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Literature Review on Sex Roles Development Across Cultures, Gender Inequality Within Those Cultures, and the Impact of Feminism on Those Cultures


Culture refers to a people’s beliefs, traditions, values, and norms. These are passed down from one generation to another (Inglehart, 2018). Within these traditions, both men and women are assigned similar or different duties depending on the community. Thus, communities end up with particular order or hierarchy. Some cultures and cultural practices are detrimental to women. They have been subjugated and treated like second-class citizens while men are revered. Some individuals have hidden behind religion to perpetuate these discriminations. Gender stereotypes have taken root leading to women being viewed as weak and inferior. Gender inequalities entail the differential treatment of people based on their sex or gender (Ganguli-Mitra, 2021). Women have disproportionately borne the brunt of gender discrimination. They get lower quality education, less pay for equal work, and have little say over their bodies, including contraceptive use. Feminism has been an integral concept aiding the push for equal opportunities for women. Therefore, this literature review focuses on sex roles development across cultures, gender inequality within those cultures, and the impact of feminism on those cultures.

Sex Roles Development Across Cultures

An organization of values, customs, and beliefs with the goal of connecting and combining the total of people to form an organized and somewhat functional community is known as culture. One of the most important aspects of it is the distribution of tasks and obligations within a certain society. Because of the framework of duties, there is an order and, as a consequence, there is a hierarchy. According to Worell (2001), gender is among the most important categorizations in most societies, and one’s place within that hierarchy will be influenced by one’s gender. The idea of ‘gender’ and the ramifications of this knowledge for one’s behavior is defined and regulated by one’s affiliation with a particular culture. Categorizing infants at birth into the classifications of female or male is a practice that is widespread throughout cultures. It should be noted that there is significant diversity among cultures.

Society shapes expectations about the qualities and actions that are appropriate for women and men and also thoughts about the relationships that exist between women and men. Worell (2001). Posits that gender identities and gender problems are significant components of culture to investigate in detail because they have an impact on how individuals conduct their lives at home, as well as in wider society and the workplace. Due to the evident cultural implications assigned to be men or women in various cultures functions as an organizing element for society. The division of work due to gender roles is an obvious manifestation of this. In most civilizations, the roles of women and men are clearly defined, both inside the family and within the greater community. Patterns and explanations that are distinctive to a certain society differ from others, and they evolve over time. However, while the particular nature of gender relations varies from one culture to another, the general trend is that women have very little personal autonomy, scarce options at their disposal, and limited impact over the decision-making factors that govern both the culture of their cultures and their own lives.

Women have historically been enslaved, mistreated, and seen as inferior to males in practically every civilization throughout history. The position of women is often defined by their ability to satisfy conventional gender role expectations. Women were given the very little opportunity in the public domain, and their function was often limited to that of serving males. Chaudhary (2015) highlights that some Muslim women are subjected to sexist and discriminatory treatment because of their faith. They are compelled to cover their whole bodies and are denied education and other fundamental rights. It is true that Muslim women, like women all around the globe, have battled against inequalities and restrictive norms in areas like education, employment, and family responsibilities. In contrast to this, many of these repressive behaviors are not derived from Islamic teachings but rather are rooted in local cultural traditions. A woman should always follow the wishes of her husband.

Traditional gender roles inside the family are still prevalent in most nations as a result of the presence and durability of patriarchal systems in society. These responsibilities place a bigger load on women’s shoulders in terms of caregiving, which might result in a reduction in women’s free time as compared to males (Zosuls et al., 2011). Men and women may be partners, parents, family members, and employees in the same organization. These jobs, on the other hand, are connected with a variety of obligations that vary between men and women. Tradition has stated that women are accountable for unpaid tasks, regardless of their professional responsibilities. In Africa, women spend a greater proportion of their time on paid and unpaid labor than males. When it comes to education, there is a disparity in the opportunities available for both women and men. The varied options that men and women make in terms of educational options that are available to them are directly related to the sex-role disparities that are available in society as a whole, according to West et al. (2019). It is most often associated with disparities in occupational duties and expectations, in particular. Most nations have indications of a division of work along sexual lines, and this is true in most cases. It is typically the case that this division of work is most evident and ubiquitous in Africa, which is an excellent example of this division of labor.

