Gender roles and identity and domestic violence

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"Gender is the division of people into two categories, "men and women". Through interaction

with caretakers, socialization in childhood, peer pressure in adolescence, gendered work and family roles, women and men are socially constructed to be different in behaviour, attitudes and emotions (Borgatta. E.F. andMontgomery, R.J.V,2000,p.1057).


We learn to act as males or females through:(1) gender roles

(2) gender identity

(3) gender socialization


Gender roles are the roles that society assigns to men and women based on their gender. They especially influence relationships between men and women

Womens' lifestyles are changing to accommodate new careers, education and family structures, and their role in society is being adjusted accordingly. Education has evolved from providing them with skills necessary for building a family and managing a household into a more broad, extensive education that benefits them in a variety of careers as well as allows them to reach a higher social status as educated members of society. In secondary schools, teachers who provided female students with homemaking skills have switched to more intellectual courses like physics and biology.

Bitter feminists around the world were often heard blaming men for the current state of the world, but it should be realized that part of the future of the twenty first century, is determined by how much women corporate with working with men to influence the direction of the nations of the world. There is the link of the relationship between female literacy and independence growth where the level of female literacy is higher and the dependency growth is lower. The twentieth century has been the dawn of a new era for women in the world. They have evolved and broken many barriers in social status and education level. Stemming from backgrounds that were tough and limited where they were maids, field labourers and cooks, they have definitely matured, transitioning to higher and more meaningful roles in society. Their determination and push for social equality has had a major role to play in the development of the world. This development is a major factor responsible for the state of the economies in the world today. Women have graduated from being mainly domestic workers to that of doctors, athletes, and Prime Ministers. They are also specializing in jobs that were once only occupied by men, for example, filling the position of managers, engineers, safety-officers and welders just to name a few. Young girls and women living in these modern times must take advantage of the opportunities provided and use the resources that are available to them. Women must become less dependent on the opposite sex and strive to earn their own in terms of possession and finances etc.

Women are venturing out and challenging themselves but some of the men have occupied traditional female roles and at a slower pace, for example, men have become hairstylists, cooks house-keepers, baby-sitters etc. Traditional hierarchical organizations are a thing of the past. In the working environment, the strategies used by women to reach mid-management levels are preventing them from breaking through the glass ceiling. To be successful, both men and women must be able to get excellent results through people-oriented leadership practices. They become self-disciplined, ambitious and are likely to embrace a visible, take charge and influential approach to their roles. Contrary to common stereotype, women are better team players than men and are better at communicating and keeping people informed; are able to put the success of the team first, using influencing skills rather than authority to accomplish objectives. As far as leadership values go, co-workers rate women higher in such skills as hiring the right people for the job, developing and coaching subordinates, and organizing, monitoring and controlling the work of others. They are also better at creating a vision and setting clear direction and high standards of performance.

Even though women's decisions are of high quality, they continue to be viewed as less objective, less flexible and lower in emotional control than men. Their more forthright communication style, may appear less polished and diplomatic than men's when dealing with those above them in the hierarchy. In the future, there should be transformational leadership for regional and national renewal for sustainable development using methods by the media, including church women and social welfare organizations and communications programmes on the concept and practice of a new kind of leadership, which is gender issues, and expectations in leadership and improving the capacity of various interests groups in understanding and analysing issues from gender perspective through seminars, workshops and public as well as community meetings. At a regional level, steps of the process of assigning people to do different tasks , must take place as well as setting up a monitoring framework and specific demands should be developed and implemented. From this a new culture will emerge when building positive relationships, command authority and interacting with the world. Everything involving women has changed and will continue to do so over the next decades. In every arena, women have continued to excel and have definitely made a dramatic difference in the world.


Gender identity refers to the feeling that one is male, female or transgender. Many things contribute to the formation of gender identity, including society, family and factors that are in place before birth. Transgender individuals may have the genitals of one sex but a gender identity, usually associated with the other; example, a person born with a penis who feels female may identify as transgender.

