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Gender (how you behave as a male or female)

gender; male; female; tradition; culture; peer pressure; society; sex; stereotypes; media; family. ;


Society often expects people to look and behave a certain way, depending on their biological sex. Men may be expected to act and look ‘masculine’, and women, ‘feminine’. 

Where you live in the world, what your cultural background is, and what people in your family and in your friendship groups do, have a big influence on how people behave as male or female.

Do you think only mothers do the washing, only fathers mow the lawn, only tall thin females and tanned muscular males are attractive and that only gay people dress and behave in a way that makes people notice them???? No! I didn't think so.

Are all males strong, brave and sporty and all females weak and 'girly'? Of course not!

The male and female roles in our society have changed. It is accepted that both sexes have 'male' and 'female' traits. It's OK for females to fix cars and for males to stay home and look after the kids.  multi-cultural group 

What you see around you

In some cultures men and women have very strict expectations placed on them as to how they should behave. In other cultures their roles could be much more flexible.

  • in some cultures both men and women can go out to work, while in other cultures men would go out to work and women would be expected to stay in the home
  • some jobs could be seen as jobs for men or jobs for women only, while in Australia men and women can almost always do the same types of work
  • clothing for men and women could be entirely different, or 'unisex' (can be worn by males or females.)

What you see in your family

Families may have very different roles for men and for women.

  • Your own family may have its own traditions and expectations of the way males and females should behave.
  • Nowadays people are able to see, hear and read about other people and their lives every day. Ideas are changing and young people are learning that they have many choices.
  • In many families both partners work outside the home.
  • In many homes all household chores are shared by male and female adults and children. But in many homes women still do most of the chores; they are often not happy that the males are not doing more.
  • In many families men are caring for their young children much more, and both they and their children enjoy this a lot.

What you see in the media


Many young people watch ‘soapies’ about families and high school students. 

There may be very big differences in how young women and young men behave in these programs. The young men maybe very 'macho' while the young women may be portrayed as much more emotional and focused on appearance.

It is important to understand that these are stories written to entertain, not to inform. In 'real life' people are very different. 

The media often presents people behaving in different ways because of their gender (often in 'ads'):

  • a mother doing the washing
  • a father mowing the lawn
  • tall thin female models
  • tanned, muscular male lifesavers
  • gay men and women behaving and dressing in an outrageous way.

These are called 'stereotypes' and they do not show what is true in real life.

You don't need to fit the media stereotype, YOU ARE YOU - remember you are a completely unique and wonderful person - thanks to your genes (not the denim sort).  

Dr Kim says

Dr Kim

"Every person in the world is important and different to everyone else.

You can choose to be and to do what you feel is right for you and acceptable in the place where you live."

There have always been females who are attracted to other females (lesbian), and males who are attracted to males (gay) but this has not always been accepted by their society. In Australia and many other countries this is now recognised and accepted by most people, but in some countries this is still not accepted and people may have to hide their feelings because they could be punished for being gay or lesbian. 

Some people strongly believe that their body does not match up with how they feel about their gender - their body may be 'male' but they feel that they are actually 'female', or vice versa (transgender).

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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