Women worked in a variety of fields, including agriculture, food processing, marketing, crafts production, and household chores that were mostly performed “at home.” Men and women were often employed in the same field of labor, for example, in farming or trading. Because of the preconceptions that are supplied, differentiation may also contribute to inequity. Generally, gender stereotypes denigrate women, who are considered inferior to men and as having no ability to think. Her attributes are associated with passivity, renunciation, structural fragility, fragility, and a lack of virtues, as contrasted to male characteristics that are seen as desirable. While men say and do “important” things, women are “fluid, ambiguous, and open,” according to the author.

Women are submissive to men at each and every stage of their lives in Asian cultures, such as the Chinese Confucian culture, which has stringent teachings that connect gender-based differentials and dissemination of resources and power by its center of “Three obedience that is especially relevant to women. These include; that women are submissive to men throughout every stage of their lives: daughters are subordinate to their fathers, wives are subordinate to husbands, and mothers are subordinate to their children (Blackburn, 2010). Females were not permitted to attend education “outside the home” but instead were expected to remain at home and acquire housekeeping skills in order to raise a family after marriage. In order to protect the reputation of her family, a lady should always be modest and subservient in her demeanor, while a man was supposed to be responsible and gentlemanlike in his demeanor. In particular, women were expected to keep perfect faithfulness to their spouses, whether he was alive or dead, and this included not only being virgins before marriage but also maintaining absolute fidelity to their husbands after marriage. When it comes to relationships with males, women should remain submissive and sexually naive. For males, however, this was not the case (Anderson et al., 2002).

For many years, gender discrimination in Latin America has been a major source of contention. A study by Ridgeway (2011) found out that gender inequality has been a topic of discussion for hundreds of years. Discrimination against women is the driving force behind these measures against the female population. Things like femicide and the salary gap are examples of gender inequality. Women are compensated at a lower rate than males. This is referred to as the salary disparity between men and women. This is an issue that is particularly prevalent throughout Latin America. The disparity between men and women is narrowing in Latin America, particularly among highly educated women. This means that they are still paid less than your male colleague, but they are paid more than their less-educated female colleagues.

Gender inequality

Gender discrimination is defined as any uneven treatment, including advantage and priority, that is given to one person over another because of their gender. Ridgeway (2011) describes gender inequality as discrimination based on the race of sex or gender, as a consequence of which one sex or gender is regularly preferred over the other based on these factors. Gender equality is a basic human right, and discrimination on the basis of gender is a violation of that human right. Inequality between men and women begins in infancy and is now limiting the lifetime capability of kids worldwide, with girls bearing the brunt of the burden. The world has made significant strides forward in its quest to attain gender equality throughout the years. Girls are equally recognized in politics, have larger economic opportunities, and have accessibility to health services than males in many regions of the world. However, although it is feasible that true gender equality would not be reached for another generation, this is not a certain conclusion.

Females tend to have less access than males to higher education than males in most parts of the globe. Psaki et al. (2018) assert that 14 percent of women in the age group of 15 and 24 are likely not to finish their basic school. It is in this group that 58 percent of people who do not finish that essential education fall. Women comprise two-thirds of the globe’s illiterate population appropriately, according to the United Nations. The fact that females are not receiving an education to a similar degree as men have a great impact on one’s future and the types of chances they will be presented with. There are just six countries globally that provide women with equal legal employment rights as men in the workforce. Most countries provide women with just 34% of the rights granted to males. In the opinion of some researchers, making the workplace, an equal playing field would have a positive domino impact on other sectors susceptible to gender imbalance. One of the variables that, according to gender discrimination in the workforce, is the division of labor between men and women. It is widely held in most nations that men are just more suited to certain activities than women. This is an ingrained belief. Almost often, these are the jobs with the highest pay scales available.

