in contemporary Chinese society

( by Sun Xi Eva, Guo Zirui Angel, and Xu Chang Aurora students of the final high school year of Maple Leaf International Academy – Shenzhen)

Gender roles and identity have always been a topic of discussion. With the continuous development of society and history, gender roles have changed in many places, which is a topic worth understanding and exploring.

Although the concept of gender identity and gender roles are related to one specific field, then, they are pretty different. Gender identity is about cognition; it is determined by how you view and perceive yourself (internal) rather than sexual orientation. It can even be different from the sex assigned by birth. However, gender roles are based on society’s (external) values. Specifically, it associates with social norms, expectations, and stereotypes about a single gender. For instance, women are expected to speak softly, and males are expected to be mentally strong and unable to cry in public. These two concepts overlap to some extent. Understanding the difference can help us shape a broader, more tolerant, and inclusive view about the world and things happening around us.

The unequal status of men and women was the primary cause of different gender roles. In ancient China, men were encouraged to pursue higher education and a better career, so they might spend much time working outside. But at the same time, family played an essential role in Chinese traditional culture. So that is why women were encouraged to serve the family. Their gender role was very restricted; most of the time, they were only seen as men's objects—for example, a man’s daughter, a man's wife, and a man's mother. The “Three duties” and “Four Virtues” from Confucianism are necessary qualities for women that ancient people promoted. These rules were all about how to be obedient. A good woman had to listen to her father, husband, and son and do what they said. As a significant part of the Chinese traditional culture, Confucianism thought continues to the present day. In today's society, many Chinese still think women do not need their own careers. The best way to live with them is to have a baby and become a considerate, obedient housewife.

The concept of gender roles and identity is now developing with the progress of society. The personality difference between females and males is mainly reflected in temperament, character, and so on. Temperament is born to form, primarily showing the speed of emotional experience, strength, and performance of the hidden aspects, which can highlight most human psychological activities. Others are more or less tied to the family of origin and are acquired.

The scientists’ research shows that most male students are quick and energetic but impatient. They are better at straightforward arguments and tend to think more rationally. Girls are more emotional, more organized, and more empathetic. In terms of personality, boys tend to be more aggressive, independent, objective, dominant, competitive, and adventurous. In contrast, girls tend to be emotional and obedient, and they tend to be more dependent, empathic, persuasive, and tolerant. Besides, the cognitive difference can be attributed to the biological factor – the production of different hormones (Testosterone and estrogen). A study on short-term memory showed that women performed better in verbal tasks, while men did a more outstanding job on spatial tasks.

The research on gender roles and identity has never stopped, which is closely related to psychology and biology. This is a worthwhile topic, and we hope to learn more about it in our future studies.