Conformity Gender and Conformity Has Many Levels Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2312 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Women's Issues - Sexuality


Gender and Conformity

Conformity has many levels and varieties and degrees of compliance can vary greatly within the individual as well as have both subtle and overt elements based on an individual's gender characteristics. Research has also shown that conformity may also vary depending on the environment and circumstances an individual finds him or herself in. Circumstances such as whether the issue is being tested immediately in front of a group where the individual is being put "on the spot" or on how the individual relates to the larger societal constraints in general in answer to a survey question. This relationship to society often involves not only conformity to certain social structures but conformity to the "norms" of both behaviors (societal constraints) as well as gender (conforming to typically male or female roles). This paper will explore those norms that individual are being directed to acquiesce to and see how the level of compliance varies within gender roles. It will also investigate how this conformity to roles leads to an subsequently interrelated tendency towards stereotyping for both genders, in the workplace as well as in society at large.

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In general societal structures were originally based on a long evolutionary trail from the pack mentality of our ancestors where there was one Alpha Male and then various positions down the line. Conformity to group norms was not only necessary for individuals to operate within the community, but for ultimate survival as well. Now in a more civilized world, these same operators are now even more perhaps more simplistic. It comes down to the idea of which payoff is valued more by conforming. What is the reward for conforming or for that matter non-conforming behavior? The following example of the difference in norm expectation between teachers and students helps to further elucidate this concept:

Term Paper on Conformity Gender and Conformity Has Many Levels Assignment

Role theory would predict that conformity to gender-role expectations is rewarding, both to those who hold the expectations and to those who conform because it facilitates social interaction (Stryker & Stathem, 1985)... For example, expectations for appearance of an adolescent male from peers may include adopting a traditionally feminine item (e.g., an earring), while expectations from teachers may include maintaining a traditionally masculine appearance. In a school setting, wearing an item of dress that conforms to peer expectations may enhance social acceptance and opportunities for social interaction. However, nonconformity may result in negative consequences from school authorities. (Workman, and Johnson 208)

In the current modality there are peer group expectations as well as authority expectations that will follow us throughout our lives. We conform when we have to, to authority and conform when we want to in order to fit into our social or peer group, and react differently in the presence of each.

While there does not seem to be a simple answer to any prevalence towards conformity or non-conformity regarding gender overall, there are certain situations and circumstance where sexual characteristics and compliance are an issue. "Gender role norms share the characteristics of social norms, which are described as "rules and standards that are understood by members of a group, that guide and/or constrain social behavior without the force of laws." (Mahalik et al. 417) This "constrained social behavior" may infer that conforming to certain roles as male or female may also increase or decrease conformity when acting according to the roles of a specific gender category. So by conforming to the standards of expected male or female behavior, whether social or biological, the individual may already have predisposed tendencies in other areas of conformity.

In a research project survey conducted by Lyons, Duxbury, and Higgins the following was discovered:

The consistency of these findings suggests that there are indeed gender-based differences in human values...Value items related to self-enhancement (i.e., achievement, hedonism, power) tend, with some exceptions, to be valued higher by men than by women. The same is true for the values related to openness to change (i.e., self-direction, stimulation, hedonism). Conversely, the values related to self-transcendence (i.e., benevolence, universalism), and those related to conservation (i.e., tradition, conformity, security), tend to be favored more highly by women than by men. (Lyons, Duxbury, and Higgins)

There appears to be a trend in the literature that generally the more aggressive traits leading towards some non-conformity are attributed to the male gender and the more empathic and conforming traits are generally attributed to female gender. While of course this can certainly be viewed as stereotypical and possibly a gross generalization, there is still some merit to the overall structure of the findings.

In looking at the area of study called the Sociology of the Body, we find many conforming concepts that while at first may seem solely biological in origin, are certainly a product of a male dominated (Alpha Male) society. Even the psychopathologies of this dichotomy between the male and female bodily perspectives are legitimised by such past lofty figures as Freud:

Freud provided an explanation of sexual relations and power which was fixed and immutable, where man'...always feels his sexual activity hampered by his respect for the woman and only develops full sexual potency when he finds himself in the presence of a lower type of sexual object' (Freud, 1974:649). Such propaganda allows for and legitimates patriarchy and male supremacy in many of its grosser manifestations thereby lending support to the 'cultural ideology of sadism'. (Edwards 1993:97)

Shame is a related concept that increases the possibility of conformity and is certainly a cross gender quality in regards to the individual's perception by society at large as well as peer groups. Liz Frost is part of the Faculty of Health and Social Care at the University of the West of England and has researched the sociology and the concept of shame and conformity to norms for many years. She has said that shame is especially traumatic regarding a woman's body and experiences like, rape, abuse, illegitimate pregnancy and many others carry both bodily and sociological disgrace especially in the early formative years. Shame is "the internalize concomitant to stigma...[shame] seems to have a particular resonance in work on teenage girls and the body"(Frost 81) This shame is brought about by the dominant male social orientation and religious an cultural conviction that woman's body's are shameful. This stigmatization occurs early and remains a debilitating effect on a woman's body image and social connections. 'Society is able to reject you on the basis of you appearance and everyone, especially young people, wants or needs to be accepted' (Frost 77)

There is a heightened awareness of how we look and what we are expected to do that certainly manifests itself in full force in adolescence. Gender conformity has been cultivated for many years prior to this and thus becomes part of the operating structure of how the individual teen deals with society and peer group pressure. Conformity is highest at this juncture and many studies have been done in attempting to correlate the differences in conformity and gender. One of the most influential is the following:

One of the most well-validated measures of peer pressure was developed and validated by Brown and Clasen (Brown, Clasen, and Eicher, 1986; Clasen and Brown, 1985). The Peer Pressure Inventory (PPI) was designed to assess the perception of peer pressure in a number of domains, including peer social activities, misconduct, conformity to peer norms, involvement in school, and involvement with family. Peer pressure was defined explicitly as "when people your own age encourage you to do something or to keep from doing something else, no matter if you personally want to or not" (Brown, 1986, p. 522). Young people are required to assess 53 items on a 7-point scale indicating whether they feel pressure toward or away from a number of activities... And to what degree (Santor, Messervey, and Vivek 163).

In this particular research girls scored higher in the area of scholastic accomplishment and much lower on percentages of alcohol and drug use than boys. However, there were no differences on appraisals of depressed moods and self-worth shown. Boys did report a larger number of intimate partners as well as more favorable attitudes towards sexual activity in general. Boys also reported cutting more classes than girls did. Furthermore, boys tended to score higher on certain "antisocial peer conformity vignettes" than their female counterparts. However, there were no substantial differences observed on "neutral conformity vignettes." No differences were reported between boys and girls regarding peer pressure assessing antisocial or neutral activities. Boys scored higher than girls did in situations of antisocial activities, such as substance use, theft, and drunk driving. (Santor, Messervey, and Vivek 163)

It may also be probable that women place more significance on well-balanced relationships than men do.

It has been noted in studies that female relationships in close personal groups as well as families can become strained if one person or family member begins to feel inferior to the other.

A conformity may occur because of females' commitment "to preserving group harmony and enhancing positive feelings among group members.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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