Gender Roles in Higher Learning

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Gender roles in the society are defined as behaviours, values as well as attitudes that a particular society tends to consider to be appropriate for both male and females. In relation to the film Higher Learning; Singleton University brings to our attention vulnerable students who are highly influenced by their peers as well as young adults in campus who are struggling with campus life. In the film, Singleton portrays Kristen as an individual who is weak, helpless woman who is totally unable to defend herself. In this way, Singleton portrays how weak the women are in the society i.e they need strong males to defend their honor. This kind of notion is illustrated by Fudge when he goes over the fraternity house and then drags Billy out by using scruff of his neck, Fudge then goes further to force an apology from Billy (Dunbar-Odom 46).

Therefore it is very clear that gender stratification is a key theme in the film and as well is something that exists in many societies today. By showing women to be weak, frail and helpless against male figure, gender roles are defined as well in the film. For instance, in the situation that Kristen is raped by Billy but she becomes very scared to report the issue to the police shows that men have all the powers in the society. Kristen only screams during the raping event showing that she was weak to defend herself; she also fears reporting the case to the police since she suspects she might be humiliated by Billy or the male policemen. In regards to the article by Kevin Avruch, “Culture and Conflict Resolution” it is true that through gender lenses, conflict resolution and human needs are made possible. The article mainly talks of the feminist theories and they converge in resolving conflicts in the society. The article confirms that feminist thinking is a key factor as far as strengthening the explanatory power needs theory is concerned (Avruch 32).

In my opinion, traditionally, male rape is not talked about often. There are a number of reasons for this. According to Davies et al (2820), male rape often goes unreported.  Men may be embarrassed because rape makes them seem weak and unable to protect themselves. This challenges their self-concept of their own masculinity. In our society, there are three common myths about rape: it is impossible to rape a man, male rape is the victim’s fault for not fighting back, and men would not be traumatized from rape. These myths stem from our views on masculinity. If men are all sexually aggressive then they should want to have sex all the time rendering rape impossible.  If a man truly does not want to have sex, then he should be strong enough to fight the rapist off. Lastly, because being non-emotional is a masculine trait, men should be perfectly fine mentally and emotionally if they are raped. These views of masculinity cause our society to see male rape more like a joke than an actual societal problem.

            Domestic violence is another serious problem in our society that has roots in gender role conformity. As stated earlier, feminine gender roles include being weak, passive, and submissive; masculine gender roles include being aggressive and dominant. Often times, when women are unwilling to stick to the gender role assigned to them, they are victims of violence. Fernández et al (26) believe that many instances of marital and spousal violence are caused by this. They say that when women are more aggressive and are not submissive, their husband or significant other may feel like the woman is challenging his dominance. In order to regain that dominance, many men resort to violence. Violence reestablishes their masculinity. Exerting that control over a woman shows how strong and macho they are.  Men can be victims of domestic violence as well but like rape it is very much underreported for all the same reasons. Society has a tendency to believe that men cannot be victims of domestic violence because their masculinity dictates that they should be strong and able to protect themselves.

            In order for these sexist attitudes and beliefs to change, we as a society have to change the way we view gender roles. Women do not have to be weak and dependent on a man all the time and men do not have to be strong and aggressive. Gender is not binary. It is okay for a man to show emotions and it is okay for a woman to be independent. To believe otherwise, we are ensuring that sexism, rape, and domestic violence will become more and more prevalent. We will continue to raise females to believe that they are inferior to males and raise males to believe that they are superior to women.

Work Cited

Avruch, Kevin, and Peter W. Black. "The culture question and conflict resolution." Peace & Change 16.1 (1991): 22-45.

Davies, Michelle, Jennifer Gilston, and Paul Rogers. "Examining the relationship between male rape myth acceptance, female rape myth acceptance, victim blame, homophobia, gender roles, and ambivalent sexism." Journal of interpersonal violence 27.14 (2012): 2807-2823.

Dunbar-Odom, Donna. "Representing student culture: Field research and John Singleton’s Higher Learning in the composition classroom." Cinema-(to)-graphy: Film and writing in contemporary composition courses (1999): 45-55.

Fernández, Juan, et al. "Explicit and implicit assessment of gender roles." Psicothema 26.2 (2014).

August 01, 2023

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