Margaret Mead

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In Mead’s Sex and Temperament, Mead refutes the idea that there is a biological basis for masculine and feminine temperaments. How is gender-linked expectations of behavior reinforced by society? Does society expect different behavior from men than from women? If so, in what ways?

Society reinforces gender-linked expectations of behavior by applauding traits in one sex that it decries in the other. Society expects women to be docile, but similar traits in men are viewed as weaknesses. Women are encouraged to be "ladylike." When men are less than polite, it is often overlooked. An ambitious woman is labeled as "too aggressive" or shrewish, while the same behavior is applauded in men. A Pew research survey showed the disparity in how society sees the sexes.

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There are many ways that society reinforces gender-linked expectations of behavior, including the expectation of women to be more docile or "ladylike" than men, less ambitious career-wise, and more nurturing.

Society does expect different behavior from men than from women in that it expects men to be ambitious and colors aggression as just a shade of that ambition. By comparison, when a woman is ambitious, she is labeled as too aggressive or even shrewish.

When a woman is attractive, society sometimes attributes any career success that she might have to her leveraging her looks, an accusation that is not made as frequently with men. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, many people that were surveyed indicated their belief that society values honesty, morality, and professional or financial success in men; but for women, society values physical attractiveness and nurturing traits, such as empathy. This is a clear double standard that pervades most levels of society. Moreover, it hurts both sexes because it imposes pressure on men to be unemotional—15% of respondents in the Pew survey believed men should not be emotional or sensitive—and have career drive even if they do not feel it innately, and it pressures women to appear vulnerable and accepting even when they do not feel it.

According to the Pew survey, although there are traits that people agree society values in both sexes, far fewer people validate these traits equally in both sexes. Specifically, lower percentages of respondents agreed that women ought to be tough and assertive compared to the numbers who agreed that these were attractive traits for men to possess.

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