The behaviors, attitudes, and activities expected or common for males and females. Whereas sex roles are essentially biologically determined (ensuring successful reproduction and forming the basis of sexual division of labor, in which women are associated with childrearing), gender roles (behavior that is considered “masculine” or “feminine”) are culturally determined. In the United States, for example, men are generally expected to be independent, aggressive, physical, ambitious, and able to control their emotions; women are generally expected to be passive, sensitive, emotional, nurturing, and supportive. These traditional gender roles frequently come under attack, especially from women. (See stereotype (see also stereotype).)
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.