Understanding Gender Roles 

Taking Culture & Human Experience was really the beginning of realizing my potential, as well as my love for learning.  Everything I was taught in this class made me understand why a lot of things happened during my time in Japan: the mistakes I made, my cultural misinterpretations, my ethnocentrism, but also my triumphs and accomplishments.  It shed a whole new light on my year abroad and made it that much more meaningful.

Over the course of the semester, I was able to apply every bit of information I learned in class to my own experiences in both Japan and America.  I developed a particular interest in the topic of gender roles, an aspect of culture that I had never given thought to before.  I started to realize the type of things that I do because I was of the female gender, and because I was socialized in American society.  It allowed me to understand the differences between American and Japanese women and what I could have done better during my study abroad to fit in with Japanese society.  I could not absorb enough of this information.  So, when my professor told us to read Things Fall Apart and choose our own topics for the corresponding book report, I immediately knew which one I would go with.

Things Fall Apart offered a much different perspective on gender roles because the ones illustrated in the book were so very different than any I had experienced. At the core, men and women each had specific roles they needed to fulfill in order for their society to function, but everything else seemed bizarre to me, especially because this book is an actual anthropological account by Chinua Achebe of an Ibo village in Nigeria.  Every page was a display of diversity like I had never imagined.

Writing this report caused me to be hyper-aware of my cultural and societal surroundings.  I am always analyzing how gender roles have shaped the method in which men and women speak, act, fulfill their responsibilities, and interact with each other.  Through this process, I have discovered how to identify these roles and their functions, as well as understand their significance to a functional society.

Visiting a bamboo forest near a Buddhist temple with my classmates. 

Partaking in a Japanese tea ceremony. 

Hanging up each of our 1,000 paper cranes at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, Japan.

An Excerpt from "The Gender Roles of Things Fall Apart"

                In every culture, there are many different roles that must be fulfilled by the members of its society.  One such role, arguably the most prominent, is gender.  Gender roles are demonstrated to people as soon as they become a part of this world.  The ways people treat newborns according to their sex greatly influences the process of teaching a child the articulate workings of a culture.  Girls and boys alike learn a set of behaviors, attitudes, responsibilities, and rights in accordance with their specific sex.  When these attributes of enculturation are applied specifically to a male or female, gender is created, and is then associated with different expectations that correlate with their culture.

Things Fall Apart, written by Chinua Achebe, takes place in an Ibo village in Nigeria, a culture that is no exception to this societal norm.  Through the telling of Okonkwo’s story of his life and his clan, it is precisely demonstrated just how a society creates and fulfills roles for both of the sexes.  The gender roles of men and women of the village of Umuofia are clearly defined through their division of labor, the attitudes that shape their gender constructs, and the relations that exist between men and women.  ...Continue Reading

 
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