A man lifts weights in a competition

Pink pigeonholes and blue boxes

Society’s views of gender have a way of reinforcing stereotypes about sex

Particular values have traditionally been associated with masculinity and femininity.

Sociologist Janet Saltzman Chafetz is a gender theorist who was active mainly between the 1970s and 1990s. In 1974 she came up with a list of seven areas of traditional masculinity:

  1. Physical – virile, athletic, strong, brave; sloppy, worries less about appearance and ageing
  2. Functional – breadwinner, provider
  3. Sexual – sexually aggressive, experienced; single status acceptable; prefers freedom and feels ‘tied down’ by spouse
  4. Emotional – unemotional, stiff upper lip, doesn’t cry
  5. Intellectual – logical, intellectual, rational, objective
  6. Interpersonal – leader, dominating; disciplinarian
  7. Other – aggressive, success-oriented, ambitious; proud; moral, trustworthy; decisive, competitive, adventurous.

Traditional feminine roles, on the other hand, included:

  1. Physical – dainty, graceful
  2. Functional – nurturing, care giver
  3. Sexual – sexually submissive, inexperienced
  4. Emotional – emotionally open, engaging
  5. Intellectual – unintellectual, illogical, haphazard
  6. Interpersonal – feeling-oriented, empathic
  7. Other – mild-mannered, modest.

These characteristics were not supposed to be the ‘ideal’ or ‘perfect’ representations of males and females. Nor were they restricted to one sex or the other.

However, today they are certainly seen as outdated. Chafetz’s lists were based on theory, not scientific fact, and may have reinforced ideas about stereotypical behaviours attributed to men and women.

Lead image:

Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games/Flickr CC BY NC

References

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Sex and Gender’ in January 2006 and reviewed and updated in October 2014.

Topics:
Genetics and genomics, Psychology, History
Issue:
Sex and Gender
Education levels:
14–16, 16–19, Continuing professional development