In approach to this question, we must consider the changes of gender identities and why this has occurred. Historically women were instinctively expected to adopt traditional roles; described by Blackman as passives femininity and akin to Parsons expressive leadership role (in sex role differentiation Parsons’ believed that women were instinctively suitable for their roles). This concept was applicable during the 1970s (Sharpe). Referring back to this passive femininity described by Blackman, Seilder equally highlighted that boys socialised in the1970’s also had instinctive role as males and were equally expected to inherit traditional male values and adopt instrumental roles (Parsons), characterised by a hegemonic masculinity. This masculinity associated with the traditional male assets, reinforcing the view that gender roles were fixed as both genders were expected to take up the traditional roles agreed by three key theorist Parsons’, Sharpe and Seidler.
The agents of socialisation have impacted greatly on creating identities and constructing gender roles (Stanley and Wise), due to the influence of these agents people actively or passively find themselves in particular demographic groups that they can relate to and so they are not in a fixed group, Parsons would argue that our natural characteristics do not allow us to actively choose.
The work place is secondary agent that supports males fixed roles. Predominately males dominate the work force as they can endure heavy labor and have less responsibility than women do, according to Forbes magazine the average full-time working man spends 8.14 hours a day on the job, compared to 7.75 hours for the full-time working (men work 5% longer than women).
As for women they remain expressive leaders and continue to act passively in work as they have to take on maternity leave, and they may have children and a family to look after meaning they have more traditional roles to uphold outside work impacting their career.
Due to socialisation, males are taught to overstep the traditional gender roles created by society which dominates the social way of thinking suggested by Sharpe. Through school, males are open to ‘feminine' activities such as participating in culinary subjects, being more artistic and creative , expressing themselves openly through artistic subjects, which are stereotypically and historically ‘female’ activities , this secondary agent therefore constructed the identity supporting Stanley and Wise’s view that identity is not fixed but constructed.
In media there are more films in which women refrain from fixed roles e.g. playing the passive house wife instead they are portrayed as heroines for example the film Legally Blonde the character’s identity was socially constructed, she adopted a new role and became a lawyer. Parsons’ assertion does not hold validity in the case of this agent.
The final agent that contributes in the construction of these identities is the primary agent - family. This is because women have fewer roles in the family, which are shared between their husbands. Women’s roles in the household are therefor not fixed, and neither are men as they are adopting the norms of women and acknowledging their values, Connell’s description of complicity masculinity.
Referring back to Parsons argument on natural characteristics,
Bradley argues that we cannot pursue and change our identity as it is passive, the primary agent of socialisation, Family, still upholds Parsons views- highlighting that gender roles are continuously fixed- hegemonic males are still the head of the household and assertive leaders and passive