Women suffer as a consequence of this discrimination in terms of income. Women also have the majority of the burden for unpaid labor, which means that even while they engage in the paid labor force, they are responsible for additional work that does not get any compensation (Singh & Pattanaik, 2020). The legal protection from domestic sexual abuse and domestic economic violence is unavailable to more than one billion women worldwide. Nor do they have much of an impact on women’s ability to flourish and have freedom in their lives. Furthermore, in various nations, there do not exist legal safeguarding against intimidation in the workforce, at school, or at worship places. When these regions become harmful, women are often compelled to make decisions that compromise their objectives and restrict their possibilities because they do not have proper safety precautions in place. Many women throughout the globe do not have control over their own bodies, especially when it comes to becoming mothers. It is usually quite difficult to get birth control. More than 200 million women worldwide have chosen not to get pregnant and do not utilize contraception as a result. A variety of variables play a role in this, such as a lack of viable alternatives, limited access, and religious and cultural opposition, just to mention a few examples. Unnithan-Kumar (2010) postulates that globally, approximately 40% of pregnancies are unanticipated, and even though 50% of these conceptions end in abortion, the other 38% result in live births. In many cases, these women become financially dependent on another person, so compromising their financial freedom.

Additionally, women in the United States typically get lower-quality medical care than men, despite the fact that they have less access to contraceptives than men (Unnithan-Kumar, 2010). Gender disparity is linked to a number of other problems, among them include a lack of educational and job opportunities for women, which results in a higher proportion of women living in poverty. The likelihood of them being able to afford quality healthcare is lower. A lesser amount of research has also been conducted on autoimmune disease and chronic pain syndromes that affect women more than men. Many women are also subjected to discrimination and are barred from seeing their doctors, which contributes to the widening of the gender imbalance in healthcare quality and outcomes. When freedom of religion is threatened, women bear the brunt of the consequences. In communities where extreme ideas have taken root and restricted religious freedom, gender disparity has deteriorated. Women’s capacity to engage in the economy has also been linked by researchers to religious intolerance, according to Neckerman (2004).

When there is more freedom of religion, the economy becomes more stable as a result of the engagement of women in it. Female representation in national parliaments was low at the start of 2019, with just 24.3 percent of seats occupied by women. As of June of this year, there were 11 female heads of state (Jabeen, 2019). Despite significant progress made in this field over the years, women continue to be disproportionately underrepresented in the government or public system. As a result, many topics that female legislators are more likely to bring up — – like maternity leave, sexual equality laws, and sexual identity violence – are regularly neglected or completely disregarded by policymakers. It would be difficult to talk about gender discrimination without also touching on the problem of racism in the conversation. It has an influence on the kind of vocations that women of color may pursue and the amount of money they are paid, and on how they are seen by the judicial as well as healthcare systems, among other things. Over a long time, there has been a strong connection between gender inequality and racism.

Depending on the ethnicity of the woman who performed the task, European colonists in Virginia judged what work might be charged. Bloome et al. (2019) contend that work done by African women was considered “labor,” and therefore was subject to taxation. Jobs completed by English women, on the other hand, were regarded as “domestic,” and as such was not subject to taxation. In addition to contributing to the continuation of a long history of discrimination, financial differences among white and non-Hispanic women also contribute to the perpetuation of gender inequality. While the overall mindset of a society has a greater impact on gender difference than many other elements on this list, it is less quantitative than many other aspects on this list. The manner in which society has set the differences and relative value of males and females has a significant impact on almost every aspect of life, including labor, the legal system, and healthcare provision. Gender stereotypes are strongly embedded, and although progress may be made via law and institutional changes, there is frequently resistance to change following times of major transformation. When there is progress in one aspect of gender inequality, it is easy for people to overlook other areas of inequality, such as more representation of women in leadership positions. Gender inequality is maintained, and meaningful change is postponed by these sorts of attitudes.

Impact of feminism

In “Is multiculturalism detrimental for women?” the author points out that culture and gender equality are inherently antagonistic to one another (Okin, 1999). She examines patriarchal minority cultures that exist in the context of less patriarchal dominant cultures, such as those seen in the United States and Europe. She makes two presumptions about the situation. First and foremost, women’s subjugation by men dominates and is a natural feature of practically every society’s social order. Second, people in positions of more authority, the men, define societal hierarchy order and are in a position of decision-making. as such, these orders are easier to occur on their own, according to Okin (1999), the liberal desire for accommodation and protection of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds such as group rights that characterizes multiculturalism misses the dynamics that exist within the same culture. Further, the author asserts that this reinforces the patriarchal and repressive attitude towards women. There are fundamental tensions between the dedication to gender equality with the willingness to respect the practices of foreign cultures or faiths, and these issues must be resolved. The agreement that women must not be discriminated against on the basis of their gender, she says, must be enforced by rejecting group rights that allow oppressive behaviors to continue.

