Monday, November 7, 2011


Prior to the 70s it was believed that people were either male or female, black and white. Masculinity or Femininity were on a continuum and on opposite sides of that continuum. This means that if you were born as a man then you would want to be as far  to the masculine side as possible to be deemed healthy. While women should be as feminine as possible.

In 1937 Anne Constantinople claimed that masculinity and femininity are instead on two separate scales, low or high femininity and masculinity. This means that a man could love to go hunting play sports and still enjoy being home with the family and cooking.

This brings up an interesting point of our characters. Do they generally exhibit societies expectations of how they should act or do they go against societies expectations? Do we put our characters into roles that society expects them to be in or are we breaking society norms?

In my society there are expectations for males and females and when they break those expectations they are punished in some way. This needs to also happen in our books with our characters when they break the expectations of society.

Another interesting point is how are our characters internalizing those expectations? Is it affecting them to be going against the expectations of society? How do they view others who go against societies norms and expectations?

TidBit: Going along with going against societies expectations. When going to school for undergrad I would often stay home and take on the traditional feminine roles such as taking care of kids cooking cleaning etc.... While my wife would go to work to pay the bills. This worked for us but I always felt the pressure of not working and of my wife working.


  1. I think it is funny that in a lot of science fiction novels when they want to show a drastically different society it is switching the gender roles. It bothered me at first but my husband is more home-makey when it comes to planning and preparing meals. I thought about my character's masculinity and femininity (I have a fellow who is a fashion designer and sews his own clothes). But I've never thought about how society would view that. Another great post giving me tons to think about.

  2. This is very thought provoking. My hubby stayed at home with the kids while I worked during the first few years of our marriage, and he expressed to me the same concerns you had.

    I'll have to think about the roles in my ms, and how society may view them. :)

    Great post!

  3. There are definite gender roles, based on culture and religion. Good idea to think about this for our characters.

    I really think you would have been a better "house mom". I should have been the bread winner!! Oh well, now the kids are older we can both work!

  4. actions and attitudes definitely come into play when gender lines are crossed...streotypes and prejudices...

  5. Though I do still see specific gender roles still outlined by society, I also see a blurring of the lines, so to speak. I am not saying in every town in America, but in more metropolitan areas, there appears to be a higher acceptance rate for those that decide to cross the gender lines.

    I do agree there are still reactions and consequences, but I wonder if the degree they will affect the MC would be more dependant upon where they live and the surrounding community.

    Thanks Josh. You always make me think :)

  6. One of the challenges is that gender roles are most often defined by culture. If you look at many cultures over the history of man, there have been many that cast a very feminine lean for males, Ancient Egypt place high regard on makeup and elongated appearances that made men look very feminine, also look at France before the revolution and you will see that there was just as much makeup and pomp and circumstance around emasculating courtiers and socialites of the time. Often times people become entrenched in sex roles as a way to define themselves and by staunchly defending their self imagined perspective, they believe that they are of greater value than those who place less weight on the role of gender. Look at the 5th Element and see how masculine and feminine roles have been reversed (might I say quite prophetically). men wore lace and women wore suits! Look at the Punks of the 80'a and the emo's of today, men wear womens jeans. Sex roles, as far as actions and appearances, have more todo with how we define ourselves and our culture than they do with natural inclinations. A stay at home dad need not be feminine (I'm not and was for one a while, quite enjoyed it.) and a bread winning mother need not be masculine.

    I am not saying that my wife is not better equipped for certain interactions with our children than I and vice versa. What I am saying that we can easily use modified sex roles to help define a character or even shape their reactions to situations and stimuli, be wise and consider the audience you are writing for, different cultures have completely different views on sex roles.


  7. Things were starting to change when I had my children. I went to work and my husband stayed at home and I was constantly told how lucky I was that he was prepared to look after the children all day :-)

  8. Gender roles are so interesting - I've wanted to study it for awhile, but I get too frustrated too often. It's such a charged subject. It's very interesting, though. :) Great, informative post!

  9. Such an interesting post and very thought provoking. I have quite a few friends who are on the ambiguous end of gender. I've never thought of incorporating that into my writing. It would prove very interesting.

    Personally, I married a very masculine male, but he cooks and and he cleans and he plays with the kids. He's pretty confident so none of this matters or diminishes his masculinity in any way.

  10. Interesting post!

    Gender is a subject I've been thinking about in my writing; my current project is narrated by a male MC, and as I'm not male, it's a shift in the expectations I'm used to.


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