraged other researchers to help overturn myths and beliefs regarding orientation and identity. sexual.
- Mead, M. (1973). Sex and temperament in primitive societies. Barcelona: Laia.
- Molina, I. (2010). Gender theory. Contributions to the social sciences. University of Malaga.