Feminist Ariguzo points that there is an increasing amount of feminist civil rights discourse, which claims that the male bias in prioritizing human rights was needed to shift in order for women’s issues to be acknowledged as a fundamental human right. One of the problems is that existing human rights ideas, collections, and prioritizations are all based on a male-dominated framework, which is problematic. Middle Eastern women have played an active role in gender discussions and socio-political battles inside their civilizations throughout the course of a previous couple of centuries, establishing feminism as a cultural movement. An ongoing stream of feminist thinking has been expressed through literature, involvement in the public arena, and the establishment and preservation of women’s organizations dedicated to improving the status of women throughout history. Feminism in contemporary society, on the other hand, has taken a new turn, with more women choosing to incorporate elements from culture and tradition that they find appealing. Aside from that, middle eastern women have remained quite politically active, and in some cases, they have accepted the veil as a device to more work seamlessly within the current social, cultural, and political framework that is in place. They are looking for roots of feminism inside the current socio-cultural framework, rather than importing ideologies, and they are using indigenous sources rather than importing ideologies.

Some feminists have embraced an Islamic feminism lens, and they are investigating how Islamic feminism might empower female entrepreneurs, as well as their entrepreneurial actions and behavior. Islamic feminism has begun the process of influencing the business practices of Female entrepreneurs as well as the process of discarding the traditional, patriarchal, colonial, and other cultural layers under which Islam has been veiled in order to reveal its true nature. Historically patriarchal systems such as the family, dominant societal norms, and legal frameworks have come under attack from feminist organizations in India. This has been particularly true in the case of violence against women. Feminist movements, on the other hand, have provided challenges to existing patriarchal social institutions such as the family, dominant social norms, and legal frameworks, notably in the context of violence against women throughout cultures (Blackburn, 2010). A broad range of reactions made by females to feminist concepts has been explored in depth by the researchers. Education has provided at least a small elite group of women in cultures with the ability to challenge male constructs of femininity. As a result, an increasing number of women and young girls are becoming informed and expressing their significant worries about women’s oppression in the workplace and in society. Feminist demands have resulted in a number of appeals in the shape of conventions in contemporary times. Women’s rights activists have concentrated their attention on specific responsibilities and variables that patriarchies play in the commission of gender-based crimes such as dowry murders, prohibitions, and custodial rape in other cases.

Indian women have taken to the streets to protest the exploitation of women in the media and the prejudices that are present in reporting. They are speaking out against sexism and misogyny in everyday life and calling for strong legal consequences for injustices against women. They have also stood shoulder to shoulder with women of every other religion, much as Indian women are currently participating in one of the largest political movements in the country’s history (Seidman, R. F. (2013). As Hindu women, they are continually reminded of the symbolism of Durga, who has ten arms and is both incredibly protective and delicately caring at the same time, as she protects and nurtures. They draw inspiration from ancient Hindu imagery wherein the male and female are revered as two sides of a single being, complementing each other in perfect harmony as they strive to build an equal world. Feminism has contributed to the establishment of space for women to advocate against cultural sanctions and religious constraints, which serve to accentuate and reinforce women’s economic, social, political, and psychological oppression and exploitation.


Women have endured the effects of gender inequality. They have had to accept less pay for equal work done. They have also been given less education compared to their male counterparts. Additionally, women have limited economic opportunities, resultant in lower economic power. Some cultures have perpetuated the subjugation of women. However, through feminism, women have been fighting back against the continued exclusion and discrimination that negatively impacts their lives. They speak out against violence targeting women and women empowerment through education. Islamic women have earned more religious freedom through feminism. They have also been economically empowered. They now choose to incorporate cultural and religious aspects that they wish. The research gap highlights the need for more research on factors impacting feminism advancement, especially in Islamic countries. The women in these settings have voluntarily chosen to incorporate cultural feminism.


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