A myth, aside from being a traditional story explaining a natural or social phenomenon, is also oftentimes a widely held but false belief or idea. Gender myths manifest themselves within modern society in ways that often confuse sex, that is the biological makeup that classifies a species as male or female, to that of gender, which is a socially constructed role of masculinity and femininity. The most common myth is that gender and sex are the same thing. If these roles are misunderstood a gender bias can occur, which further perpetuates gender myths. In order to make sense of these constructed roles, one must explore the myths associated with them so that in sociological research and study one is not applying a gender bias.
The characteristics involving one’s sex do not vary to a substantial degree across different cultures and society. Women menstruate, while men do not. Men tend to have a larger bone structure as opposed to women. These are examples of biological facts, but in regards to gender the beliefs that society often assigns to men and women are hardly based on biological science, but rather societal values and cultural traditions. The varying cultures and societies of the world allow for a diverse interpretation of what manhood and womanhood are defined as. Out of these cultures many myths have been formed (World Health Organization).
A common gender myth is that there are differences in the male and female brain that allow for certain behaviors in men and women (Fuentes 2012). There is no difference in the male and female brain that is consistent or major enough to show any evidence of this idea. If there is no difference in the brain, then many assume hormones are to blame for the emotional and behavioral differences. In reality both men and women experience the same hormones in similar situations. There are no hormones that are exclusive to males or females only. Most behavioral differences are results of societal definitions of gender. Men tend to be more physically aggressive because it is perpetuated in society via various outlets such as athletics, television and film, and literature. But that does not make men more naturally aggressive than women. There is no biological basis for this idea (Fuentes 2012).
The lack of biological evidence for the gender myths that society embraces, means that myths persist because of other reasons. According to Patricia B. Campbell, Ph.D. and
Jennifer N. Storo in their article Girls Are… Boys Are… : Myths, Stereotypes & Gender Differences claim that three reasons exist to allow myths to persist. First, history has influenced modern myths. History has at times claimed that women are inferior to men, and that men are inferior to women. The second reason gender myths persist is because most sociological research concerns itself with finding differences rather than similarities. Research is often seen as more valuable and more likely to be published if significant differences are found. Because research that finds differences is so valuable, it can often be over emphasized within society. The third reason is that gender myths are complex issues that deal with deep seeded ideas and beliefs. Simplicity is easy and it is the allure of simplicity that keeps society from exploring the complex basis for gender myths in order to debunk them (Campbell 1994).
Gender myths often deal with stereotypes that are rooted in false assumptions about what it means to be a “real man” or “real woman.” Stereotypes are dangerous because they are not a scientifically accurate depiction of reality. If progress is to be made in regards to undoing the many myths concerning gender, society must put aside its preconceived notions and bias’s it assigns to men and women and explore new ways of sociological thinking and research.
Campbell, P. B., & Storo, J. N. (1994). Girls Are. Boys Are. : Myths, Stereotypes & Gender
Differences. Office of Educational Research and Improvement U.S. Department of
Education, 1-8. Retrieved January 14, 2014, from http://www.campbell-kibler.com/
Fuentes, A. (2012, May 23). 8 Myths About Sex Differences. In The Good Men Project. Retrieved January 13, 2014, from http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/8- myths- about-sex-differences/.
What do we mean by “sex” and “gender”?. (n.d.). In World Health Organization. Retrieved January 13, 2014, from http://www.who.int/gender/whatisgender/en/