According to Paul Connelly (1998), a study showed interesting insights into the relationship between gender and ethnicity. I t was seen that children in schools, though young brought the ways of thinking about masculinity, family and ethnicity into the school arena. I t was found that teachers at these schools were more likely to criticize the behaviour of black boys than other children, and for this the boys were sent outside for deviant behaviour, were singled out and instructed to stand by a door or wall, or even the outside the staff room during playtime. These boys were stigmatized for being black and were accused of being part of "race" crime and gangs. Their black sisters were perceived as potential disruptive children, likely to be good in

sports and also singled out and punished. On the other hand, the South Asian boys were seen as immature rather than seriously deviant. Their behaviour was viewed as silly rather than a threat, and according to the teachers, they were described as passive, conformists and vulnerable. They

were not able to express their masculinity as their performance in sports was not good. However, they preferred to focus on school work. The South Asian girls appeared to be more hard-working and obedient than the boys and compared to other girls. The teachers encouraged the girls to focus more on their school work which in turn caused them to be very competitive with other girls in the school. This study shows how gender and ethnicity interact in creating identities among children, also some of the ways this might influence educational achievement in schools as well as showing how these children create the gender identities found in schools.


Gender Socialization is the process of learning the social expectations and attitudes associated with one's sex. Through this process, sociologists explain why human males and females behave in different ways; they learn different social roles, for example, girls learn to wash and keep a home clean and boys learn to clean the backyard and put out the rubbish.

Socialization is the primary means by which human infants begin to acquire the skills necessary to perform as a functioning member of their society, and is the most influential learning process for a child to experience. Though the variation is materialized in the customs and behaviours of societies, the most fundamental expression of culture is to be found at the individual level, which can only occur after the individual has been socialized by the family, extended family and external social networks. This process of both learning and teaching is the way in which cultural and social characteristics are continued and passed down to generations.

Sociologists, such as Durkeim, noted the relationship between norms, values and roles during socialization. The following are the different types of socialization:


This occurs when a child learns the attitudes, values and behaviour suitable to individuals as members of a particular culture. For example a child witnessing his/her parent giving a derogatory opinion about a minority group, then the child would automatically think that behaviour is acceptable and continue to have this opinion about minority groups.


This socialization refers to the process of learning what is acceptable behaviour as a member of a smaller group within the larger society. It is normally associated with teenagers and adults, and involves more minute changes than those which occurred in the former socialization; such as, relocating to a new environment or society.


With this process learning behaviour is done in a social institution or social skills are developed.


Anticipatory socialization refers to the process of socialization where a person "rehearses" for future positions, occupations and social relationships, for example on the job training (O.J.T).


This refers to the process of discarding former behaviour patterns and accepting new ones as part of a transition on one's life. It occurs throughout the human life cycle and can be an intense experience with an individual having a sharp break with the past, and needing to learn and be exposed to radically different norms and values. An example would be a religious convert internalizing the beliefs and rituals of a new faith. An extreme example is the process by which a transsexual learns to function socially in a dramatically altered gender role.


This process involves employees learning the knowledge and skills necessary to assume their organizational role. As they are new to the institution, they become socialized by learning about the organization and its history, culture and procedures etc. They also learn about the skills needed to do the job, their work group and formal procedures and informal norms. Socialization functions as a control system in that newcomers learn to internalize and obey organizational values and practices.


Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviours and tactics used by one person over another to gain power and control. This may include verbal abuse, financial, emotional, sexual and physical abuse. Domestic violence occurs in heterosexual as well as same-sex partnerships, and crosses all ethnic, racial and socio-economic lines.

Domestic violence has many forms of which there are five:

PHYSICAL: which is inflicting or attempting to inflict physical injury. Examples of these are, grabbing, shoving, slapping, hitting, arm-twisting, kicking, punching, stabbing, shooting. Physical abuse can also be used to deny access to resources necessary to maintain health, such as, medical care, hygienic assistance, forcing alcohol and other drug use.

SEXUAL: Forcing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact without consent, for example, marital rape, forced sex after beating, attacks on the sexual parts of the body. Another method used is attempting to undermine the victim's sexuality, such as treating him/her in a sexually derogatory manner, criticizing sexual performance and desirability and accusations of indidelity.

PSYCHOLOGICAL: this involves instilling or attempting to instill fear, example, intimidation, threatening physical harm to self/victim, threatening to harm/kidnap children, mind games, destruction of pets and property. There is also the method of isolating or attempting to isolate the victim from friends, family, school/work, example: withholding access to a phone, constant "checking up", undermining victim's personal relationships.

EMOTIONAL: undermining or attempting to undermine the victim's sense of worth by using constant criticism, belittling victim's abilities and competency, name-calling, insults, put-downs, silent treatment, and undermining a partner's relationship with the children.

ECONOMIC: this involves making or attempting to make the victim financially dependent. For example, having and maintaining total control over financial resources including the victim's earned income, public assistance if any, withholding money/access to money, requiring accountability and victim giving an account for all money spent.


The social learning theory of Bandura specifies the importance of observing and modelling the behaviours, attitudes and emotional reactions of others. Most human behaviour is learned observationally through modelling: from this, one is able to understand how the new behaviours are done.

Aggression is one type of behaviour that can be learnt through models. Through a lot of research, it was found that children become more aggressive when they observe aggressive or violent models. Bandura stated that there were conditions that an individual requires before successfully modelling the behaviour of someone else. The person must first pay attention to the model in order to be able to remember the behaviour that was observed, then must be able to repeat what was demonstrated. Finally, motivation is needed to complete modelling a behaviour. Modelling helps to increase the frequency of similar behaviours, for example, a girl noticing her friend excelling in dancing and then she may try to excel in singing as she does not have the skills for dancing. Most of the time persons engage in certain behaviours because they believe they can put them into action successfully. As a result, it can be said that the person has 'high self-efficacy'. Persons who have high self-efficacy tend to be better and often achieve more at whatever they pursue.

In contrast, the gender schema theory (Bem 1981) focuses on the role of cognitive organization in addition to socialization This theory postulates that children learn how their cultures and societies define the role of men and women and then internalize this knowledge as a gender scheme or unchallenged core belief. This scheme is then used to organize subsequent experiences. Children's perceptions of men and women are thus an interaction between their gender schemas and their experiences. Eventually, they will incorporate their own self-concepts into their gender schema and will assume the traits and behaviours that they deem appropriate for their gender. So, even with children learning from modelling behaviour and also learning how their culture defines the roles of male and female, what is internalized and is actually modelled are very different in terms of positive and negative behaviours and roles.



Question: Is this your first experience of Domestic Violence?

Answer: Yes.

Question: When did you notice the signs of Domestic Violence?

Answer: I was twenty, there were subtle signs from the relationship. The other person was ten years older than me.

Question: When did you decide to seek help or did someone call for help for you?

Answer: I called for help myself.

Question: Were there others in your family who were also abused?

Answer: No.

Question: How many incidents have you experienced with Domestic Violence?

Answer: Only one, but many were built into it.

Question: Is this prevalent in your family?

Answer: Yes, my mom and my two sisters went through it.

Question: Which organisation did you contact or go to for help?

Answer: I called the police after being beaten and raped, then went to hospital and subsequently a safe house in Piparo.

Question: How did the organisation protect you?

Answer: I had police security on 24 hour shift in Piparo in 2004, then the same in a safe house in Port-of-Spain.

Question: What have you learnt from this experience?

Answer: "You never know your strength. Pay attention to the smallest signs, pay attention to what is said in jest".

Question: What stood out for you from this experience?

Answer: Having a relationship with God is what is most important. Knowing that it has a God and having a relationship with God are two different things.

Question: What would you advise young people to do to avoid this situation or what to look out for before taking action?

Answer: Look for signs of the person keeping you away from friends, belittling you and telling you ,you are not good enough. If you're hit once don't let a second time occur and the perpetrator saying 'look what you made me do'.

Question: Has this experience affected your psychological thinking about men?

Answer: Yes, I don't have patience with men.